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You may have heard the recent buzz about bakuchiol in skin serums. While this natural ingredient has been around for decades, more and more companies are using it in their skincare. Here’s what it is, how to use it, and if it’s really safe.
Bakuchiol vs Babchi
Pronounced (ba-koo-heel), bakuchiol is a monoterpene from babchi (psoralea corylifolia) leaves and seeds. The babchi plant has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. In the 1960s scientists in India extracted the bakuchiol compound from babchi plant material.
So far researchers have found nearly 100 different bioactive compounds in the babchi plant, and bakuchiol is just one. So bakuchiol is a concentrated active ingredient derived from the whole plant. Most of the recent research is on bakuchiol (nearly 200 studies!). But we’ll look at both the whole plant and the isolated component in this article.
The Benefits of Bakuchiol and Babchi
Many skincare gurus have labeled bakuchiol as the safer alternative to retinal creams. This wonder plant is so much more than that though. Lately, it’s becoming more and more popular in skincare routines, but it has lots of other health benefits too. Some of these are traditional uses of the babchi plant, but much of it is backed by modern research.
- May help diseases caused by brain inflammation (neuroinflammatory diseases)
- Protects the heart, liver, skin, and other organs.
- Inhibits cancer cell growth, including in stomach, breast, and skin cancer
- Protects against bone loss and may help with osteoporosis
- Reduces blood glucose and triglycerides
- Strengthens and tones the heart
- Helps open blood vessels for better blood flow
- Used to get rid of parasites and worms
Bakuchiol in Cancer Research
Over the past few decades, scientists have been digging deep into bakuchiol for disease treatment. Several of these studies have looked at its role in cancer care. A 2016 lab study showed high doses slowed breast cancer growth better than resveratrol. The bakuchiol also shrank tumors in zebrafish.
A later 2019 review discusses how bakuchiol can help stop cancer cell growth. Previous research shows it has an effect on stomach, breast, and skin cancer cells. However, early research is done in animals and in vitro (not in animals or people), so it’s unclear yet how this will translate to humans.
The gold standard for mouth infections in the drug world is chlorohexidine mouth wash. But with the rise in drug-resistant bacteria (and now candida), researchers are looking for alternative solutions. Bakuchiol is traditionally used for bacterial and fungal infections on the skin. This makes it a good candidate for an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
A Pakistani lab study found garlic and bakuchiol extract together helped fight a wide range of mouth microbes. The ingredients worked similarly to the chlorohexidine against candida and strep.
It’s not known from this study what the dosage should be or if bakuchiol works on its own in this case. And while a DIY version with raw garlic might work, that would be some serious garlic breath! In the meantime, I’ll keep using my homemade mouthwash.
Animal studies show bakuchiol may help with cartilage damage in joints. Scientists injected damaged rat knees with bakuchiol extract to see if it would help. After two weeks the bakuchiol showed signs of regenerating the cartilage. Most of us aren’t going to inject bakuchiol into our joints (ouch!), but it could help topically. While the research isn’t conclusive yet, the results are promising.
Skincare Benefits of Bakuchiol
Most of the modern uses (and research) for bakuchiol involve skincare products. It works similarly to retinol but without the side effects and is safe for sensitive skin. It’s used in eye creams, night cream, and bakuchiol serums to help with a variety of blemishes. You’ll often find it combined with squalane, vitamin C, niacinamide, or hyaluronic acid. Here’s my recipe for bakuchiol serum with babchi oil.
The info below includes traditional use of the babchi plant and oil, as well as benefits from isolated bakuchiol.
- Reduces wrinkles and the appearance of fine lines
- Slows signs of aging and improves skin texture
- Stimulates collagen production
- Lessens skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation (dark spots)
- Improves photoaging (skin damaged by the sun)
- Improves elasticity and skin firmness
- Improves acne
- Used for psoriasis and eczema
- Helps with vitiligo (white patches on the skin)
- Used for alopecia (hair loss)
- Traditionally used for leprosy
Bakuchiol vs Retinol Serum
Often called the natural retinol alternative, bakuchiol works in much the same way. Unlike retinoids though, this skincare ingredient doesn’t cause dryness or irritation.
Skin Damage and Aging
A 2020 study looked at a skin serum with bakuchiol and vanilla tahitensis extract. The serum significantly improved skin firmness and deformation and protected against UVA damage. The researchers noted that bakuchiol on its own was also beneficial to skin cells. Study participants had less dullness and noticed skin brightening and hydrating effects.
Compared to retinol, bakuchiol is high in antioxidants. And when it’s used on wounds it helps to regenerative the epidermis. It’s not just a safer alternative to retinol but appears to work better against skin aging too.
Research in 2021 evaluated how well bakuchiol works on acne. People with acne used .5% bakuchiol in a cream with impressive results. Not only was it non-irritating, but it helped reduce acne spots and improved existing ones. The study concluded bakuchiol works well for mild to moderate acne, especially for those with darker skin tones.
This research backs up a study from the previous year that looked at skin discoloration. People with darker skin tones are more likely to have long term skin darkening and discoloration from acne. The treatment group used a bakuchiol cream for 28 days. Although they didn’t reach statistical significance compared to the control group, they did have noticeable improvement.
How Long Does it Take to Work?
Some dermatologists recommend giving bakuchiol 6-12 weeks to start working for the best results. Several studies though noted positive benefits closer to the 1-month mark. Keep in mind that’s with using it twice a day on average. Less than that and results may take longer.
Who Can Use Bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol extract is generally considered very safe for all skin types. Everyone is different though so if you notice any irritation, don’t use it. Although, some reviewers have noted if babchi oil isn’t diluted enough it can irritate the skin.
Is Bakuchiol Safe for Pregnancy?
There hasn’t been much research (if any) on topical use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, there also isn’t evidence it can harm an unborn or breastfeeding baby. Most dermatologists (including this chemist), consider it safe for skincare during pregnancy. If you have any concerns check with your health care provider.
The internal use of babchi is a different story. You can buy babchi oil and babchi seeds whole or powdered. Some sources recommend 1-3 grams of babchi powder or 3-4 drops of the oil. It has a long history of use in eastern medicine, but like with any supplement, it isn’t for everyone or every situation.
If you’re interested in using babchi internally check with a qualified health care practitioner. Someone who specializes in TCM or Ayurveda especially can give detailed dosing and treatment info for your situation.
How to Use Bakuchiol for Skin
Babchi oil is made from the plant’s seeds and is a concentrated oil. It’s generally recommended not to use more than a 10% concentration of babchi oil. However, 5% is still effective and less likely to irritate skin or cause photosensitivity. When we’re diluting that would look like 25 drops of babchi oil for every 2 Tablespoons of carrier oil. Get babchi oil here.
Bakuchiol is commonly used in testing at a .5% dilution, but some products use more. You can get undiluted bakuchiol extract and add it to lotion or carrier oil. A .5% dilution is 2-3 drops for every 2 Tablespoons of lotion or carrier oil.
Products With Bakuchiol
These facial creams and moisturizers use healthy ingredients without harmful chemicals.
Do you use bakuchiol or babchi in your daily regimen? Had any positive results? Leave a comment and let us know!
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