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What the Heck is Bakuchiol? Everything You Need to Know About The New “Natural Retinol”

What is Bakuchiol? Everything You Need to Know About It


An exciting post for an exciting day–MY BIRTHDAY! I am still caught up in the crazy storm that is impending work deadlines while getting ready for a 5 day trip–but we’re going to dinner and to see Les Mis tonight, and I’m so excited! 

Anyway, in today’s post, I get to share some news I’ve been looking forward to for months. I hope you’re as excited as I am!

Mark my words, you guys…the next biggest ingredient in Beauty is here! Soon, you probably won’t be able to go anywhere without getting smacked in the face with the word BAKUCHIOL–AKA the latest miracle ingredient that is going to change the natural beauty industry (and the beauty industry as a whole). It’s basically the biggest thing to happen since the invention of Retinol, but it’s a whole lot better. And today’s post is ALLL about it! 

First, how the HECK do you pronounce Bakuchiol!? 

BUH-KOOCH-EE-ALL! Or as Beautycounter’s Chief of Product said to us when unveiling their new “Retinatural” at the Beautycounter conference back in April: “It’s BAKOOCHIE, Y’all!!”  ?

That new line? It launched today, by the way! But this post isn’t JUST about that. I want this to be a helpful post for you to reference, whether or not you ever buy Beautycounter or any other product or brand I recommend!

Keep reading to nerd out over some facts about retinol, bakuchiol, and my thoughts on the new clean anti-aging line. 

First thing’s first, I think to fully understand the amazing benefits of Bakuchiol, it’s important that we back up and talk about retinol. There has been a LOT of controversy over retinol lately, so here’s my personal take. 

What is Retinol? (FACT) 

Retinol is, in the most basic terms, a derivative of Vitamin A. Retinol is what you can purchase over the counter, and is essentially a less-strong version of prescription retinoids you can only get from your doctor. Retinoids can help ALL kinds of skin conditions–from acne, improving and preventing wrinkles and lightening dark spots–and are basically the holy grail of skincare. 

How does Retinol work? (FACT) 

Retinol speeds up cell turnover, causing cells to split faster and die faster, thus, producing brand new cells at a faster rate–which is helpful, because our cell turnover rate declines as we get older. Over time, depending on the type of retinoid and percentage, this accelerated cell turnover increases collagen production–which, you guessed it–means reduction of existing wrinkles and preventing of new ones! It is also a wonder in treating acne, especially those who have stubborn breakouts that have been resistant to other types of treatment.  In a nutshell, retinol does some really incredible things! 

Retinol can be extremely harsh and irritating: (FACT) 

For those with sensitive skin, retinol and retinoids can just be too much for them, period. One person’s tolerance for retinol and retinoids will vary from person to person–for some, the irritation period is just temporary and lasts a few weeks, others cannot handle it at all. While many say the results are worth gutting out the red, itchy, flaky, drying period–for others, it’s just not worth it. This is a personal preference! 

Retinoids are not safe for pregnancy: (FACT) 

As a general rule, dermatologists do not recommend using retinoids during pregnancy because they are classified as “class C” by the FDA, which is essentially a classification rating given to all drugs to rate their risk level to a mother and unborn baby.

Class C is defined as: “Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks.” Essentially, my interpretation is, if you’re only using a Class C substance for cosmetic purposes, don’t use it when you’re pregnant. 

Worth noting/devils advocate point: What the FDA is referring to here are prescription strength retinoids–which are a much higher concentration than something you’d find in an anti-aging cream over the counter, for example. BUT–still–this is one of those super grey *we don’t have enough info* areas, you know? 

Why is retinol so controversial? Is it safe? (OPINION) 

Here’s the thing–I have done so much research, and there is SO MUCH conflicting evidence out there. I am so cautious about doing blog posts like this because A. I am not an expert. B. I want to provide as much detail as possible for you guys to discern your own opinion–but often times, in instances like this–there is so much contrasting stuff, it’s hard to weed through the noise. 

