Can Bakuchiol help acne?

Maria from WIMJ

You might have heard about a “plant alternative to retinol” - Bakuchiol (pronounced bah-koo-chee-all). It's a natural substance that comes from a plant called Babchi (Psoralea corylifolia). What makes Bakuchiol special is that it can work in a similar way to retinoids. Bakuchiol doesn't have the same structure as retinoids, but it can still have similar effects on your skin. There are good studies that show that Bakuchiol can be effective in reducing photodamage (aging damage caused by the sun) and hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin). But does it also work against acne?

What do studies show?

According to a studies, the answer is yes! For example, one study looked at four different formulations (1% Bakuchiol, 2% Salicylic Acid, a combination of 1% Bakuchiol and 2% Salicylic Acid, and a placebo) on 60 volunteers with acne. Each product was applied twice daily. The results showed that the formulation with Bakuchiol + Salicylic acid had a nearly 70% reduction in acne lesions and inflammation. The formulation with just 1% Bakuchiol had a reduction of about 57%. The formulation with just 2% Salicylic Acid had a reduction of about 48%. The control group (placebo) had no improvement. The study also found that Bakuchiol was non-irritating. (However, it is possible to have an irritation from Bakuchiol - there is one report of this in scientific literature).

Bakuchiol also has an anti-pigmentation effect. Together with its low irritation risk, it makes it an excellent anti-acne active for people with dark skin tones. (Melanated skin has a higher risk of developing pigmentation issues when it gets irritated).

Bakuchiol may be the only substance after Retinoids that is known to be effective against multiple causes of acne. It can stop acne-causing bacteria, calm down skin inflammation, reduce the amount of oil on the skin, and prevent pores from getting clogged.

One note of caution though. Bakuchiol comes from seeds of the Babchi plant. Other parts of the Babchi plant contain coumarins, which can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Bakuchiol is usually made in a way that removes these coumarins, but it's still a good idea to be careful and avoid using products with other Babchi plant extracts, just to be safe and avoid irritation.

Effective concentration and application tips

Overall, Bakuchiol could be a good choice to include in your skincare routine if you are trying to get rid of acne. Bakuchiol is best in oils, oily serums, creams, or lotions (it is oil-soluble). It is recommended to use Bakuchiol at a level of 0.5% to 1%, once or twice a day. A good product with Bakuchiol should also be slightly acidic (pH less than 6.5). Bakuchiol is stable in sunlight, so you can use it at any time of the day. It can be used with other helpful ingredients for acne like retinoids, Salicylic Acid, Niacnamide, and Benzoyl Peroxide. The only actives to avoid using together with Bakuchiol are Copper Peptides (it might decrease the effectiveness of both ingredients).

In summary, Bakuchiol looks like a good option for helping with acne. It has a low risk of causing irritation, which makes it a good active to use on alternative days with Retinoids or can be a good substitute to Retinoids altogether for people who can’t tolerate them (or want to avoid them because of pregnancy).


  • A Clinical Study Evaluating the Efficacy of Topical Bakuchiol (UP256) Cream on Facial Acne.

  • Bakuchiol in the management of acne-affected skin

  • Applications of bakuchiol in dermatology: Systematic review of the literature

Recommended products with Bakuchiol

Philosophy Nature in A Jar Skin Reset Serum with Bakuchiol
Price: $49
Key ingredients
  • Bakuchiol 0.5% estimated
  • Glycerin 6% estimated
  • Adenosine
What we like about it:

Hydrating formulation with low irritation risk

BYBI Bakuchiol Oil 1% Booster
Price: $15
Key ingredients
  • Bakuchiol 1%
  • Squalane
What we like about it:

Minimalist formulation with high concentration of Bakuchiol

PSA Skin Liquid Clarity
Price: $30
Key ingredients
  • Bakuchiol 1%
  • Salicylic Acid 2%
  • Zinc PCA 2%
What we like about it:

Great anti-acne combo of Bakuchiol + Salicylic Acid in an otherwise gentle formulation