5 bakuchiol serums and creams that exfoliate and even skin, and are less irritating than retinol

Abigail Barr/Business Insider

  • Retinol is a powerful skin-care ingredient that can treat a whole host of skin-care issues from fine lines to dark acne spots and uneven skin tone.
  • But it can also cause irritation, redness, dryness, peeling, and sensitivity to the sun.
  • Bakuchiol is a plant-based retinol alternative that promises the same effects without the irritation. Here are five skin-care products with the hero ingredient, including serums from Herbivore, Pacifica, and Biossance, and creams from Olehenriksen and Inkey.

For a long time, retinol has been hailed a skin-care superhero. This vitamin A derivative helps soften the appearance of fine lines and dark spots, while also boosting collagen. But with great power can come great irritation like redness, dryness, tightening, peeling, and stinging.

Bakuchiol, a plant-derived alternative to retinol, promises the same effects but without the irritation. It comes from the babchi plant which NY-based dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah tells Allure "functions similar to a retinol, increasing cell turnover thereby stimulating collagen production and diminishing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and overall photodamage."

A study from the British Board of Dermatology also found that bakuchiol worked just as well at increasing cell turnover as retinol, while also being less irritating to your skin.

Here are five bakuchiol-infused serums and creams to try:

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Pacifica Beauty Future Youth Crystal Serum with Bakuchiol

Pacifica Beauty Future Youth Crystal Serum with Bakuchiol
Pacifica Beauty Future Youth Crystal Serum with Bakuchiol, $16, at Ulta

Instead of being housed in a pump bottle, this serum comes in a rollerball tube that's really pleasant to use. It's a light, milky formula with bakuchiol, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, and sugar to help keep moisture in (it's a natural humectant), and the rollerball ensures that you won't apply too much and waste product.

It's vegan and cruelty-free and formulated without petroleum, parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, or sulfates so it won't irritate sensitive skin. The thin texture also means it will sit nicely under your moisturizer and sunscreen.

Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Alternative Smoothing Serum

Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Alternative Smoothing Serum
Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Alternative Smoothing Serum, $54, at Sephora

Don't be scared by the purple color, this serum goes on pretty clear and feels almost like jelly.

In addition to bakuchiol, the formula contains polyhydroxy acids that help exfoliate and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, tremella mushrooms to help hydrate skin and retain water (similar to hyaluronic acid), and blueberry for a boost of antioxidants.

It bears a "Clean at Sephora" seal so it's made without potentially irritating ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances, or mineral oils.

Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum

Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum, $72, at Sephora

Biossance harnesses the power of squalane, which mimics the skin's natural oils and helps keep your skin hydrated without clogging pores.

Combined with bakuchiol, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and redness-reducing niacinamide (or vitamin B), this serum is packed with ingredients worth the $72 investment.

Like Herbivore's serum, this also has the "Clean at Sephora," and is vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.

Olehenriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème

Olehenriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème
Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème, $55, at Sephora

This luxurious night cream helps exfoliate and moisturize your skin as you sleep with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and bakuchiol. The AHAs exfoliate on a chemical level and make your skin more sensitive to light, so double up on sunscreen.

It also has a "Clean at Sephora" seal.

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Cream

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Cream
The Inkey List Bakuchiol Cream, $10, at Sephora

The Inkey List is a new skin-care brand that focuses on simple yet effective formulas and affordable prices. It recently launched at Sephora with single products maxing out at $15 and value sets at $35.

This cream contains bakuchiol, squalane, and omega-3-packed Sacha Inchi oil, and some of the Sephora reviewers think that it's a budget-friendly version of the Herbivore serum.

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