Meet the “retin-alts”: A new breed of plant-based skin care that’s irritation-free


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Photo: Stocksy/Leandro Crespi

Retinoids have been the gold standard in skin care for decades, combatting the issues of pimply-faced teenagers and sun-damaged adults in equal measure by speeding up cell turnover and flipping the switch on collagen pumps within the complexion.

Retinoids—an umbrella term for vitamin A derivatives like OTC retinol and Rx options such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene—are so beloved, in fact, that 88 percent of MDs in a Well+Good survey said they’d recommend the vitamin A derivatives to patients over any other product. But they’re not perfect (think: dryness, flakiness, sun sensitivity, and overall irritation)—which is why a new, gentler, plant-based alternative has the skin-care savvy set jumping for radiant joy.

In 2019, get ready for “retin-alts” to pop up everywhere. One, in particular, bakuchiol, is in products like Alpyn Beauty Melt Moisturizer (which is poised to hit the big time on QVC) and Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum. It’s also used in spa industry vet Vance Soto’s Ole Henriksen Spa in Los Angeles, where aestheticians tap the brand’s bakuchiol-rich Transform Plus serums and moisturizers into the skin. And more options are coming to market en masse next year, with Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum and Bybi 1% Bakuchiol in Olive Squalane at clean beauty shop Credo.

“Bakuchiol works as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, so it’s also ideal for those who suffer from dry, sensitive skin and can’t tolerate a retinol.” —Dendy Engelman, MD

Derived from the babchi plant and with its roots in Ayurveda (as an anti-inflammatory treatment for conditions ranging from psoriasis to leprosy), the fun-to-say ingredient (pronounced bah-ku-chee-ol), which is rich in vitamin E, has been shown to reduce photodamage, firm skin, diminish fine lines, and help stimulate collagen, all without causing irritation or photosensitivity, according to New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. “Bakuchiol works as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, so it’s also ideal for those who suffer from dry, sensitive skin and can’t tolerate a retinol. Plus, the antibacterial properties of bakuchiol mean that it’s great for those with acne and oily skin,” she says. Fun fact: The plant adds a purple hue to your product.

With a CV that closely mirrors retinol, it’s among the many, many reasons why the clean beauty market is set to top $25 billion by 2025: People want products that deliver all the perks without compromise. “Safe for all skin types, plant-based antioxidant and antimicrobial bakuchiol has similar benefits to retinol without the irritation making it a pro-aging powerhouse for health skin,” says Jillian Wright, Indie Beauty Expo founder. And Credo founder Annie Jackson echoes this, saying, “I think just about anyone would say yes please to an ingredient that can give you the same results as retinol without the irritation.” All for one, one for bakuchiol.

This is just one of the healthy-living trends we’re predicting for 2019—check out the full list here!

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