7 Facts about Bakuchiol You Must Know Before Buying

What is Bakuchiol? Bakuchiol is probably the most exciting natural skincare ingredient around right now. It is one of our favourite performance botanicals.

The chemical, Bakuchiol, was first identified by G. Mehta, U. Ramdas Nayak, and S. Dev in 1966 at the National Chemistry Laboratory in Poona, India. It was named after the Bakuchi plant. It has since been isolated from other plants, though not in as high a quantity.

The plant, psoralea corylifolia, has been used for centuries in both traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. The plant and seeds have many names depending on the country of origin and dialect spoken. For example:  Babchi, Bakuchi, Babechi, Bavanchi, Bu Gu Zhi, Ku Tzu, Cot Chu. The plant has very pretty purple flowers and a delicate fragrance.

In cosmetics, Bakuchiol began to be used in North America and Europe around 2007 when it was brought to market by Sytheon. There is growing demand for Bakuchiol products in the booming natural skincare market. 

So what's all the hype about? In the quest to produce natural products, the use of "active" ingredients often falls flat. For many reasons, clinical studies done on individual ingredients don't always hold true in the final products. This could be because the ingredients aren't used correctly, they get deactivated, or bias played into the original clinical studies (effectiveness sells!).

Regardless, when something is found to have measurable effects, especially repeatedly, in the natural skincare world it gains ALOT of attention.

If you're planning to start using Bakuchiol skincare products in your regimen, this is what you need to know before you buy:

 

#1: Bakuchiol Manufacturers

The main manufacturer of Bakuchiol is Sytheon. They use a unique method to extract concentrated Bakuchiol oil and purify it ( >99%). 

There are many other companies and brands that work with the psoralea corylifolia plant, but purified Bakuchiol oil is not what they produce (more on that below). While Sytheon isn't the company that will make the final cosmetic products, being the main supplier means that brands choosing to use pure Bakuchiol oil have one main option.

#2: Sustainable Babchi Seed Harvesting

The psoralea corylifolia plant is not endangered (though some other psoralea plants are on the list). However, it grows wild and is wild-harvested not farmed. In order to maintain biodiversity and sustainability, companies that manufacture these products need to make sure they follow guidelines to avoid overharvesting and not contribute to agricultural controversy.

Sytheon has published an informative website about their product and their processes. They work closely with the Indian Government to ensure sustainability is maintained.

Bakuchiol is vegan and cruelty free. 

#3: Psoralea Corylifolia: It's all in the name

Due to the science that is used to extract Bakuchiol from the babchi seeds, it cannot be labelled by standard INCI botanical naming rules.

If a skincare product contains a carrier oil or extract made from the babchi seed, it would be labelled on the product ingredient list as: psoralea corylifolia seed extract or psoralea corylifolia seed oil. 

When a skincare product uses concentrated, pure Bakuchiol, the only way it can be labelled on the ingredient list is "Bakuchiol". Though extracted from the plant, it is not considered a botanical extract in the traditional sense.

#4 Babchi Oil "Plant Extraction"

A very scientific method of isolating and extracting pure, concentrated Bakuchiol from the babchi seed is used called monomolecular extraction. That is why the naming rules described above apply.

If babchi seeds are cold-pressed or expeller pressed, you have psoralea corylifolia seed oil. If the seeds or leaves are macerated in oil or extracted with a solvent (ie. ethanol, acetone), then you have psoralea corylifolia fruit/seed/leaf extract.

All of these extracts will contain some Bakuchiol (1.6%-12% was found in one study that analyzed different carrier oils). However, there is no standardization or purification, which means there could also be irritating or undesired chemicals.

If you buy and use products containing psoralea corylifolia (babchi) seed carrier oil, you have no way to know how much Bakuchiol is actually present or what other chemicals are.

This doesn't mean it will be harmful, but you want the money you spend to go towards the ingredients you want to actually be using. 

#5: Bakuchiol Serum Skincare Results

While developing our Bakuchiol Face Oil, we summarized the current Bakuchiol research and we keep our review list updated as more becomes known.