So, based on everything I have learned, this is basically the point of view I have formed about retinol. I’m sharing this because I get asked about retinol a lot, and hopefully this will help you form your OWN opinion on it: 

Carcinogen or no? It’s complicated: 

Overall, there is scientific evidence on both sides, so this is definitely something that is going to be up to everyone individually to decide what is best for them. What everyone can agree on is is that retinol yields the most powerful anti-aging results one can achieve outside of Botox. (Or at least, until now!) 

Where things differ though, is whether or not retinol is really safe. It is widely accepted as perfectly harmless among most dermatologists, and some studies show it can prevent or even treat some forms of cancer. On the flip side, there are also studies that show that it clearly accelerates damage and even facilitates tumor growth, and is rated a 9 on the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity scale

Turns out, just like everything else in the world; it depends on who you ask. I don’t know about you, but this just makes me want to throw my hands up and quit while I’m ahead. UGH. Why is everything so complicated!? 

Retinol and the sun are a dangerous combination: (FACT) 

Here’s the one thing everyone agrees on though–and the information that is widely accepted on both sides of the pro or against retinol safety argument is this: retinol use is dangerous when you aren’t taking precautions with the sun. Retinol makes you MUCH more susceptible to sun damage, and obviously, sun damage can equal skin cancer. 

Bottom line: Again, it’s up to you to decide what products are right for you! If you’re going to use retinol, use it sparingly, use it only at night, and be VERY VERY religious about your sunscreen and sun protection every day. 

Enter Bakuchiol: AKA “Retinatural”

So, if you’re looking for anti-aging skincare but have been on the fence about retinol for the reasons listed above…enter Bakuchiol!

What is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a plant-derived from the seeds of the babchi plant, which is native to India. It has been used in Ayurvedic skincare and Chinese medicine for centuries, but is fairly new to the Western world. It’s also an antioxidant and has been known to have cancer-fighting properties. 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 photodamage. The best part? It’s considered to be totally safe. 

Does Bakuchiol Work? 

Yes! Studies have shown that Bakuchiol provides the same aesthetic results as Retinol, but without the side effects. It’s also totally plant-derived, unlike retinol, so it’s vegan-approved, too! It’s also safe for daytime use, even if you’re in the sun, because it doesn’t make you sun sensitive like retinol does! (Of course, this doesn’t mean you should skimp out on sunscreen, but it does mean you don’t have to worry the products you’re using are amplifying damage!) 

Take this study’s findings, for example:


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.

Results - Bakuchiol X Retinol

What products can you buy with Bakuchiol? 

Good news! The new Beautycounter product line I’ve been testing out? It launches TODAY! And guess what the lead ingredient is? Bakuchiol!! 

Beautycounter isn’t the only one utilizing Bakuchiol as a powerful anti-aging weapon. If you’d like to explore other brands, I highly recommend reading this article on one of my favorite websites,!

I will definitely do my best to try these out other brands as well, but today, I can only speak to Beautycounter’s new Countertime line! 

As you know, Beautycounter is my favorite clean skincare brand (and well, a go-to for most things Beauty) because it’s a one stop shop. They have everything from skincare to hair products to makeup. It has been a godsend for me not having to scour ingredient labels every time I need to buy a new product. (Note, Beautycounter isn’t a blog sponsor and never has been. I’m just a huge fan of the brand! However, I do earn a commission each time you purchase the product through my links!) 

Beautycounter’s products are made without 1,500 questionable ingredients you’ll typically find in the beauty industry today.

They’re also really committed to lobbying in Washington to update the beauty safety laws in the US, and in Canada as well. (In the US, personal care product safety laws haven’t been updated since the Great Depression–meaning, the large majority of products we use every day have not been tested by the FDA. It’s scary.) 

If you’re new to clean beauty, I suggest heading over to my Clean Beauty 101 post to get more familiar with why I personally made the decision to use cleaner products whenever possible! 

Anyway–on to their new amazing line!!! 


What is Countertime?

This is Beautycounter’s newest line, Countertime, which launched today, containing their proprietary “Retinatural complex” which is a combination of Bakuchiol and Swiss Alpine Rose. Swiss Alpine Rose is fantastic for anti-aging and preventing further damage due to its known ability to  protect itself against environmental stressors like dehydration and helps boost skin’s antioxidant defense. 

