It’s the fast track to younger, smoother skin.

By Hana Hong
November 03, 2020
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If you have sensitive skin, you probably harbor mixed feelings about retinol. Sure, collagen production and increased cell turnover sounds great, but at what cost? While dermatologists wax poetic about the miracle anti-aging ingredient, the side effects—redness, peeling, and irritation galore—can be so bad that the slow-burn benefits just don’t seem worth it. 

Speaking from personal experience, I get it. But here’s a positive PSA: You can reap all of retinol's smoothing, brightening, firming, and breakout-busting benefits, without hardcore irritating your skin. Enter bakuchiol, an alternative route you can take to achieve similar, transformative results sans retinol's infamous irritation. When used effectively, it should significantly improve lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, and overall firmness and elasticity. 

My sensitive skin usually freaks out at the touch of retinol, so I’m no stranger to bakuchiol. The skincare heavyweight has been popping up in loads of exciting new formulations, but my all-time favorite has to be Herbivore Botanicals' Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum ($54; herbivorebotanicals.com), a pretty purple bottle infused with the stuff. 

Aesthetic packaging aside, what truly makes bakuchiol—derived from the ayurvedic babchi plant—worth its weight is the fact that it comes with none of the baggage that retinol does. The uniquely bouncy, jelly-textured water-based serum fades my hyperpigmentation and improves skin texture (we’re talking baby bottom territory here) without leaving behind a destructive aftermath. Even with a month of consistent use, I experienced none of the telltale irritation that I get from retinol after just a few days. 

The water-based serum is also the same hue as the bottle it’s housed inside, which can be attributed to antioxidant-rich eggplant extracts. The pastel purple color might look scarily artificial, but don’t worry—it’s all natural and unscented to ensure there’s no irritation (even pregnant women can use it safely!). Since it has anti-acne ingredients, it’s also great if you’ve been facing a bad bout of maskne

If you’ve been one of the many former avid users, you probably noticed that the cult-favorite bottle mysteriously dropped from Sephora shelves at the start of 2020 (this year has been an unrelenting series of unfortunate incidents). But in an unexpected wave of good news, the brand just restocked the product after seven months of being MIA. 

If you want to score the wonder skincare drug yourself, you can nab it on Herbivore Botanicals' website for $54 a pop. One bottle should last you a while—the brand notes you only need to use four to six drops of the serum each night—but we suggest you stock up on a few in case it goes through another out-of-stock hiatus. 

To buy: $54; herbivorebotanicals.com.