    • Concentrations tested: 0.5-1.5%
    • 7 studies with 190 people used Bakuchiol products for 4-12 weeks
      • Mixed skin colors
      • 60 had sensitive skin, 26 had moderate acne, and 17 had eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, or cosmetic intolerance syndrome (this group used a 0.5% product)
    • People who used Bakuchiol saw improvements in skin elasticity, firmness, fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, smoothness, feel, clarity, radiance, number of acne lesions, appearance of scars.
    • Measurable effects were also found like wrinkle depth, pigmentation, and acne lesions.
    • Side effects, irritation, and intolerances were not experienced.

They suggest this is a chemical worth trying - especially if you are intolerant of retinol or looking for a retinol alternative.

 

#6: Bakuchiol vs Retinol: A Botanical Retinol Alternative?

When compared to Retinol directly, the results were comparable (this was at a 0.5% concentration). Although the research supporting Bakuchiol as a botanical retinol alternative is promising, there isn't a lot of data. There also isn't any data comparing Bakuchiol to prescription retinoids. When it comes to a head-to-head, long term comparison of Bakuchiol vs all retinoids (not just retinol), the safe assumption is that retinoids are probably more effective. 

However, there are so many other factors to consider when deciding what to use. Results matter, but not if the risks or side effects are too high. That is why we view retinol alternative regimens as very important options. 

This Bakuchiol vs Retinol Infographic should help:

 

 bakuchiol vs. retinol infographic by bareLUXE

#7: Bakuchiol Skincare Product Marketing

A brand's decision-making about whether or not to use pure, concentrated Bakuchiol in their product is a personal one. It's an expensive molecule. It's also thick, oily, and brown which can make it tricky if there's a certain look a brand wants for their product.

Brands have to choose if they want the best concentration for effectiveness (but deal with colour or aroma) or getting the name on the label to capitalize on popularity (and keep the concentration low enough to not worry about colour or aroma).

This isn't a criticism, the sensorial aspect of luxury cosmetics cannot be denied. However, if a brand is trying to create some sort of light, fluffy, pink beautiful masterpiece, the decision of whether or not to use a high concentration of a brown oil will be influenced

If a product is marketed as "containing Bakuchiol" and the ingredient list says something like: psoralea corylifolia (bakuchiol) seed oil, psoralea corylifolia (babchi) fruit extract; then the product uses traditional extracts of the psoralea corylifolia seed or plant - not the concentrated, purified version of Bakuchiol.

This means the consumer might see results; but it's just as possible they will get no effect or even side effects from using an unpurified ingredient. 

Another area where marketing can get confusing is with the term "active ingredient". We blogged about claims marketing and prefer terms like Functional and BioActive because they still convey the meaning we are trying to get across to our consumers (that the product is going to provide visible improvements to the skin's appearance) but don't oversell the effects or suggest it will have the same potency as a drug like prescription tretoin. 

Since Bakuchiol has been compared to Retinol, new terms have emerged like: Bio-Retinol, Phyto-Retinol, and Botanical Retinol. These are unregulated marketing terms used to help a brand tell a consumer what they are trying to sell, but there are no rules. We like the term Botanical Retinol Alternative because many people want effects from boosting collagen, but can't tolerate the irritation that comes with vitamin A derivatives.

 

bareLUXE  Brand Approach to Bakuchiol

Being a physician, I'm used to reading studies to decide if I think they apply to my patients. If Bakuchiol was a drug and I was deciding whether to prescribe it, I would say the studies are not big enough, not numerous enough, and are all likely affected by commercial bias. 

As a brand owner I can say how rare it is for anything natural to have any data. The data for Bakuchiol products is compelling. Do I think it will  produce equivalent results to very long-term retinol use or prescription retinoic acid?

Unlikely.  (Remember, our main marketing gimmick is transparency…)

Bakuchiol oils and Bakuchiol serums work great for me. The main reason is because I actually use them. My skin is totally intolerant of retinol, even at low concentrations. I get horrible dryness, flaking, cracking. My eyes get red and I get blocked tear ducts (Meibomian gland dysfunction). The inside of my nose gets painful and swollen. And after I stop using the retinol, it literally takes 4-5 weeks for my skin to recover. 

As a consumer, you already know if your skin tolerates retinol. You also know if you prefer to use natural plant substances over other options. If you're looking for a retinol alternative or if you've decided to give Bakuchiol a try, then this guide will help you make a choice that will maximize the chances you'll have a great result.