The use of retinol in over-the-counter skincare and by prescription has been gaining in popularity for the last two decades. The reasons are simple: It increases skin cell proliferation and collagen production, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps unclog pores, lessens hyperpigmentation and improves acne. Retinol is the milder parent molecule of the side-effect laden retinoic acid discovered in the early twentieth century and widely used beginning in the 70s. But even with the milder retinol which does offer good results, unpleasant side effects still persist.
These side effects include redness, irritation, burning, itching, dry skin, skin flaking and peeling, exacerbated acne, increased sensitivity to sunlight and even, in some cases, skin cancer. Many of these side effects come from incorrect retinol use which is easy to do.
Retinol does start to work in your skin cells immediately upon application, but it takes several weeks to realize an improvement in the look and feel of your skin. In fact, your skin condition may appear worse at first while your skin is adjusting to the treatment.
In addition, the more retinol you apply, the more compromised your skin’s protective barrier against environmental insults becomes. Many people feel their skin becomes much more sensitive, flaky and irritated after persistent retinol use.
Melvyn Patterson, a cosmetic doctor at Woodford Medical in the United Kingdom says that with retinol overuse new skin cells don't function well because they’ve been rapidly produced which results in a lack of adhesion and lipid production required to properly protect skin.
If you’re using retinol, you must be sure to incorporate it into your skin care regimen prudently. It shouldn’t be introduced to your skin too often or in too great an amount. Flakiness, dryness and even breakouts may occur at the outset but usually, in time, the skin will adjust as long as you are not overusing.
What Retinol Actually Is
Retinol is described as vitamin A, but in fact, retinol used in cosmetic applications is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A.
“…Although found in nature, most retinols utilized for commercial purposes are synthetically derived in a laboratory setting, exactly mimicking the molecule found in nature. There are many different chemicals that are derivatives of the vitamin A molecule, and depending on the type of retinoid, it has a milder or stronger effect on the skin.” —Dr. Morgan Rabach, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City
When manufacturers describe retinol as vitamin A, they quickly point out that vitamin A is found in the group of fat-soluble vitamins common in eggs, cantaloupe, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. But to call retinol vitamin A is a misnomer.
• “Retinol as you’ve traditionally known it,”
• “Related to vitamin A,” or
• “Derivative of vitamin A”
The phrases above are creative ways of implying the retinol is organic vitamin A without coming out and saying that the molecule is actually synthetically produced.
“Retinoids(1) are a class of molecules all related to vitamin A. There are many different forms including pure retinol, retinaldehyde, retinyl esters, and prescription versions like Tretinoin. Most retinoids are produced synthetically in the lab…” —Dr. Joshua Zeicher, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York
There Is An Alternative Plant-Based Molecule Proven Just As Effective As Retinol. It’s Called Bakuchiol.
Retinol can potentially be a good tool to use against aging skin and acne, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re prone to allergies or have delicate, sensitive skin, or you prefer the option of a product that is truly organic without the numerous side effects of retinol use, it makes sense to opt for a safer 100% plant-based option proven to be just as effective for anti-aging action, and acne and brown spot reduction.
Bakuchiol is a non-irritating option, every bit as powerful with clinically proven results. It’s even safe to wear during the day since it does not make skin photo-sensitive as does retinol.
On the molecular level, bakuchiol has no structural resemblance to retinol, but it does have retinol functionality via “retinol-like regulation of gene expression.” In other words, bakuchiol prompts cell turnover and stimulates the production of collagen just like retinol does, but again, with no ill side effects.
A 2018 randomized, double-blind, 12-week clinical study with 44 volunteers demonstrated that “bakuchiol is comparable with retinol in its ability to improve photoaging, [like] wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, but has a better skin tolerance.” The researchers noted significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo-damage and without the usually retinol-associated undesirable effects.
Bakuchiol (Indian babchi or bakuchi) is a meroterpene phenol or terpenophenolic(2) abundant in the seeds and leaves of the plant Psoralea corylifolia (see images of the plant and its seeds in this article). The seeds of the plant are widely used in Indian as well as in traditional Chinese medicine.
Bakuchiol(3) basically functions as an analogue of retinol. In the same way that retinol does, bakuchiol alters the behavior of aged cells causing them to act in a more youthful manner. It smooths and refines skin's texture and makes skin more radiant. It helps accelerate skin renewal, enhance collagen production and reduce the appearance of aging and age spots.
Modere’s CellProof Bakuchiol Booster(4) has been shown to be as effective as retinol.
This plant-derived retinol alternative bakuchiol product reveals flawless looking skin without harsh drying or peeling.
CellProof Bakuchiol Booster delivers retinol-comparative results without harsh drying or peeling. Each concentrated drop of CellProof Bakuchiol Booster targets the buildup of dead skin cells which can exaggerate the appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin tone and a dull complexion, while protecting skin’s natural moisture barrier.
This bakuchiol product makes skin look brighter, clearer and collagen-filled with visibly reduced pores, fine lines and wrinkles. It deeply exfoliates for a renewed appearance while providing the following benefits and support to skin:
• Supports surface skin cell turnover
• Promotes clearer and more even-looking skin tone
• Promotes glowing, visibly brighter skin
• Reduces the appearance of dark spots and skin discoloration
• Refines the appearance of pores
• Soothes the appearance of temporary redness
• Protects skin against environmental stressors
• Protects skin’s natural moisture barrier
• Delivers weightless hydration
• Reduces the appearance of fine lines and deep wrinkles
• Maximizes benefits of BioCell Collagen CG in CellProof Serum, Moisturizer and Eye Cream
(1) All retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A, one of the body’s key nutrients; ‘retinoid’ is the umbrella name for a class of compounds that encompasses retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, retinol aldehyde, and a host of others
(2) Terpenophenolics are compounds that are part terpenes (the molecules that give plants flavor, scent and color), part natural phenols (plant compounds). Plants in the genus Humulus and Cannabis produce terpenophenolic metabolites. Examples of terpenophenolics are:
(3)Bakuchiol has been reported to have anticancer activity in preclinical models, possibly due to its structural similarity with resveratrol. One study in rats suggested that bakuchiol and ethanol extracts of the Chinese medicinal plant Psoralea corylifolia from which bakuchiol is made could protect against bone loss. Bakuchiol possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
(4) When added to CellProof Serum, Moisturizer or Eye Cream, Bakuchiol Booster boosts the benefits of BioCell Collagen® CG by allowing it to work directly on skin’s surface.
Chaudhuri RK, Bojanowski K. Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Jun;36(3):221-30. doi: 10.1111/ics.12117. Epub 2014 Mar 6. PMID: 24471735.
“Retinol: Cream, Serum, What It Is, Benefits, How to Use.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23293-retinol.
Mueller, Cristina. “The Return to Retinol.” Vogue, Vogue, 26 Mar. 2012, https://www.vogue.com/article/the-return-to-retinol.