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Plants and the chemicals they make. Bakuchiol: you’ll have to convince me

This is a good example of skin care ingredients that are adopted too quickly. The silly argument: it is natural (so is vitamin A!) as if natural chemicals couldn’t hurt us. Nature is not out there for our skin benefit, and the sooner you learn this lesson, the sooner you will stop hurting your skin with irritating and allergenic natural chemicals (balsam of Peru anybody?).

The equivalent in synthetic drugs is thalidomide. And I don’t want to accuse bakuchiol of being a tragic ingredient because there is no indication that it is.

But look at what bakuchiol is said to be: a replacement for retinoids without side effects. Somehow, it has a Vitamin A activity without the chemical structure to be that.

What are retinoids know for? They have vitamin A activity. They are essential to our bodies and we can’t make them. They are also powerful.

From my post: “Retinoids have significant effects on normal embryonic development. Retinoic acid has recently been characterized as a vertebrate morphogen, i.e. a signaling molecule that controls the spatial pattern of differentiation and the shape of the developing embryo. The potent teratogenic effects (malformations of the embryo) of retinoids are well established and are a consequence of their central role in morphogenesis. Isotretinoin is also a teratogen with a number of potential side-effects, so its use requires medical supervision and it is strictly controlled by law.”

And yet, the skin care industry is “pushing” an ingredient said to have retinoid-like activity without a clear mechanism of action attached to it.

Come back to me with bakuchiol when you have a mechanism of action, and absence of long term side effects. In the meantime, let me use retinyl acetate: a retinoid that is OK for sensitive skin and has many decades of use, topically and internally,  to recommend it.

Conversely, I wold use bakuchiol not for regular skin care but in circumstances when risk is acceptable because the illness justifies it (cancer).