The Natural, Non-Toxic Alternative to Retinol

Updated: May 12

The Quick Run-Down

  • Many skincare products contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been linked to reproductive toxicity.

  • One product on which the jury is still out is the smoothing, anti-aging powerhouse: retinol.

  • A compound called bakuchiol is a plant-derived natural alternative to retinol.

  • Studies show that it is likely to have similar benefits to retinol, without the frequently experienced side effects of dryness and redness.

Refining Your Regime

When you start becoming aware of all the fertility-zapping chemicals hiding in everyday personal care products, one of the hardest things to face is that your highly perfected, hard won skincare regime might be nixed.

Replacing your regular workhorses like cleansers, moisturizers and serums with clean alternatives is now absolutely no hardship, thanks to the multitude of fantastic skincare ranges that have cropped up and started producing beautiful refined, natural, non-toxic, organic versions of these everyday products.

But the sticking point when it comes to going "clean" has always been the sangreal of skincare: RETINOL.

Retinol and fertility

The advice for pregnant women and those trying to conceive is to try to avoid retinoids and retinols. That's because they are related to vitamin A - when taken by mouth can cause harm to developing embryos and fetuses. California EPA’s Proposition 65 lists all-trans retinoic acid as developmental toxicants.

Although there is no direct evidence yet to suggest that topical retinoids and retinols can cause direct harm to reproductive health, or reduce the success of fertility treatments, they have been implicated along with parabens, phthalates and plastics in reproductive toxicity.

Benefits of Retinol

If you regularly use a retinol-based product, you'll likely be the beneficiary of smoother, plumper, brighter skin and the thought of giving it up can feel like a step too far down Clean Street.

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A1, is the darling of dermatology. Clinically proven to boost the amount of collagen your skin makes, it reduces fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improving skin texture, tone and pigmentation and clearing up acne. The prescription-only version (known as tretinoin) packs a serious punch, but even over-the-counter versions offer visible changes.

But here's reason to celebrate, there's a natural plant-derived alternative to retinol.


Introducing bakuchiol - pronounced: bah-koochy-ol - retinol's all-natural, less irritating (but just as effective!) sister from another mister.

A study found that "significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo-damage was observed", and that bakuchiol can function as an anti-aging compound with "a retinol-like regulation of gene expression".

And here's the really good part, especially if you have sensitive skin. Bakuchiol packs the same punch as retinol but WITHOUT the usual retinol associated side effects like dryness, redness and photosensitivity, as has been shown by a further randomized, double blind 12 week study.

Where does it come from?

Bakuchiol is a phytochemical found mainly in the seeds of the plant Psoralea Corylifolia (Babchi), which is naturally found in the Indian subcontinent, though it is also found in other plants. You'll sometimes find it called babchi oil or bakuchi powder and it has been used for centuries in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.

The compound has been found to have anti‐inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-acne activity and targets several cellular pathways similar to those targeted by retinoids.

How to use Bakuchiol

There are a whole range of oils, serums and creams so you can choose an option that fits best into your current skincare routine. Like retinols, many bakuchiol products are designed to be used as a night-time product.

To play it safe, why not ditch the retinol and give the natural alternative a try?

The Science Bits

We're Catherine and Brittany, the co-founders of ELANZA Wellness and authors of the book, Everything Egg FreezingWe both froze our eggs and spent years researching the impact of lifestyle choices on fertility. We look forward to sharing our insights with you!

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ELANZA Wellness Ltd have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the information provided on this communication is accurate at the time of writing. However, it may vary at the time of further enquiry due to supplier variations and is subject to change.  This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

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