Bakuchiol & Babchi – natural retinol – 2021 Guide

(updated 29 July 2021 – new info on psoralens)

I’ve just finished designing a new serum with Babchi extract.  Why? Many of my clients have been asking for one.

I first used Babchi Seed Oil  in in the Gold Box in 2017, but it remained an exclusive ingredient, only for bespoke orders. Now you will be able to order a Bakuchiol Serum without waiting for the appearance of the Gold Box.  :-)

I love to experiment with new skin care extracts that have been used in traditional cultures.  Babchi has bene used in India for vitiligo.

And a few years ago I ordered a bottle of Babchi Oil. I was curious as I’d read that it had retinol-like properties, without the typical side effects of redness and flaking.

I have sensitive Asperger’s skin,  and plant- based extracts that reduce fine lines and wrinkles are my area of special interest.

And because I suffered with acne during my teens, I know what it feels like to have ugly skin.

So I was eager to test it out on my own skin, before offering it to clients in their facial products.

Read on to see the similarities and differences between the two. Explained in plain English. Enjoy.

What is Bakuchiol?

More recently  a ‘newer’ form of Babchi has been made available. Of course laboratories are always eager to find a Unique Selling Point, so to say, that makes their extract ‘different’.

So I was curious when a ‘new and improved’ form  called Bakuchiol became available. Both come from the same plant!

Yes, Bakuchiol is an extract from the mothership, Babchi Oil.

Bakuchiol though, is a hot and trendy natural skin care ingredient for those looking for safe alternatives to retinol.

Babchi though is popular in India for skin ailments such as vitiligo. And has been used for thousands of years. I’d say if it wasn’t effective, it would not have stayed in use…

So what exactly is Bakuchiol? Is it a variety or cultivar of Babchi?

Well, no.

Babchi oil is a multi dimensional extract. Bakuchiol is extracted from the original Babchi seeds through a  complicated industrial process that makes it unsuitable to use in ECOCERT style formulations.

Meaning, if you want a natural and organic product, it won’t be allowed to contain the processed Bakuchiol that is synthesized in a chemical factory. It is called: 4-(3,7-DIMETHYL-3-VINYL-OCTA-1,6-DIENYL)-PHENOL  whereas Babchi Seed Oil is called: Psoralea Corylifolia.

Bakuchiol

Within the complete and complex Babchi oil are many chemical components, one of which is Bakuchiol. (see diagram below, don’t worry about being a chemistry geek to understand, just notice that “Oh, Bakuchiol is a component inside Babchi!”)

The Bakuchiol part is isolated, extracted and bottled to sell to beauty companies who will use it in formulations.  It is not ECOCERT compatible  so if you want to formulate and get certified, you’ll need to use the whole and complete oil of Babchi.

Here are some other components within Babchi Oil:

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The main chemical components of Babchi oil are psoralen, bakuchiol, limonene, linalool, angelicin, α-elemene, isopsoralen, bavachalcone, bavachin, 6-prenylnaringenin, corylifol, isobavachalcone, corylin, psoralidin, corylifolin, methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, bavachromanol and neobavaisoflavone.

The leaves contain raffinose, psoralen, and isopsoralen

Psoralen is used in anti cancer treatments.  When combined  ultraviolet light (PUVA therapy), they treat skin conditions such as vitiligo, eczema, psoriasis and skin problems related to certain lymphomas.  So I err on the side of caution and advise the Babchi serum to be used at night.

Bakuchiol formulation dosage

 Bakuchiol Serum

Glow make this divine Babchi Serum for use on face and neck. An ideal way to see if Babchi works for you. You get the benefits of Bakuchiol, in a whole and complete seed extract.

bakuchiol uk

What is Babchi Oil?

Babchi is a smallish plant that grows in warm climates like Sri Lanka, India and China.

It’s Latin name is Psoralea Corylifolia.

After the beautiful purple flowers are pollinated, a fruit forms.

