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Bakuchiol or Retinol- Which one is the right pick for clear and smooth skin!?

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We’ve all heard about Retinol and Bakuchiol but you have to agree when we say it is tricky to pick between them since it's said that they do the same job. Let’s burst that bubble and know the difference between them because honestly, it is shocking how different they are. If you are super confused about which is the right ingredient to go to start an anti-ageing routine, then you’re on the right page. From the differences to how to layer, we’ve noted all of it here!

What does Bakuchiol do?

If you’re a beginner in skincare and you’ve been wanting to use Retinol but you’re scared of purging then say hello to Bakuchiol oil. It’s the plant-derivative of Retinol and is proven to be just as effective as synthetic Retinol. Extracted from the Babchi plant, this ingredient is the natural alternative of Retinol which means it has just the same benefits as Retinol. But there is one benefit that Bakuchiol provides and Retinol does not- moisturise the skin barrier. This is not where the story stops. We have a whole lot of tea on the difference between them that can help you make a better choice when it comes to skincare. Let’s now briefly understand Retinol.

Read here to understand Bakuchiol in-depth and know more about this star!

What does Retinol do?

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Retinol is a synthetic form of Vitamin A which is made by breaking Vitamin A. Retinol has been extensively studied and scientifically proven to help combat early ageing, promote well-ageing, refine pores and give you smooth even-toned skin. But tread carefully with this ingredient since it needs to be applied according to the manual. What’s the manual and what are the mistakes you must avoid while using Retinol? Here’s your guide. Retinol being the ‘fussy kid’ in the group of active ingredients, has scared a lot of skincare nerds to try it. However, dermatologists have been using it for ages. The reason is simply that it is studied in depth. 

Learn more about Retinol here!

Honestly, they both sound like a lover’s kiss for clear and smooth skin. But there’s one made for every skin type and skin concern. Let us help make the decision based on the difference between Retinol and Bakuchiol.

Bakuchiol or Retinol - Which one to pick for clear and smooth skin?

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It’s not our decision but we are going to simplify this for you. Bakuchiol and Retinol are both capable of giving you smooth skin but one can pick between them based on their skin and concerns that they’ve prioritised. Here are differentiating pointers that can help you make better decisions-

1. Origin

Bakuchiol is a natural source of Vitamin A derived from a plant. Retinol is a synthetic source of Vitamin A. 

    2. Usage

    Bakuchiol does not sensitise your skin and hence it is safe to be used in AM and PM routines. That’s not the case with Retinol. Retinol can be used only in PM routines since it is photosensitive.

      3. Skincare layering

      Bakuchiol can be layered with any actives since it does not inhibit or cancel anyone’s action. You can even exfoliate with acids before using Bakuchiol to see improved results. That’s not the case with Retinol. Retinol cannot be paired with just about anyone. While using Retinol, one must keep the routine very minimal. Just a moisturiser with Ceramides, Peptides, or Niacinamide will work well. Layering Retinol with other actives can show adverse reactions like redness, burning, increased sensitivity, dryness, clogged pores.

        4. Side effects

        Bakuchiol has shown no adverse reaction and it does the job equal to an active ingredient. In fact, to a great extent, Bakuchiol helps improve the barrier function and reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) which leads to dryness and irritation. Retinol, on the other hand, can dry out your skin and lead to purging in the initial days of application. It also increases your skin’s sensitivity which is why one must always include SPF in their routine if they are on Retinol treatment.

        5. Stability

        Bakuchiol is not photosensitive and hence it can be stored in transparent glass bottles and jars. This is also the reason why they can be worn in the AM routine. On the other hand, Retinol’s activity is disrupted by blue and UV light and hence they can’t be worn in the daytime. Retinol’s efficacy depends on the product formulation too since it is an active ingredient. Fun fact, using Bakuchiol in the product formulation along with Retinol can boost the results.

          6. Safety during pregnancy

          Bakuchiol is safe to be used by pregnant women since it is a natural form of Vitamin A. Retinol is not safe though. Any drug or product high in Vitamin A can potentially be harmful to pregnant women. Retinol is the synthetic form of Vitamin A, which makes it unfit for usage during pregnancy. Learn more about ingredients 

          7. Suitability for beginners

          If you’re in your early twenties and you want to incorporate Vitamin A, you must prefer Bakuchiol since it is fuss-free, low maintenance, and safer to use without digging much into it. Retinol is generally preferred by those who are well-read about Retinol and know just exactly how to incorporate it into their routine.

          8. Suitability for acne-prone skin

          If you have active acne or open wounds, using Retinol ain’t the best decision since one of the side effects of Retinol is inflammation while it does its job in the beginning. So individuals with acne and open wounds or popped pimples can resort to Bakuchiol.

          9. Treatment for scars

          Acne can leave with two types of marks if they weren’t treated right- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). These can take months to heal and Vitamin A can speed up the healing process since it increases cell turnover. Which form though? We believe Retinol wins an edge over Bakuchiol when it comes to healing acne scars and dark spots.

          How to layer with Retinol or Bakuchiol in the skincare regime?

