Vitamin A is known to be one of the most potent antiaging ingredients.  Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) are the most raved ingredients by both dermatologists and skincare worshipers. They’re incredibly fantastic for treating both acne and the signs of aging skin.  However, Retinoids can be irritating for some people.  The results can be either irritating or enthralled.

In the past year or two, an ingredient called Bakuchiol has stepped in the crowd of the “R” family and made a buzzword across the market in 2019, to be the most potent natural vitamin A ingredient. 


Bakuchiol is an ingredient found in the babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia). Babchi plant has been around for a long time and is used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicines. It has powerful antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties against skin bacteria and free radicals. 

Its oil called “Bakuchi”, permeates through the epidermis and stimulates the cells situated there. It helps to change white skin, rough, dry, scaly, discoloured skin within a few months. It is also used for early wound healing and believed to be one of the remedies for vitiligo.

A patented and pure form of Bakuchiol called “Sytenol® A”, is a well-defined material with a purity level of  ≥ 90% manufactured by company Sytheon.  Sytenol® A is the first natural alternative to Retinol without having any of the negatives associated with Retinol which means it’s photochemically & hydrolytically stable, as well as suitable used during the day. 

Retinol VS Bakuchiol

(Chemical structures of (a) Bakuchiol and (b) Retinol)

In a recent open-access/open-source independent clinical study has showed the impressive results from a double-blind trial for 12 weeks, with 44 people applied either 0.5% bakuchiol topical twice daily, or 0.5% retinol topical once daily on their skin.

Despite their chemical structures being different, the gene expression of bakuchiol is found to be similar to retinol in the skin.  It’s able to affect cell pathways and stimulate collagen without acting on retinoic acid receptors.

The results have also shown retinol users experienced excess peeling and discomfort while bakuchiol users didn’t.

Why Retinol Isn’t Seen In Asian Skincare

Retinol is indeed powerful, however it’s not easy to be seen in Asian skincare.  Here are the reasons:

  1. Dermatologist sessions and procedures cost way less than western countries.
  2. In Asian skincare routines are about improving skin health without non irritating substances.
  3. In Korean skincare, Retinyl Palmitate is used as vitamin A ingredient which is less irritating than retinol and without disrupting the “glass skin” standard.
  4. There are many more herbal ingredients that are capable of delivering anti acne and antiaging results than retinol alone. 

However, does it mean Retinol is bad?  No. They are all good, it depends on the user and what their skin truly needs as well as how their skin response to it.  

Retinol Q&A 

With Florence Fatialofa
NS = Nicole @
FF = Florence Fatialofa

NS | Is the higher % (percentage) of retinol or retinoids the better?

FF | No. Everyone’s skin will tolerate % differently. If your skin is compromised or sensitive then a higher % would be inappropriate and work against the skin. It's better to start on a low % and drip feed it to the skin over the first couple weeks before using it daily and/or upping the %. Over time you will discover what your ceiling % is the more you get familiar with your skin and how it responds. 


NS | One NS insider has asked why it didn’t seem to work even though she’s been using retinol for 8+ months?

FF | The %, the type of retinol used, frequency applied and delivery system all needs to be taken into consideration. depending on the skin's response as well as what you expect to achieve from the product. If you're looking for an oil controlling (over the counter) vitaminA product then go for retinol itself. If you want a less exfoliating form then go for retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate for delicate skins.

If you're using and storing the product correctly, then likely it means you need to switch  to a different form of vitamin A, or perhaps a % step up. Start by looking at what is the active ingredient - 

Is it retinyl acetate, retinol etc? 
What is the %? 
And what is the delivery method? 

Some forms you put neat onto the skin, others you need to mix with another product like a moisturiser. Prescription forms of vitamin A (retinoic acid) may be suitable for more chronic skin issues like acne but this needs to be determined by a dermatologist. To note, sometimes it's not until you stop using a product that you realise what it was doing for your skin.   


NS | Another NS Insider has stated retinol made her skin suffered from breakouts and congestion even after a long period of time, why's it that?

FF | I wouldn't think that it's the Vitamin A itself that's causing breakouts and congestion. Often products have other ingredients inside the formulation which interfere causing skin issues. All of the ingredients in the product would need to be looked at in order to answer properly - as well as looking at many other aspects outside of skincare as to what triggered these breakouts. Retinol products don't need to smell fruity or fragrant, so id start by looking there if it does.

Some skins that have a build up of underlying congestion or toxins can go through a purge when first using. It's important to stay hydrated - drink more water and less diuretics (alcohol/coffee) whilst the skin is trying to flush itself. Hydrated bodies will take the toxins out via going to the toilet, dehydrated bodies will try to push the toxins out (breakout). Also if the skin is very dehydrated, dry or compromised this can happen from the skin becoming irritated, therefore susceptible to bacteria congesting the pores. If you're certain that it's the product causing your breakouts, then try switching to another one of the many formulations out there, but with less added ‘extras’. 

It's never more true than with retinol use that one size does not fit all, a little extra attention must be given to the skin when using to understand what one's own skin can tolerate and what it cannot. Vitamin A is an amazing skin correcting product that can completely change a skin and many skin sufferers lives, but it does need flexibility and a little homework.  


NS | Are Retinoids / Retinol unsafe for pregnancy?

FF | Being a potent active ingredient, it's advised not to use many forms during pregnancy and breastfeeding, however retinyl palmitate is usually deemed safe for use. 


There’s no one size fits all.  Just because it brings the best results for person A, it can have unfortunate side effects for person B.  I’ve seen and received a good amount of positive comments from customers on how retinol diminished the signs of aging and acne breakouts. However, as the person who is unable to use a high dose of Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate and Bakuchiol are the big wins for my sensitive (and sensitized) skin, delivering the best results and pushing off any signs of aging,  without aggravating rosacea and eczema.

It’s about individuality and finding what’s right for you, not what trend reflects your desire.  If you’d like to try Bakuchiol, please keep in mind that not all bakuchiol are equal. It depends on the source. Some brands sell natural babchi oil under the name “bakuchiol”. Remember, it’s always better (and safer) to do proper research before purchasing.

Research & Resource

Prospective, Randomized, Double-blind assessment of topical bakufhiol and retinol for facial photoageing.
Study results in PDF format by British Journal of Dermatology

Bakuchiol : a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects


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