Inside the fruit is a single precious seed.

These black seeds are then cold-pressed to release the oil and preserve nutrients.

Babchi oil is a dark to reddy-brown colour, with a strong nutty scent.

This dark oil is the complete, original Babchi Seed Oil of  Ayurveda fame.

 

Benefits of Babchi Oil – what is it used for?

Ayurveda  and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  have used Babchi for thousands of years for many ailments.  Not just skin!

Babchi has been used for skin complaints, purifying the blood and strengthening immunity and teeth.

All parts of the plant have been used – leaves, and seeds.

It’s use in treating vitilgo gives a clue to how it can even out skin tone when used in beauty products.

Babchi for beautiful healthy hair

Babchi stimulates hair growth as well as removing dandruff .

You can even restore your hair’s natural colour and lustre with Babchi oil and head massage.

How? By massaging babchi oil into your scalp.  Mix some babchi oil into a base oil like coconut, jojoba or sesame oil and apply. How much Babchi? Well try 1% initially and work up to 5%.

Massage well into the roots, perhaps using techniques from traditional Indian Head Massage. The side effects of head massage are feeling relaxed and destressed… it’s lovely to do a swapsy with your best friend.  You can combine massage with Netflix. Get your partner/friend to sit in front of you with a  cushion supporting their lower back, and then you massage their head (and shoulders!)  It’s wonderfully nurturing.  Maybe you can train your child to do this??? Probably not possible when they’re in that shouty  ‘you-ruined-my-life’ stage as teenagers though.

If you see a massage therapist, you could take your bottle of Babchi oil along and ask to have a few drops included with your scalp massage.

Babchi and wound care

Babchi has also been used in wound care, for instance after burns or scalds.

(Please note that for a burn you should put the affected limb/area under cold running water for a minimum of 2 minutes. Two minutes sounds like a short time but when you are standing under the tap, make sure you stay the full 120 seconds. )

After that, apply lavender essential oil diluted into aloe vera gel.  Or, just plain aloe vera gel. And then apply the aloe every hour or so for the next day.  And a few days later you can apply Babchi oil diluted into a simple carrier such as coconut, sunflower, sesame or almond with a few drops of omega rich rosehip, tamanu, marula, cacacy, avocado or argan oil. Or Empress Elixir or Samba.

If you’d like to add essential oils, to every 30ml of carrier oils you can add a total of 6-10 drops of essential oil.  Useful oils are : lavender, helichrysum, blue tansy and chamomile, with lavender being the most affordable.  I use essential oils in all my products for their glorious scent and magnificent healing abilities.

Babchi and psoriasis

In 1933 the world was introduced to psoralen. The definition is that psoralen is a chemical substance  (C11H6O3)  found in some plants that photosensitizes mammalian skin and is used in conjunction with ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis.

There are several different types of phototherapy—including narrowband UVB, broadband UVB, targeted UVB [excimer laser or light], and UVA with psoralens (topical, oral, or bath)—and all of them involve exposing the skin to light.
— Jenna Birch, SELF, 28 Oct. 2019

My recommendation would be to speak with an expert before doing a home treatment.

Babchi and vitiligo

Vitiligo is an unpleasant skin condition where white patches occur when skin looses its natural pigmentation. (Melanin pigments are lost when melanocytes cells die).

Babchi slowly reduces the size of the white patches, from the outer edges towards the centre as pigment production is restarted.

You can imagine the horrible emotional side effects from this, the suffering. (If you have vitiligo, I feel for you.) It’s no surprise that vitiligo leads to a loss of self confidence.

Scientific studies show how Babchi acts on melanoblastic and Rouget’s cells, stimulating pigment production.

The new pigment then diffuses into the paler skin surface, restoring normal colour.

How to pronounce vitiligo:  https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/pronunciation/english/vitiligo

And if you have vitiligo and want to sue Babchi, please find yourself an Ayurvedic health practitioner with experience at this.  I use Babchi purely for beauty purposes, not as a vitiligo treatment. That is not my area of expertise, sorry.

