It’s finally happening: Even after a good night’s rest that fresh face of yours is looking — well — a little less fresh. You can’t really call them “laugh lines,” anymore: They’re just plain wrinkles. Still, just because nature is catching up with you doesn’t mean you have to go down without a fight! There are plenty of new products that are specially formulated to get after fine lines and wrinkles, and the latest, bakuchiol, actually has its roots in ancient Eastern medicine.

You’ve probably already heard of retinol, a topical vitamin A–based medication originally used as an acne treatment. Researchers found that it helped fade age spots, evened out pigmentation, and reduced fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. Of course, the treatments can also cause dryness and irritation, so doctors usually recommend applying the product every other day, slowly building up to daily use.

A Kinder, Gentler Retinol Alternative

Dr. David Shafer, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, explains that bakuchiol works through the same receptors as retinol, but is much gentler.

“Bakuchiol possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties,” says Shafer. “This makes it a great natural alternative to retinols, helping prevent fine lines and wrinkles, firming the skin, and reducing hyperpigmentation. It can also help reduce the appearance of pores, and since guys tend to have thicker, rougher skin, it’s a great option to smooth out uneven skin tone.”

An added benefit; while bakuchiol works similarly to retinols, it doesn’t dry the skin or cause irritation, so it’s safe for virtually anyone to use. Dr. Shafer does advise pregnant women to be cautious. “Retinol has been linked to birth defects in pregnant women, and while there aren’t any studies I’m aware of to indicate a similar issue with bakuchiol, I’d still err on the side of caution.” So if your spouse is in the family way, keep your product to yourself.

Where Does Bakuchiol Come From?

Although retinol really caught on in the 1970s and ‘80s, it can trace its roots back to ancient Egypt. Similarly, bakuchiol has long been used in Indian and traditional Chinese medicine to treat various skin conditions, including rashes and hyperpigmentation.

It was first isolated in 1966 from Psoralea corylifolia seed, and the name is based on the Sanskrit name of the plant, Bakuchi, which has beautiful purple flowers that can sometimes add a slight hue to products that contain the ingredient. The first commercial use in topical products wasn’t until 2007, but by 2018 researchers accepted it as a retinoid alternative.

How Does Bakuchiol Work?

Bakuchiol works by stimulating key anti-aging genes, which help slow the aging process, limiting oxidative damage to cells, and controlling inflammation. In a sense, the bakuchiol talks to the cells by telling them to boost collagen production and cell turnover, which produces healthier, younger-looking skin.

“Retinols should be part of every skincare routine,” says Shafer, “but since they can cause irritation for many, bakuchiol provides a safe alternative with very similar results while limiting harsh side effects such as retinol burn.”

Follow the directions on the product label, but generally speaking, you should be able to use bakuchiol daily, even twice a day if you’re particularly concerned about aging management. Shafer often recommends that patients start by applying it before bed, after they’ve washed their faces; allowing the product to go to work during sleep. Follow up in the morning with a good moisturizer with SPF. Here are a few bakuchiol products we’ve found that you may want to add to your anti-aging regimen.

Best Bakuchiol Skincare Products

Jack Black Nighttime BAK-up Retinol Alternative

Jack Black Nighttime BAK-up Retinol Alternative

Beyond bakuchiol, Jack Black’s age control treatment includes cannabis sativa seed oil to help prevent moisture loss and achieve smooth skin, as well as bisabolol (from chamomile!) and ginger root extract to help reduce redness and soothe skin. Use BAK-up in concert with Jack Black’s Dry Erase Ultra-Calming Face Cream and Protein Booster Eye Rescue to finish off your evening ritual.

Revision Skincare DEJ Night Face Cream

Revision Skincare DEJ Night Face Cream

Revision Skincare incorporates bakuchiol into this retinol-enriched moisturizer, “inspired by the Dermal-Epidermal Junction (or DEJ; i.e., where the dermis and epidermis meet to support skin structure. As we age, this junction flattens, and skin becomes slackened increasing the visible signs of aging), as well as your skin’s own microbiome. Use overnight, after cleansing.

Olehenriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème

Olehenriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème

This swirly product blends ribbons of bakuchiol with peptides, proteins, and orchid stem cells, to “blur” the look of lines and dark circles around the eyes, while firming skin and improving elasticity. Sandalwood, licorice root, and chamomile extracts help to further condition and soften skin.

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer

This basic moisturizer can be used for both morning and evening routines, with a smaller (1%) amount of bakuchiol in its formulation than some. It also includes Omega-3 packed sacha inchi oil (a plant from South American and the Caribbean whose seeds are an antioxidant-rich superfood) and squalane for hydrating and nourishing skin.

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