Updated: Apr 22
What are retinoids?
Retinoids are synthetic Vitamin A derivatives that have long been considered the gold standard of skincare when it comes to “anti-ageing” and acne products. Clinical studies using topical retinol for the treatment of acne dates back to the late 1950’s, and it has been used in “anti-ageing” skincare since the 1980’s. But retinoids are renowned for being difficult to implement into a skincare regime without side effects, particularly if you have sensitive skin. So what are the alternatives for those who can’t (or don’t want to) use retinoids but want results?
What do retinoids do?
Retinoids increase the cellular turnover rate of keratinocytes (cells on the outermost layer of our skin), and help exfoliate older keratinocytes. This helps to unclog pores without the need for scrubbing with a physical exfoliant, and helps keeps younger, plumper cells close to the surface of the skin, making skin look fresh and radiant. Over a period of time, retinoids also help increase the production of collagen and elastin in the deeper layers of the skin, keeping skin plump and firm.
Retinoids are available in both over the counter cosmetics and prescription strength medications including creams, gels and oral tablets. They come in different strength preparations and often cause some unwanted side effects, particularly at the start of treatment when trying to find a suitable strength of product for the individual. Side effects of retinoid use include dryness, tightness, redness and peeling, and in some cases this can be extreme. They also cause the skin to become more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays, and therefore should only be applied at night, and strict application of SPF in the daytime is a must to prevent burning and long term damage to the skin’s cells.
Can everyone use retinoids?
People with sensitive or reactive skin often cannot tolerate using retinoids at all due to the side effects. Retinoids are also contraindicated in pregnancy due posing risk to the unborn child, and are not advised during breast feeding. Retinoids are also synthetic ingredient, and therefore not suitable for people who adopt an all-natural skincare regime. So are there any natural alternatives to retinoids that have similar positive skin effects without the negatives?
Bakuchiol is a vegan ingredient from the leaves and seeds of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant, and has been used for a long time in traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) and Chinese medicine, but is a fairly new kid on the block ingredient in terms of skincare. It is a powerful antioxidant that has regenerative, protective, and soothing properties, meaning it is a great ingredient for ageing skin, acne-prone skin, and also for sensitive skin. Bakuchiol can fight free radical and environmental damage, even skin tone and address hyperpigmentation, promote skin cell turnover, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. A clinical trial assessed bakuchiol to provide results in line with retinoid treatment when used at the same percentage. Not only that but no studies have really found there to be any side effects of the topical use of bakuchiol. However as discussed, it is a fairly new ingredient and definitive data on whether it is safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding is not yet available.
There is no doubt that Retinol has more clinical data regarding it’s effectiveness and safety (and safety warnings) than Bakuchiol because it has been around for so much longer. Bakuchiol however has really only been studied very recent years, but it is certainly an exciting ingredient for the skincare industry and has been used in formulations by many well known and indie beauty brands already. As data grows around this new ingredient, hopefully it will cement why so many of us love this ingredient already.
Bakuchiol is an ingredient in our Super Boost Overnight Face Oil. Just click the image below to learn more!