Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol? 3 Key Distinctions

For decades, beauty brands have used retinol in formulations to try and help customers combat acne and age gracefully. Unfortunately, this can leave out customers with sensitive skin because of retinol’s harsh effects. What’s an alternative ingredient you can use instead that reaches more customers and provides even more benefits? The answer: Bakuchiol.

The first commercial use of Bakuchiol in topical applications came out in 2007 under the name Sytenol® A and has since taken the beauty industry by storm. That’s because it offers the same benefits as retinol without the negative side effects, such as redness, irritation, burning and itching.

While retinol and Bakuchiol both address acne and reduce signs of aging, there are important differences to take into account when deciding which one aligns with your formulation goals and target audience.

But before we dive into the distinctions between retinol and Bakuchiol, let’s define them.

What Is Retinol? 

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and belongs to a class of compounds known as retinoids. It promotes cell turnover, which helps to shed dead skin cells and stimulate the production of new ones. This process can lead to smoother, more youthful-looking skin. Retinol can also be effective in treating acne because it prevents clogged pores and reduces inflammation associated with acne breakouts.

What Is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a natural compound found in the Psoralea corylifolia plant. It offers anti-aging properties by stimulating collagen and other matrisome protein production, inhibiting matrix-degrading metalloproteases and inflammatory biomarkers which help to maintain the skin’s structure and firmness. Bakuchiol is also known for its antibacterial properties against certain strains of bacteria commonly associated with acne, such as Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes). By inhibiting the growth of these bacteria, Bakuchiol can help prevent or reduce acne breakouts.

Retinol and Bakuchiol provide similar anti-acne and graceful aging benefits, but they are structurally different. Here are three ways Bakuchiol differs from the retinol compound.

Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol? 3 Key Distinctions

1. Stability in Formulation

When a skincare ingredient is stable in formulation, it means the ingredient remains chemically and physically fixed within a product over time without signification degradation or changes in its properties. This is a crucial characteristic of skincare ingredients because it ensures that the product’s efficacy and safety remain throughout its shelf life, even when it’s exposed to environmental factors like temperature or ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Since retinol is a highly sensitive molecule, it can easily degrade when exposed to light or heat. This instability can make it challenging to formulate retinol-based products that maintain their effectiveness over time.

Bakuchiol is a stable ingredient, making it easier to incorporate into skincare formulations without significant degradation issues. This means you can add Bakuchiol to various types of skincare products, including creams, serums, oils and lotions, without having to worry about ingredient interactions or formulation challenges.

2. Skin Sensitivity

People with sensitive skin are more susceptible to reactions like redness and itching when exposed to certain factors or products. That’s why most customers with sensitive skin tend to avoid retinol products.

Retinol can be problematic for sensitive skin because it can cause irritation and dryness. Due to retinol increasing the skin’s sensitivity to external factors such as sunlight and temperature changes, it’s better to gradually introduce the skin to retinol to minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

Bakuchiol is generally well-tolerated and less likely to cause skin problems because of its gentler nature. It also has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, allowing it to soothe and hydrate sensitive skin. Because of these qualities, Bakuchiol is seen as an effective alternative to retinol for sensitive skin.

3. Photostability

Sunlight can lead to degradation, alteration or the breakdown of molecules, making an ingredient less effective or even harmful to the skin. However, a photostable skincare ingredient maintains its chemical structure even when exposed to light.

Retinol is not photostable, meaning it will degrade if sunlight or artificial light sources are present. Therefore, it’s recommended not to use retinol products during the day to avoid negative side effects like hyperpigmentation or skin irritation. Nighttime usage also gives the skin time to recover and replenish itself while reducing the likelihood of adverse reactions.

Because Bakuchiol is photostable, people can use it during the day and at night. This makes it easier to include Bakuchiol products as part of one’s daily skincare routine without having to worry about negative side effects. This versatility gives formulators more flexibility in creating skincare products that meet specific needs and preferences.


For years, retinol reigned supreme as the ingredient beauty brands used to treat acne and aging. But since the invention of commercial Bakuchiol, Sytenol® A, more and more brands are switching to the retinol alternative to appeal to a greater audience that includes people with sensitive skin.

To determine if Sytenol® A Bakuchiol meets your formulation goals and appeals to your target audience, consider the ingredient’s stability in formulation, skin sensitivity and photostability. These distinctions show that Bakuchiol is a powerhouse ingredient that offers various benefits to your customers while remaining gentle to sensitive skin.

Sytenol® A by Sytheon is 99%+ pure Bakuchiol and the only REACH-registered and China-allowed Bakuchiol with a complete toxicology dossier. To test Sytenol® A with your formulation, request a sample.