My initial thoughts on the line: 

I definitely think this is Beautycounter’s most high-end line yet, and the products are designed to suit anyone who is looking for anti-aging–which is a godsend, because I really haven’t been using much in the way of anti-aging specifically. (You know, with the whole *trying to avoid retinol* thing.)

I got the chance to start using some of the Countertime products before the launch (everyone who attended their conference in the spring got shipped a starter kit with some of the products!). But in all honesty, I have had so much going on that I wasn’t able to start using all the products in tandem as soon as I’d hoped; so I can’t speak to long-term results, but what I’ve used so far, I have LOVED.

My personal results are very much in line with their consumer study results below! 

Countertime - results

You can purchase products individually (more details on them below), or in the entire line as a set, which will give you more efficiencies than buying each product individually, but is obviously an investment! What is really awesome about this line though, is the EVERY product in the line has the Retinatural complex. A lot of times if you purchase a line, only one of the main products has the heavy hitting ingredient–whereas every product in this line contains it–so even if you just start with one product from the line, you’ll still be getting that great anti-aging protection! 

That being said, like any skincare line, the products are all designed to work best for most skin types (exceptions in the Q+A at the bottom!) when used in combination with the other steps in regimen, but they play really well with other products integrated as well. They build upon each other for optimal results, and like Beautycounter’s other lines, Countertime is designed to have separate steps to cleanse, prep, treat, and protect. 

What’s in the new Countertime Line? 

1. Cleanse Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil:

Inspired by Asian beauty rituals, this oil removes makeup and other impurities without stripping essential lipids from skin. I really love this cleansing oil and it makes skin SO soft. But I will say if you have oily skin, this may give you too much moisture, so I’d recommend alternating it with something clarifying like the Charcoal bar and introducing it slowly to see how your skin adjusts! 

2. Prep Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence:

This essence is super lightweight but nourishing at the same time. It smells amazing! It does a great job of adding hydration and radiance. It’s full of nutrients to strengthen skin’s moisture barrier. Also, it is great for reducing the appearance of pores.

What the heck is an essence!? How is it different than a toner? Unlike a toner, an essence does NOT dry out your skin (which is why I’ve typically not had great results with many toners in the past!) An essence helps to hydrate it and prep skin so that the products you apply after are better absorbed.


This is best used when *pressed* into the skin to ensure it absorbs evenly! 

3. Treat Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum:

This is my favorite product thus far and the one I have been using the most religiously, morning and night! I TOTALLY feel like my fine lines on my forehead have already diminished. I love that unlike a lot of serums, I can apply this in the AM and it doesn’t affect my makeup application. Remember, you can wear this during the day, because unlike retinol, it doesn’t cause sun sensitivity! It makes my skin feel more bouncy and hydrated, too! 

4. Protect (AM) Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream:

Sadly I did not receive a sample of this one to test out, so I can’t comment on it specifically–but I am very curious to see how this compares in performance and texture to the Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion, but this lotion is in my shopping cart as we speak. I can’t wait to try it out and compare.

I’ve heard that it’s very velvety in texture, which I’m very excited about. The REALLY awesome thing about this moisturizer is that it’s made with nasturtium flower extract, which helps protect the skin from oxidative damage. So you aren’t just getting moisture, you’re getting the preventative effects against aging and environmental stressors, too! 

4. Protect (PM) Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream:

This rich cream promotes elasticity and visibly firms while smoothing skin’s texture. This is considered to be the heavy hitter of the line, for sure. I’m already seeing it being compared to Le Mer! 

I loveee that this cream is LUXURIOUS. It really does feel like a million bucks. But, it is RICH, man. I think this would be my dream in the winter when my skin is soo dry, but now that it’s summer, I find that I really don’t need a cream this heavy.

If you have very dry skin, this should be your first buy, for sure. If you don’t have dry skin currently, definitely play around with it but know that maybe it’s more of a winter product for you. I know I will be slathering this on come winter, though! 

5. Countertime Ultra renewal eye cream:

This product has a special ingredient in it as well–the Retinatural complex obviously, but also Persian silk tree extract–which is proven in independent clinical studies to brighten the eye area, fade dark circles, diminish puffiness, and reduce the appearance of crow’s feet. I have always been a big fan of their Rejuvenating eye cream and have used that for years now, so I’m really curious to see how this compares! I haven’t used this yet, but it’s also in my cart. Stay tuned! 