 

Why would you not use complete Babchi Oil?

As an aromatherapist, I seek out complete plant extracts to use for therapy and skincare.

Other components have an effect too, eg psoralen which helps in re-pigmentation of skin in vitiligo and also helps in managing psoriasis and eczema.

The essential oils I use are whole and complete not isolated extract like Standardized Lavender used in perfumery etc.

Plants chemical components change from year to year due to weather, stress, pollution etc.  But this causes issues with Big Corps who want standardized, predictable scents in their products.

Now as an aromatherapist who works with complete and whole Essential Oils, vs the synthetic isolates and laboratory created synthetics used in perfumery… there are definite benefits to using a whole and complete extract.

Often then you start fiddling with plants, the extracts you create cause skin sensitisation, think of the allergens listing on products. Limonene for instance, is sensitising/irritating on its own, even in minute doses, but when found inside a plant, there are natural ‘quenchers’ that ensure it does not irritate your skin.

This is why Lemon Essential Oil is different on your skin to Limonene, although you may find similarity in the scent.

So I find it interesting that the psorelen content within Babchi is the main reason makers of Bakuchiol give for selling their wares. Nature has blended the ‘chemicals’ within Babchi to work in a  w-holistic way.  And I also understand the ability to extract Vitamin E from plants or the Glycerine from soaps, to resell to people in separate bottles at high price tags.   So at the end of the day, it is up to you to decide what you want to use on your skin.  It’s your freedom of choice.

And when you read what healthy foods contain psoralen, you cant help but think Nature has a method in her madness.. like parsley, packed with Vitamin C, and carrots, packed with Beta carotene… they both contain psoralen – shall we stop eating them?

So, is babchi safe?

Generally, babchi is safe for all skin types, although if you are pregnant or lactating, you may wish to avoid it.  It’s a natural plant-based alternative to retinol.

I advise it to be used at night, to err on theh side of safety.

It does have a certain scent and colour to it, which  need to be factored into your formulation. If you’re a trained aromatherapist you’ll have some ideas on how to do this. If not, there is the school of experience.  Keep a notebook, and a sense of humour as you experiment.

 

Bakuchiol vs Retinol

How does Retinol  work?

Retinol stimulates cellular activity and collagen production.

Retinol strengthens the skin’s protective barrier to avoid loss of moisture.

Retinol vs Bakuchiol

Now, Bakuchiol and retinol are similar in that they both are excellent in anti-aging skincare.

Why?

Both retinol and bakuchiol show effects on photoaging in clinical tests when used in a 0.5% dilution.

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology compared  Bakuchiol (used twice daily) with retinol (used nightly) in 50 women with photo-ageing in their late 40s.

Both retinol and Bakuchiol stimulated key retinoid-binding genes and collagen production so improved wrinkles and hyperpigmentation to a similar degree.

However retinol users experienced more stinging and scaling than those who used Bakuchiol.

Another key difference is that Bakuchiol is photostable, while conventional Retinol is not.

What this means is that retinol can only be used at night.

However, if you’re using Babchi oil (the complete seed extract) then you can use more than 0.5% in your formulation. I’ve used a lot more and found it not to cause blistering.  (Yes, that’s the warning that came on the Babchi bottle, ‘blistering’ but that could be for the naturally occurring bakuchiol inside the Babchi?)  So again, use it at night, start at 1% dilution and work up to 5%.  With Bakuchiol extract, the dose is between 0.5-1%.

Latin name for Bakuchi  is Psoralea corylifolia

Babchi – better for vegans

Retinol is often produced from animal sources –  liver, fish and egg yolks, while plant-based babchi is totally vegan.

Here at Glow we’ve been using Babchi in our Bespoke products for over 4 years. If you would like a custom blend or bespoke product made for you, please get in touch with [email protected]   There is also a new serum available.