          How to layer Bakuchiol in the skincare regime on


          Since Retinol is an active ingredient, one needs to be careful while layering. Whereas Bakuchiol is relatively easy to layer with. It can be paired with any ingredient and even used in the AM routine. Here’s how you can layer Retinol and Bakuchiol:

          I. Routine for Retinol

          Just like how we’ve explained earlier, Retinol application does need vigilance. Along with ensuring that you're not making any Retinol application mistakes, you also want to keep your skincare routine simple that night. The safest way to apply Retinol is by sticking to the sandwich method. It’s where you layer Retinol between two layers of moisturiser. Here’s what the routine looks like-

          Step 1

          Cleanse with a gentle cleanser that soothes and gently exfoliates. Make sure that the cleanser doesn’t strip off your natural moisture since that can harm the skin barrier and make it unsuitable before applying an active ingredient like Retinol.

            Sublime recommends Pure By Priyanka Aloe Vera & Cucumber Face Wash. Aloe Vera and Cucumber and both known to soothe your skin. This face wash is extremely gentle and at the same time, takes off the gunk effectively.

            This is an image of Pure By Priyanka Aloe Vera & Cucumber Face Wash on

            Step 2

            Apply a thin layer of moisturiser to strengthen your skin barrier before applying Retinol. This will help you prevent dryness and inflammation due to Retinol. You need a moisturiser that isn’t too heavy on occlusives but is lightweight.

              Sublime recommends D'you In My Defence. It’s a hydrating liquid that helps to maintain the skin barrier with 5 types of Ceramides and essential skin lipids.

              This is an image of D'you In My Defence on

              Step 3

              You can now apply Retinol. Make sure that you’re using it as caviar. You at the most, need a pea-sized amount to cover your face. Apply it evenly. If you’re a beginner for Retinol then you must start with the lowest concentration and probably a product that has Peptides, Ceramides, or amino acids in it. This will help you maintain the skin barrier while Retinol does its job. For beginners, you can also pick a product that pairs Retinol with Bakuchiol since it's known to stabilise Retinol and deliver better results.

                Sublime recommends Deconstruct Retinol & Peptide Serum- 0.2% Retinol + 1% Peptide. While Retinol fights scars and fine lines, Peptides nourish the skin to maintain its cell structure. It’s a great choice for beginners as well.

                This is an image of Deconstruct Retinol & Peptide Serum- 0.2% Retinol + 1% Peptide on

                4. Step 4

                Apply another layer of moisturiser to seal in everything and to provide enough moisture. You might wonder how much moisture can one active ingredient take up to do its job. Well, you don’t want to know the answer by experiments. This layer of moisturiser can be heavy on occlusives, Ceramides, Peptides. You can also layer it with the same moisturiser that you used before applying Retinol serum.

                  Sublime recommends Dear,Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream. It deeply hydrates and moisturises to ensure that Retinol does not affect your skin barrier.

                  This is an image of Dear, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream 80ml on

                  II. Routine for Bakuchiol

                  Bakuchiol is relatively fuss-free. You need no forewarnings. Bakuchiol can work great in tangent with Vitamin C to boost cell turnover. You can even pair it with chemical exfoliators. Here’s what your routine can look like-

                  Step 1

                  Cleanse with a gentle cleanser to take off the gunk. You can even pick a cleanser that contains exfoliators so that leaves you with one less step in your routine. If it's a PM routine then you can use an exfoliating cleanser and switch to a gentle cleanser in the AM routine.

                    Sublime recommends Fiducia Botanicals Pore Minimising Toner. It has 1% BHA, Panthenol, Aloe Vera extracts to help hydrate and gently exfoliate.

                    This is an image of Fiducia Botanicals Pore Minimising Toner on

                    Step 2

                    Apply essence that can help you heal and prep your skin. This could even be a toner that has Lavender, Snail mucin, Cica, Aloe Vera, Honey, etc. These are the ingredients that contribute to healing and hydration.

                      Sublime recommends Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream. We swear this will work for you, many thanks to its composition. Everyone, who wants to maintain their skin barrier, must try this!

                      This is an image of Cosrx Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream on

                      Step 3

                      Apply Bakuchiol. Bakuchiol oil is commonly used however, Bakuchiol products could come in different consistency as a potent serum. Generously apply and let it absorb while massaging it for a solid minute.

                        Sublime recommends True Frog Face Oil With Rosehip Oil, Bakuchiol And Olive Squalane. It’s suitable for all skin types and its composition hydrates and nourishes to help fight early-ageing, hyperpigmentation, and scars.

                        This is an image of True Frog Face Oil With Rosehip Oil, Bakuchiol And Olive Squalane on

                        Step 4

                        Use a good moisturiser to hydrate your skin. It could be something lightweight and in gel texture during the day and something creamy in the PM routine.

                          Sublime recommends Dear, Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream. It is rich in Ceramides and Peptides to keep up your cell structure.

                          This is an image of Dear, Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream on

                          A common step for both Bakuchiol and Retinol is that we cannot skip SPF in the AM routine. Bakuchiol does not particularly sensitise your skin but SPF is just non-negotiable.

                          Here’s your guide on picking SPF suitable for your skin!

                          Sublime recommends FAI Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA+++ that suits all skin types and has broad-spectrum protection.

                          This is an image of FAI Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA+++  on

                          The bottom line

                          Bakuchiol and Retinol are both a form of Vitamin A. Bakuchiol comes from a natural source whereas Retinol is synthetically developed by breaking down Vitamin A. With all the differentiating points and facts, it’s safe to say that one is not superior to the other. Bakuchiol is great for those who are new to the anti-ageing routine and Retinol is for the skincare nerds who know the right way to use it to speed up healing. Happy healing!

                          -Divya Salvi

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