Retinol, niacinamide, activated charcoal… When it comes to beauty, sometimes it can feel like there’s a new buzzword or trending ingredient to learn every month. Occasionally they’re game changing (or, more accurately, skin-changing); sometimes they transcend from insider beauty secret into the wider psyche of the population (hello, hyaluronic acid), and other times they turn up unassumingly in the Who What Wear beauty cupboard and get me intrigued. Bakuchiol is one such ingredient.
When some new resurfacing pads from Indeed Labs landed on my desk a couple of years ago (remember desks?) my interest was immediately piqued. What the heck is bakuchiol when it’s at home, anyway? A quick google informed me that bakuchiol is a plant-derived, 100% natural alternative to vitamin A, aka retinol. Oh, and if you’re not sure how to say it, you pronounce it “buh-koo-chee-all” or “back-uh-heel”—whichever floats your boat.
After experiencing a nasty reaction to a dermatologist-prescribed retinol late last year, I was somewhat sceptical. Retinol is a particularly tricky skincare ingredient to get right. Too much and your skin can become sore, flaky and irritable—as the red patches on my face once testified—but strike the right balance and fine lines will be diminished while your overall complexion looks more even and plump.
“We were keen to formulate a product in a pad form for those who are on the go and looking for the convenience of a pad,” said Dimitra Davidson, president and COO of Indeed Labs. “We also wanted our retinol consumer to have an alternative for those days when their skin just isn’t feeling up to retinol use or is already a little irritated.”
The thing that persuaded me to take the pads home for a test run was the fact that bakuchiol advocates were claiming that this super ingredient didn’t have any of the negative side effects often associated with retinol. That means no dry, flaky skin, no inflammation and no added sensitivity.
“Bakuchiol is clinically proven to significantly reduce wrinkles and hyperpigmentation without causing any of the irritation associated with using retinol,” Davidson, told me. “It’s suitable for daily use, both daytime and nighttime, and doesn’t increase photosensitivity so it’s perfect for those with sensitive skin who are looking for a really effective anti-ageing ingredient.”
Sidenote: Bybi Beauty informed me that a study by Sytheon found that just 0.5% bakuchiol used over six weeks was found to improve wrinkle depth, fine lines, pigmentation, elasticity and firmness of the skin.
Although there’s no evidence so far that bakuchiol increases your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, Justine Kluk, MD, consultant dermatologist, still recommends applying sun protection: “Exposure to UV rays without adequate protection significantly accelerates skin ageing as well as increasing the chances of skin cancer.”
I used the pads two or three times a week after my evening cleanse for a few weeks, and since then I've become a bakuchiol convert. Although I can’t speak to its effectiveness at reducing wrinkles (my oily complexion means that fine lines are still pretty much at bay, even in my early 30s), I can definitely say that I’m starting to see an improvement in pigmentation on my skin caused by acne scarring, resulting in a more even, healthy-looking complexion.
It won’t banish breakouts, but bakuchiol will even out your skin tone.
But before you go rushing out to stock up on bakuchiol, is it just another skincare fad? Kluk thinks not. “It doesn’t appear to be, but it’s still early days,” she said. “The results [of a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology] are clearly very promising, however. It’s just a single study involving only 44 participants. I would watch this space, as I’m sure there’s lots more evidence on its way.”
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