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The Retinol Controversy

The Retinol Controversy

* This article was written by Kat - Skincare, Beauty + Ingredient Expert

There's been a debate going on in the beauty world over “botanical Retinol” vs manmade Retinol. So what’s the difference? 

But first, what is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A. It’s widely used in the skincare world as a powerhouse ingredient – with decades of research done to prove its effectiveness.

And it does live up to the hype.

There are many benefits to using Retinol – include reducing wrinkles, stimulating collagen, fighting acne, promoting cellular turnover, refining skin texture, and helping with uneven skin tone.

But, it does have its drawbacks.

Retinol might cause your skin to peel and become flaky, dry, and irritated. You might even breakout. Retinol may also make your skin extra sensitive to the sun, putting you at risk of more serious UV damage.

What a catch 22: We want all of Retinol’s amazing benefits, but we don’t want its side effects.

That’s where Bakuchiol – the “botanical Retinol” - comes in.

First, let’s get something straight: Bakuchiol is not a form of Retinol. At all.

They’re structurally and chemically completely different. Bakuchiol is mostly found from the seeds and leaves of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant. It’s widely used in Indian and Chinese medicine for a variety of diseases.

So why is it called the “botanical Retinol” if it’s not actually a Retinol?

That’s where the controversy is. And to understand that, let’s look at some of its cosmetic benefits:

  • Increasing cell turnover – newer skin cells will come to the surface and slough off the dead skin cells that make you look dull
  • Stimulating collagen production – the more collagen your skin has, the more youthful and elastic your skin will be
  • Reducing hyperpigmentation – it will diminish the dark patches and marks on your face, giving you an even skin tone
  • Smoothing fine lines and wrinkles – making your skin looks youthful and beautiful
  • Improving the look of acne – having acne could be a huge blow to your self-confidence; luckily, Bakuchiol also helps with this common issue

Essentially, Bakuchiol has antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. So what does it remind you of?

That’s right!

Bakuchiol has almost the same benefits as Retinol.

But that’s not all! Bakuchiol doesn’t come with the side effects that Retinol typically could. And most importantly, it can be used by anyone – even if your skin happens to be sensitive.

Moth Bean Extract – another “botanical Retinol”

Good things come in twos – and moth bean extract is another Retinol alternative that really delivers.

Moth bean is predominantly grown in India. Even though it’s largely grown for food production, it’s been shown to pack some punches when used as a skincare ingredient.

Similarly to Bakuchiol, moth bean extract is not actually a form of Retinol. But it does offer very similar benefits to Retinol – earning it the title “botanical Retinol.”

It’s an ingredient that multitasks just as well as Retinol. Used in cosmetics, moth bean extract…

  • stimulates collagen production
  • protects the dermis
  • reduces the appearance of wrinkles
  • brightens skin
  • boosts cell renewal

…much like what Retinol has to offer.

But those aren’t its only superpower!

Moth bean extract is also rich in antioxidants – including caffeic acid, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid, and kaempferol – that restore damaged skin and protect your skin against free radicals and UV damage.

And even those with sensitive skin - as well as those with acne - can use it with little to no issues.



At Graydon Skincare, sourcing our ingredients sustainably and ethically is everything. 

Bakuchiol and moth bean are mostly grown in India and they’re well regulated - fully complying with regulatory bodies in the area. These ingredients are collected in such a way that doesn’t disrupt or endanger the plants.

Furthermore, there are biodiversity authorities that work closely with economically vulnerable farmers. This is to ensure they could rely on this work as a source of income. 

Our goal is to collect the ingredients in a way that preserves both the farmers’ livelihood and the plants themselves.

Which is best for YOU?

The thing about skincare is that everyone’s skin is unique.

A product may work wonderfully for your best friend, but that same product could also irritate your skin terribly. While some people may experience sensitivity with Retinol, that doesn’t mean that everyone else will experience the same thing.

So really, skincare is a personal relationship between you and your skin.

Some of us prefer our skincare ingredients to come naturally from plants, while others might prefer that they come from a test tube. Both are perfectly fine. There’s room for both options in the Retinol playground. 

Clearly, at Graydon Skincare, we have a personal liking for ingredients that come from plants and superfoods. But more than anything, we want to empower you with proper information so that you can become a conscious consumer.

A final word

At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make. There is a role for all these ingredients in the competitive world of green and clean beauty.           

The key is to understand your own skin and what works best for you.

If you’re looking for products that offer all the benefits of Retinol - we're talking increased collagen production, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, reducing acne, etc. – without all the side effects, we can help you!

If you’re looking for a cream or a serum that offers you all the benefits of botanical retinol look no further than our Phyto Clear and Supermoon Serum.


Adhikari, S et al. “Antioxidant Activity of Bakuchiol: Experimental Evidences and Theoretical Treatments on the Possible Involvement of the Terpenoid Chain”. ACS Publications. 2003

Contet-Audonneau, J et al. “Use of an extract from the vigna aconitifolia plant in a cosmetic and/or dermopharmaceutical composition”. Beauty Care Solutions France S.A.S. 2014

Dhaliwhal, S et al. “Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing”. British Journal of Dermatology. 2018 

Katsura, H et al. “In vitro antimicrobial activities of bakuchiol against oral microorganisms”. American Society for Microbology. 2001

Nadine, B et al. “Active Constituents Isolated from Psoralea Glandulosa L. with Antiinflammatory and Antipyretic Activities”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2001

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