Bakuchiol 101: Everything Skin Care & Beauty Brands Need to Know

Bakuchiol is known as a natural alternative to retinol. What else do skin care and beauty brands need to know about it? Here’s a complete guide to Bakuchiol 101.

Bakuchiol 101: Table of Contents

Definition of Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is a natural compound derived from the seeds of the plant Psoralea corylifolia. Meroterpenes are one of the main chemical components of Psoralea corylifolia, and Bakuchiol is isolated from this compound. Specifically, Bakuchiol belongs to the terpenophenol class, which are chemical compounds with a partial terpenoid structure.  

Today, highly pure (99%+) Bakuchiol is available from Sytheon under the trade name Sytenol® A. Sytenol® A Bakuchiol is the only REACH-registered and China-allowed Bakuchiol that offers the same benefits as retinol without the negative side effects.

| See the Difference – Request A Sample of Sytenol® A Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol’s Origin

Psoralea corylifolia (commonly known as babchi) is a wild leguminous plant that grows in India and the Himalayan regions of Pakistan and China. It reaches heights of 60-100 centimeters and takes 7-8 months to reach maturity. The seeds that contain Bakuchiol are wild harvested between December and January. The term “Bakuchiol” is based on the babchi plant’s Sanskrit name, Bakuchi.

Since Mehta et al. first isolated Bakuchiol from Babchi seed in 1966, the extraction and purification process has been well explored. However, it took many years to perfect the process of extraction and purification of Bakuchiol to be useful for topical application. Sytheon has been working on this product for well over 15 years, leading to the highly pure and high-performing Bakuchiol ingredient available for skin care formulations today (Sytenol® A).

Traditional Uses of Bakuchiol

Babchi seeds are rich in coumarins, including psoralen, and are known for certain medicinal properties. They have been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to treat various ailments, including:

  • Bone health
  • Inflammation
  • Tumors

However, Babchi seeds are unsuitable for topical use in cosmetics due to the presence of phototoxic phytocompounds that make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation. Photosensitivity can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and increased risk of skin cancer.

Babchi Seed Extract vs. Pure Bakuchiol

Babchi seeds are unsuitable for topical use in cosmetics due to phototoxicity. However, there is a misconception that Babchi oil, crushed Babchi seeds, or Babchi seed extract can be used interchangeably with pure Bakuchiol. This is not true!

The process of extracting pure Bakuchiol is much different from Babchi oil extraction:

  • Bakuchiol extraction isolates the Bakuchiol compound from the seeds. This is a sophisticated extraction and purification process that can’t be done safely or effectively without an experienced professional.
  • Babchi oil extraction obtains oil from the entire seed, not isolating or removing any specific compound. So, the oil contains a mix of compounds, including psoralens and other harmful chemicals.

Bakuchiol and Babchi oil extract have different processes – and different end results. While pure Bakuchiol is safe for sensitive skin, Babchi oil extract is harmful to the skin. Babchi oil extract may include some levels of Bakuchiol in the mix, but the risks of the undesired chemicals outweigh the potential benefits.

| Keep Reading: 3 Red Flags to Avoid with Your Bakuchiol Product

Applications & Benefits of Bakuchiol in Skin Care

Despite showing many physiological properties and being known for over 45 years, Bakuchiol’s first commercial use in topical applications didn’t happen until 2007. That’s when Sytenol® A was introduced to the market as a 99%+ pure alternative to Babchi seeds extract.

In skin care, Bakuchiol helps protect and restore sensitive skin. It can fight the first signs of aging and improve the quality of photodamaged skin. Bakuchiol is most commonly used for:

  • Anti-acne
  • Day and night treatments for graceful aging
  • UV damage prevention and repair

Retinol vs. Bakuchiol   

Bakuchiol is best known as a natural alternative to retinol that offers the same benefits without the negative side effects.  

What Is Retinol? Retinol, also known as vitamin A, increases collagen production and promotes cell turnover. Retinol provides anti-aging benefits, but it can cause redness, sensitization, peeling, and other skin irritations.  

Bakuchiol is a functional analog of retinol. It mimics the biological functions and effects of retinol but through a secondary mechanistic pathway. This allows Bakuchiol to replicate the positive effects without reproducing the negative ones. See more about retinol vs. Bakuchiol in the table below.

INCIBakuchiolRetinol
Chemical NamePhenol, 4-[(1E,3S)-3-ethenyl-3,7-dimethyl-1,6-octadienyl](2E,4E,6E,8E)-3,7-dimethyl-9-(2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexen-1-yl)nona-2,4,6,8-tetraen-1-ol
Molecular FormulaC18H24OC20H30O
Use Level0.5 to 1% 0.1 to 0.3%
Origin 100% Natural; Extracted and purified from edible seeds; Natrue certifiedDerived from animal sources (liver, fish liver oils) or synthesized in laboratories
AppearanceYellow to yellowish brown liquidPure retinol is crystalline yellow solid with a melting point of 62-64 C
Purity99% minimum (typically >99.5%)Available commercially as 50% active solution; Intensely yellow liquid
Solubility/MiscibilityMiscible with a wide range of hydrophobic emollientsFat soluble; may require specific formulation for stability
StabilityPhotochemically and hydrolytically stable; 4-year Storage stabilitySensitive to light and air; May degrade over time
StorageAmbient temperature -20°C, and protected from light
RegulatoryGlobally approved (including China)Restricted in regions

Despite the lack of structural similarity between Bakuchiol and retinol, both compounds demonstrate a similar pattern of activity on key anti-aging genes and proteins. See the results of a microarray experiment between Sytenol® A Bakuchiol and retinol, which shows their similar gene expression profile.

sytenol a bakuchiol vs retinol gene expression profile graph

Bakuchiol is a great alternative to retinol for customers with sensitive skin. However, Bakuchiol and retinol can actually be used together because Bakuchiol stabilizes retinol, letting it work better and increase the skin’s tolerance. Together, Bakuchiol and retinol can make an impressive difference for customers with wrinkles and dark spots. However, retinol should be used at a much lower level than Bakuchiol in the formulation.

