Bakuchiol, retinol of Ayurveda, clinical trial

For centuries, botanicals were the fundamental basis of treatment for various ailments. Even now, many well-known medications are derived from plants.

For example, aspirin is derived from salicin, a compound found in the bark of the willow tree while morphine comes from Papaver somniferum, more commonly known as opium poppy. People are still trustingly turning to botanicals and natural compounds as alternative treatment options, providing an impetus to advance and progress the scientific knowledge regarding botanically derived phytochemicals and compounds. One sector of growing interest and research has been in cosmeceuticals, where natural products are being evaluated for their use as cosmetic agents.

With ageing and chronic sun exposure the skin thins, loses elasticity and develops wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and textural irregularities. Common concerns regarding photoageing include the development of wrinkles and dyspigmentation. Currently, topical retinoids are utilized as an effective preven- tative and therapeutic intervention. However, their significant cutaneous side-effects are common and well documented in the literature. These side-effects typically manifest as cutaneous erythema, pruritus, peeling, stinging or burning, and sensitivity. As the market for over-the-counter antiage- ing products expands, the desire for retinoid-like products, but with limited side-effect profiles, is growing.

Bakuchiol is an alternative agent to topical retinoids that has recently gained more exposure in the literature. Bakuchiol is a purified meroterpene phenol found mainly in the seeds of the Indian plant Psoralea corylifolia (babchi) but it is also found in other plant sources including Psoralea glandulosa, Pimelea drupaceae (cherry riceflower), Ulmus davidiana (Father David elm),  Otholobium pubescens and Piper longum (long pepper). The compound has been found to have antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, antioxidantand antiacne activity.

Mechanistically, bakuchiol appears to target several cellular pathways similar to those targeted by retinoids, including the modulation of retinoic acid receptors genes and upregulation of collagen and extracellular matrix synthesis enzymes.

Clinical Trial on Bakuchiol

In 2018 British Journal of Dermatology published a clinical trial on “Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing*”


Bakuchiol is a phytochemical that has demonstrated cutaneous antiage- ing effects when applied topically. Early studies have suggested that bakuchiol is a functional analogue of topical retinoids, as both compounds have been shown to induce similar gene expression in the skin and lead to improvement of cuta- neous photodamage. No in vivo studies have compared the two compounds for efficacy and side-effects.


To compare the clinical efficacy and side-effect profiles of bakuchiol and retinol in improving common signs of cutaneous facial ageing.


This was a randomized, double-blind, 12-week study in which 44 patients were asked to apply either bakuchiol 05% cream twice daily or retinol 05% cream daily. A facial photograph and analytical system was used to obtain and analyse high-resolution photographs of patients at 0, 4, 8 and 12 weeks. Patients also completed tolerability assessment questions to review side-effects. During study visits, a board-certified dermatologist, blinded to study group assignments, graded pigmentation and redness.


Bakuchiol and retinol both significantly decreased wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference between the compounds. The retinol users reported more facial skin scaling and stinging.


Our study demonstrates that bakuchiol is comparable with retinol in its ability to improve photoageing and is better tolerated than retinol. Bakuchiol is promising as a more tolerable alternative to retinol.

We’d recommend performing a 48 hour patch test before adding new products into your skincare regime. If a reaction occurs, rinse immediately and consult medical advise.



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