So What’s The Difference Between Retinoids, Retinol, and Bakuchiol?

April 1, 2021

Bakuchiol vs Retinol

 by Amanda Etkind 


Whether you’re the ultimate skincare lover or a total newb, you’ve probably heard of the wonders of retinol and retinoids. For those who don’t know exactly what they are (there’s a difference!), retinol and retinoids are magical skincare ingredients derived from vitamin A that promote cell turnover and collagen production (more on this later). When applied topically, they’re clinically proven to help with a laundry list of skin issues like acne, wrinkles, and fine lines—just to name a few. While retinols and retinoids certainly have a number of positive benefits, they can also be a bit too irritating for some. Thankfully, a plant-based alternative has entered the chat called bakuchiol. Baukuchiol delivers similar collagen-boosting effects as traditional retinol, minus the irritation. You may be thinking, okay, but what do each of these three ingredients do? Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you all the tea about each. Below, we’ve broken down the differences between retinol, retinoids, and bakuchiol. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on all three.   


So tell me, what are retinoids?

Simply put, retinoid is the umbrella term for retinol. They’re a powerhouse ingredient derived from vitamin A that are converted to something called retinoic acid to be used in creams, treatments, and lotions across the skincare scope. Retinoids promote cell turnover and help to produce more collagen—a protein in your skin that keeps things plump and bouncy. It also helps to keep acne at bay, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, while improving skin texture and hyperpigmentation. The caveat? Typically, retinoids are very potent and used at a high concentration, so if you have sensitive skin, you’ll likely need to use a low dose or steer clear altogether. While there are many retinoids available over the counter, you’d need to go to your dermatologist to get the heavy duty stuff. 



Got it! So what is retinol?

At the surface level, retinol is a type of retinoid that’s mainly used in over-the-counter skin care i.e. the stuff you find at drugstores and your favorite beauty shops—in-store and online.  But the biggest difference between retinol and retinoids lies in their molecular structure. According to Dr. Melissa Levin, a dermatologist based in New York, told Byrdie, “The big difference between retinol and retinoid—specifically, prescription retinoid—is strength. Retinols contain a lower concentration of the active retinoic acid ingredient," Levin says. "Prescription retinoids have a much higher concentration of the active ingredient." OTC retinol products are less intense than prescription products and "work more gradually.” 


Okay, okay, now tell me more about Bakuchiol? 

Bakuchiol (pronounced buh-koo-kee-all) is a plant-based ingredient that comes from the corylifolia plant also known as the babchi plant. It’s known for its antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. When used in skincare, it  mimics the glow-boosting and skin-smoothing effects of retinoids without the irritating effects. While it’s not an exact dupe it’s definitely a great option for those looking for a natural alternative this is a good option. 


Where can I find them?

Luckily, retinoids, retinols, and bakuchiol are easily accessible and found in moisturizers, serums, creams, and concentrated forms, you just need to know what to look for on labels. "Over-the-counter retinols are in ester forms," Levin continues; you may have seen retinol on ingredient labels under the names retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate, retinaldehyde, propionic acid, or retinyl acetate. "It takes more steps for these ester forms to be converted to the active retinoic acid. The more conversions, the weaker the product.” Another thing to note when it comes to retinols is that they’re usually combined with other ingredients to hydrate and brighten up your skin. Overall, retinols are definitely more gentle on the skin than prescription retinoids. But if you’re looking for an alternative, we suggest trying a product with Bakuchiol like our Rescue Me Rest & Reset Mask + Moisturizer which hydrates, moisturizes & nourishes both instantly and over time, while simultaneously repairing blue light damage from the day, strengthening the skin’s barrier, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, and creating a plump, youthful glow. 



Who are they for?

All three work—it just depends on your skin concerns, needs and tolerance. If you’re starting out we suggest looking for products with a lower concentration of retinol like around .25 percent or less. Start using it once a week and then gradually increase as your skin adjusts ( you may notice some light redness and flaking at first) This way your skin will gradually work its way up to a higher dose. If you’re looking for something more heavy duty though it's best to consult a dermatologist. They can prescribe you a prescription-strength retinoid depending on your skin type, and concerns. However, if you’re pregnant or have sensitive skin, stay away retinols and retinoids and stick to bakuchiol for a similar effect.


How do I incorporate them into my routine?

Again it depends on you! Retinols, retinoids, and bakuchiol come in a variety of products and concentration levels—it just depends on your skin concerns, needs and tolerance. Regardless, they should only be used at night when your skin is in recovery mode. For OTC versions of retinol and bakuchiol, they can be applied in serum, moisturizer or mask form. If you’re using a retinoid serum, it’s best to apply it under your moisturizer for full-effects otherwise it’s fine to go on top if it's in mask or moisturizer form (like our Rescue Me Rest & Reset Mask + Moisturizer). When it comes to prescription strength retinoids, you’ll have to follow the guidance of your dermatologist for that one.


Now that you have all the deets on the difference between retinols, retinoids, and bakuchiol, you’ll have a better idea as to which is best for your specific skin needs. Happy skincare shopping! 


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