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Pronounced "back-uh-heel," you'll want to familiarize yourself with this new, buzzy skin superhero.

By Susan Brickell
September 18, 2018

Move over retinol—there's a new anti-aging powerhouse in town.

It's not news that the vitamin A derivative retinol has proven anti-aging benefits and can also help boost collagen and combat acne. Still, retinol is so strong that it also has the potential to dry and irritate skin, making it difficult for people with sensitive skin types to tolerate it, points out New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. So, is it possible to reap retinol's many benefits with a gentler formula?

Enter bakuchiol, an extract found in the seeds and leaves of the psoralea corylifolia or babchi, a plant native to India that's known for its soft purple flowers. Because bakuchiol is made from this plant, some beauty products that contain this ingredient maintain its bright purple hue. Sounds Instagram-worthy, right? But what's really cool about bakuchiol is that it's a gentler alternative to retinol with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.

Like retinol, studies suggest that bakuchiol helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles, improves pigmentation, and boosts elasticity and firmness, Dr. Jaliman tells Health. "Prolonged use has shown to decrease roughness and dryness," she adds. Even better, it gives retinol-like results without retinol's unwelcome side effects. Bakuchiol works with the same genes and pathways to induce the production of new collagen formation in the skin, but unlike retinol, it doesn't decrease the size of oil glands or cause irritation or dryness, explains Dr. Nazarian.

It's safe for oily, dry, and even sensitive skin types, adds Mona Gohara, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at Yale. However, she recommends being careful if you have eczema or rosacea. "In those instances I take a less-is-more kind of approach," she cautions. You can test the product on small patch of skin to see how your body reacts, but if you typically can't tolerate retinol, then bakuchiol could be a great alternative for collagen production, Dr. Gohara says.

Experts usually recommend that pregnant women avoid retinol, since the ingredient has been linked to birth defects. And while "there is not enough evidence to encourage pregnant women to use [bakuchiol]," says Dr. Nazarian, "its botanical etiology may make it a safer option." If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor before using to be safe.

Here, four dermatologist-approved bakuchiol beauty buys we'll be adding to our medicine cabinets ASAP.

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