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What is Bakuchiol? Hint: It Works Magic on Fine Lines and Skin Texture

In showbiz, it can be daunting having an understudy.

Being the star of the show is a special kind of position to hold, and the presence of a new, sometimes younger personality shadowing your every move is enough to make a matinée idol lose their cool. But sometimes the frontrunner needs a break, or breaks a leg, or runs their course, and the understudy’s time to shine comes to fruition. In the beauty industry, understudies loom, too—and they may at first appear as imitations of our favorite, leading products.

But, occasionally, these beauty superstars really shine as brightly as their predecessors when their time in the spotlight finally comes.

Enter the rising star known as bakuchiol.

For a few years now, trusted beauty gurus have been touting the benefits of bakuchiol as a retinol alternative. Feeling your best, whether you’re on stage or just starring in the important show that is your life, shouldn’t make you wince.

For those of us with sensitive skin, so many products we apply to our precious faces cause irritation, redness, swelling, and flaking. That’s because, for what feels like an eternity, we’ve relied almost entirely on products containing potential irritants, including retinol—an incredible anti-aging ingredient found in so many beauty products it would be impossible to avoid it. In toners, creams, moisturizers, and more, retinol is there to strengthen our skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, which is a benefit as we mature gracefully.

And we’ve loved retinol for its spectacular performance, so it’s a bit of a conundrum to both applaud and yet cringe at the performance of our favorite leading lady. While we don’t necessarily want to avoid the benefits of this ingredient (retinol is a vitamin A-derived collagen stimulant that’s even been shown to clear acne), it can also cause a flinch-worthy reaction.

Bakuchiol has been waiting in the wings all along, and she’s a gentle, vegan alternative to retinol that doesn’t cause irritation.

Derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant, bakuchiol offers the same age-defying, collagen-awakening benefits as retinol, but leaves any additional drama backstage, which is a huge relief for those of us who can’t handle too much flourish on our skin.

And bakuchiol is no one hit wonder, either. It’s long (think: centuries) been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and has been proven to work as a modern antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Dermatologists have more recently been so impressed with the brightening, cell-rejuvenating properties of bakuchiol on their more sensitive patients, that some have taken to studying the rising star.

A 2019 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology indicated that bakuchiol’s natural, tender properties worked just as beautifully as retinol in reducing signs of skin maturity, and was nowhere near as irritating on participants over a 12-week trial. That’s quite a glowing review from some serious critics. Dermatologists quoted in newer reports have also noted that, due to its natural properties, bakuchiol appears to be safe for women to use during pregnancy.

While bakuchiol has been working away behind the scenes for ages (even making appearances in beauty products throughout the 1970s), it’s only made a more pronounced debut in the industry over the past few years with a flutter of new products. Kinder Beauty Boxes recently included Romer Skincare’s Treat in its treasure troves, and it’s a gorgeous example of how to work bakuchiol products into your skincare regime. The formula is brimming with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, bakuchiol, squalane, prickly pear seed oil, carrot seed oil, white tea, and CBD, so hydrating day or night is simple. Romer’s line of products also commit to sustainability, as well as eco-friendly ingredients and shipping processes, which are qualities and promises you’ll want to watch out for with any new product you’re bringing to the forefront.

Our most renowned treatments are hard to veer from, and giving the understudy a chance to show her prowess can be unnerving. In the beauty realm, the stage is pretty full of products we trust and rely on for repeat performances. When it comes to retinol, however, even the most famous of products can start to lose their sparkle for those of us prone to sensitive reactions, and gentle bakuchiol is all too ready to step in for a role in our daily (and nightly) regime.

With pure, kind, and effective properties that can be found in ethical products, it’s time to leave a banana peel on retinol’s dressing room floor and let bakuchiol take her position in the floodlights.

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Natalya Anderson is a writer, award-winning poet and former ballet dancer from Toronto.