Which deserves space on your precious face — bakuchiol or retinol? Let us help you decide.

Retinol didn’t face much competition until bakuchiol entered the chat. So, who’s this new girl in skin care, and can it really take on retinol in terms of effectiveness?

We chatted with a board-certified dermatologist for all the details to see if it’s really worth breaking up with reliable ol’ retinol.

According to San Diego-based board-certified dermatologist Melanie Palm, retinol has a proven ability to increase cell turnover, reduce fine lines, and reduce signs of aging.

Though bakuchiol is naturally derived, Palm says it’s technically a newer skincare ingredient that hasn’t been as extensively studied yet.

Palm explains that bakuchiol has similar — but less powerful — effects to retinol when applied topically. Though it can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, it just can’t do it as intensively as retinol can.

“If you’re looking for an ingredient that packs more punch in terms of anti-aging, retinol would be your best bet,” she adds.

Retinol is part of the retinoid family, a group of vitamin A derivatives. As Palm points out, it’s been around for decades and is clinically proven to help turn back the hands of time.

Retinol, the least intense member of the vitamin A group, is available over the counter almost everywhere.

So, if you were to pick up a prescription from your derm for a retinoid, it’d be spicier in terms of application and side effects, but it’s also likely it’d be more effective as well.

How to use retinol

Palm suggests applying your retinol after cleansing, toning, spot treating (if needed), and applying any serums. BTW, retinol is typically thought of as a nighttime product, though some don’t buy into this theory and use it during the day.

Whether you use it AM or PM, sunscreen is a must (seriously).

“Although you should be applying sunscreen daily, retinol does make your skin more photosensitive, so it’s important to be extra diligent about sunscreen use throughout the day,” Palm says.

Palm also points out that if you’re sensitive around the nose and mouth, apply less product around these areas.

Side effects of retinol

Retinol may cause some side effects, including:

  • dryness
  • redness
  • flaking skin
  • irritated skin

Palm tells us that, unlike retinol, Bakuchiol is not a vitamin A derivative.

Instead, it’s a gentler, naturally derived ingredient extracted from the Psoralea corylifolia plant, which Palm explains has powerful antioxidant properties.

Though it’s not as powerful for anti-aging as retinol, Palm says there are a few reasons why someone might opt for bakuchiol instead.

For example, those with sensitive skin who are more likely to experience redness and flaking from using retinol might consider bakuchiol as a non-irritating alternative.

“Additionally, because vitamin A is linked to birth defects, individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive are advised against using retinol; this is where bakuchiol might come in as a pregnancy-safe alternative,” Palm adds.

How to use bakuchiol

According to Palm, bakuchiol is used the same way as retinol: after cleansing, toning, any spot treatment, or serums. You still need to use sunscreen during the day with bakuchiol use, by way (nice try!).

Palm adds that because of its exfoliating properties, she would avoid using bakuchiol with AHAs or BHAs for fear of overdoing it.

She also points out that it’s important to patch test ahead of applying any new product to your entire face to determine whether you’re allergic to it or not.

Side effects of bakuchiol

Palm says both retinol and bakuchiol can cause:

  • redness
  • dryness
  • sensitivity

What are the downsides of bakuchiol?

Since bakuchiol has less powerful anti-aging effects than retinol, it’ll likely take longer to achieve noticeable results.

Is it OK to use bakuchiol every day?

Though bakuchiol is gentler than retinol, Palm reminds us that there is still a risk of redness, irritation, and redness, especially if you’re starting to use it in your skincare routine.

Can I use retinol and bakuchiol together?

Surprise: Yes, you can. Palm says she likes introducing bakuchiol first and then adding retinol later for her patients with sensitive skin.

PSA: Be sure you talk to a derm before making any major changes to your skincare routine.

For those who can tolerate retinol, have at it.

For those sensitive skin peeps, consider naturally derived bakuchiol, which is gentler but less effective for anti-aging results. You can also carefully combine the two!