Bakuchiol Study Results

Sytenol® A Bakuchiol is the only 99%+ pure Bakuchiol that’s backed by peer-reviewed research, supporting its safety and efficacy for customers. Here are key study results that show why it’s a great fit for your skin care or beauty brand’s product line:

  • 20% reduction in wrinkle surface area after 12 weeks with 0.5% Sytenol® A Bakuchiol compared to 0.5% retinol cream
  • 59% reduction in hyperpigmentation after 12 weeks with 0.5% Sytenol® A Bakuchiol compared to 44% reduction with 0.5% retinol cream
  • 3-5 times more facial skin scaling and stinging with 0.5% retinol cream 
  • 57% reduction in acne after 6 weeks with 1% Sytenol® A Bakuchiol compared to 2% salicylic acid lotion

| EXPLORE MORE BAKUCHIOL RESEARCH

Is Bakuchiol Sustainable?

Yes, Bakuchiol is sustainable.

Bakuchiol is a natural compound, which is great for consumers seeking natural ingredients for their skin care, but is it harmful to the environment in the process? Luckily, eco-conscious brands can deliver a natural alternative to customers without sacrificing sustainability with Bakuchiol.

It is estimated that less than 10% of the available Babchi seeds in the world are used to make Bakuchiol.

Also, the Psoralea corylifolia plant is not on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Babchi seeds grow in many different countries and are nowhere near at risk of being endangered. In fact, the Babchi plant is considered a weed. Seeds are wild harvested through ethical and compliant practices, and the collection process supports the livelihood of many collectors.

Formulating with Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is a diverse multifunctional ingredient that can be formulated into serums, creams, lotions, oils, color cosmetics, and hydro-alcoholic sprays. Here are some formulation guidelines for Sytenol® A Bakuchiol, but please refer to the full formulation guide when you request a sample.

  • Sytenol® A Bakuchiol should be used at a level of 0.5 to 1.0% (w/w) of finished formulation.
  • Sytenol® A Bakuchiol can be added directly to the oil phase.
  • Sytenol® A is not miscible with silicones, but both products can be added together into an oil phase.
  • Avoid prolonged heating above 75ºC.
  • Add 0.1% of a chelating agent to overcome coloration issues.
  • The finished product must be acidic with a pH below 6.
  • Protect the finished product from prolong exposure to heat and light to maintain product integrity over time.
  • When using in color cosmetics, pigments need to be coated.
  • Sytenol® A is incompatible with sodium hydroxide due to the phenol OH group.

Bakuchiol can also be combined with other active ingredients to deliver even more benefits to customers. For example, when 1% Sytenol® A Bakuchiol was combined with 2% salicylic acid, there was a 67% reduction in acne (compared to 57% by itself). Here are other ways you can improve effectiveness:

ActivesRationaleUse Level
Salicylic AcidHelps unclog pores to resolve and prevent lesions2%
NiacinamideProvides potent anti-inflammatory activity without the risk of inducing bacterial resistance and other skin benefits2%
Ethyl Linoleate (Synovea® EL)Regulates follicular keratinization, maintains barrier function & hydration, and maintains stratum corneum acidity; Reduces stress hormone Cortisol (Asyntra® D-Stress)2-4%
Isosorbide Dicaprylate (HydraSynol® DOI)Stimulates endogenous hydration network based on the skin’s need for hydration2%

How to Source Bakuchiol for Your Skin Care Product

Bakuchiol is clearly a winning ingredient for your next great skin care product, whether you combine Bakuchiol with another active or use it by itself. However, it’s important to seek a trusted supplier that provides the purest form of Bakuchiol and not Babchi oil extract or substandard Bakuchiol claiming to be (but not actually being) 99% pure.

| Read Blog: Analyzing Bakuchiol Content in Commercial Products

Anything less than 99% purity introduces skin sensitizers and residual solvents that can be harmful to the skin. Also, less pure Bakuchiol is unstable and will degrade in the finished formula over time, limiting its long-term effectiveness.

Verify your Bakuchiol supplier’s purity and make sure you can claim Bakuchiol as the INCI on your product label. Anything that’s not pure Bakuchiol cannot be listed as Bakuchiol.

Image that says: Bakuchiol Buyer's Guide for Beauty Brands. ✅ Is it truly over 99% pure? 
✅ Can the Bakuchiol name be listed as the INCI? 
✅ Is it REACH Registered? 
✅ Is it approved for global use, including China? 
✅ Does it have real clinical data to support its claims? 
✅ Does it have real safety data to support its claims?

Conclusion

In this guide, we walked through everything that is important for skin care brands to know about Bakuchiol. Bakuchiol use has come a long way since it was first isolated in 1966, and it promises great benefits to customers of any skin type.

| Read More: Top Bakuchiol FAQs

If you have questions about incorporating Bakuchiol into your skin care line, please contact us. If you’re ready for a sample of Sytenol® A Bakuchiol, please request one here.