Not JUST pretty packaging: 

What’s also cool is that you’ll notice this new line is packaged in glass bottles, which is part of Beautycounter’s large packaging overhaul. By moving as many products as possible over to glass, they’ve eliminated over one million plastic components, as well as partnered with factories closer to home (in Mexico vs Europe or Asia) to reduce fuel and fuel related emissions from transporting across the ocean. I love seeing companies like this taking such big strides to improve sustainability and encouraging others to follow suit. 

Q + A on the Countertime line: 

Who is this line good for?

Anyone who is looking to add anti-aging to their routine! (Ideally, this should start in your twenties and up!) 

Which products would you recommend starting with first? 

It’s tough to answer because everyone’s skin is SO different–and what one person’s skin needs will differ from another’s. However, I would probably say most people are lacking a “treat” step in their regimen, so the serum is a really great place to start and is definitely going to be great no matter your skin type. 

I’ve been using that product the most frequently and I’ve seen some fantastic results already! (I feel like my forehead lines are more faint after a couple of weeks and that my skin is more even!) I am also adding the everyday soft cream and the eye cream to my cart as we speak–as those didn’t come in my sample kit I’ve been using lately! 

What products do you recommend using in tandem with this line?

Honestly, whenever you’re introducing new skincare products, it’s really best to introduce them one at a time so you don’t overload your skin. However, once you’ve done that, I always think finishing your routine with a facial oil is great, and also adding their Overnight resurfacing peel a couple times per week will definitely help amplify the results you get from this line! 

I have oily skin–should I still use this line? 

I would recommend starting with the serum, day cream, and eye cream first, and washing with something more clarifying–the charcoal bar, for example, is the #1 favorite among my oily skin ladies! Reason being, the cleansing oil is probably too much hydration for everyday use for those with oily skin, but a great thing to use every so often in tandem with something like the charcoal bar! IMO the heavy night cream may also be too much for oilier skin types. 

What about for sensitive skin? 

This doesn’t have *actives* in it (AKA ingredients that tend to be more harsh that might make your skin freak out) so that means sensitive skin types should tolerate this line well, but everyone is different! As with anything, make sure you integrate new products a little bit at a time to avoid overloading your skin! I’ve heard from quite a few people with sensitive skin who, like me, received the line to start testing early, and they have been raving over it! 

What about combination skin? 

I think this line is fantastic for combination skin. A lot of times what makes combination skin freak out is that we’re actually putting to many drying products on our skin to combat the oil, and therefore, it produces more oil in spots and gets dry and flaky in spots. I think this will go a long way to help balance out skin and repair your moisture barrier. 

What about those with dry skin? 

I think those who have been fans of the Countermatch line (like me) will LOVE this line. Also, I think the new Countertime Supreme night cream is by far the most moisturizing, heavy cream that Beautycounter makes. So if you are having issues with dry skin, definitely start with the cream! The whole line is extremely hydrating and nourishing, so I think dry skin types will benefit immensely from these products! 

How long do the products last? 

Each product in the line is designed to last 2.5-3 months. A little bit goes a long way! 

Is this line pregnancy safe? 

You should ALWAYS ask your doctor, but all ingredients used in this line are considered safe for pregnancy. (Whereas retinol is not.) 

This is a big investment. What’s the return policy? 

Beautycounter offers free 60 day returns, no questions asked–which is huge for me! Skincare is so individual (not to mention, a HUGE investment) so the fact that I can try something out for 60 days and return it if I’m not 110% in love with it makes me feel a lot better! They include a free return label in every package, so hang onto it while you’re testing your products out, and if something doesn’t work for you, pop it back in the mail for a refund! 


That’s all for now, friends! 

WHEW! If you made it to the bottom, I’m impressed. ?I hope you’re as excited about Bakuchiol and this new line as I am! If you have any questions or need any specific recommendations based on your skin type, I’m so happy to help! Email me at or shoot me a DM on Instagram @jesskeys_!