Bakuchiol benefits for skin and wrinkles

Babchi and bakuchiol are used in anti ageing products to help rejuvenate your skin

They both increase skin firmness so is helpful during menopause when jowls etc start sagging.

They promotes  healthy cell regeneration.

Like retinol, babchi and bakuchiol tell your cells to make collagen, “plumping” your skin and reducing the look of lines and wrinkles.

A study has found  ‘bakuchiol’ can reduce the severity of wrinkles by 20 per cent after three months. Wow.

Unlike retinol, Babchi oil has a hydrating effect on the skin  (Retinol causes dry patches and sensitivity.)

Babchi is gentle. It’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial components calm and soothe.

This makes it suitable for all skin types

Bakuchiol and hyperpigmentation

Bakuchiol evens skin tone so reduces the appearance of dark spots or areas of hyperpigmentation.

This balancing property of Babchi Seed Oil on skin’s pigments is what helps people with vitiligo.

Bakuchiol and dermatologists

Yes, Dermatologists love Bakuchiol, because it isn’t as drying or irritating as retinol.

“Studies have shown that bakuchiol helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles, helps with pigmentation, elasticity and firmness,” says New York-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman.

“It stimulates collagen and elastin synthesis. Prolonged use has shown to decrease roughness and dryness.” It’s also versatile—Jaliman recommends bakuchiol to clients with all skin types.

A double-blind study reported in the British Journal of Dermatology assigned one trial group bakuchiol and another group retinol. After 12 weeks of application, both the bakuchiol and the retinol group’s skin showed a “significant” but equal decrease in wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. But the retinol users “reported more facial skin scaling and stinging.” In general skin irritation, or even burning, is one of the major possible drawbacks of retinol, especially if you have dermatological conditions like rosacea and eczema.

It pairs really well with Vitamin C brightening serum and Prickly Pear seed oil

Caution – Potential side effects of Babchi seeds

Babchi can irritate the skin and can cause burns and blisters. It needs to be diluted to 1-5% of a formula to be safe

The warnings on the bottle advised using it as low as 0.5% but I have used it successfully at 5% .

Babchi Oil can cause Hepatitis, hyperacidity and gastritis in high dose and prolonged usage.

Avoid products like curd, pickles, fish etc when using Babchi.

A rare case of acute hepatitis induced by use of Babchi seeds as an Ayurvedic remedy for vitiligo

3 Myths about Babchi Oil

Myth – Babchi is a true essential oil. No, this is incorrect.  Babchi is extracted by cold pressing directly from the seed which preserves the nutrients and antioxidants. True essential oils are  produced by distillation (which involves steam) or CO2 extraction. Babchi seeds are cold pressed – this is the same extraction method used to extract sunflower, coconut, baobab, marula, argan etc. These are not essential oils as they are not volatile. Lavender oil is an essential oil, as is rose and neroli. A true essential oil evaporates when a drop placed on a  tissue whereas Babchi leaves a greasy brown stain.. this is a sure sign it is pressed from a seed not extracted through distillation.

Myth- It is completely safe only at 0.5%.  I have found that it can be used up to  5 (or possibly 10%)  without any irritation, depending on the rest of the formula. Here I am talking about whole Babchi seed oil, rather than the extract of Bakuchiol which is only used between 0.5% and 1%.  However, it does come with specific warnings for those who are pregnant or lactating. Anyway, there are so many good oil alternatives like rosehip and  cacay which can be used at 100% dose.  Babchi does stimulate collagen production and improve skin defences against oxidative stress. In diluted amounts it is safe as a retinol alternative for sensitive skin. Start at 1% and work up to 5%

Myth- Babchi is a ‘new’ discovery. No, its been used for thousands of years in the East in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese traditional medicine where it’s been used for various diseases like leucoderma, genital health, bone disorders, leprosy, lumbago, impotence, intestinal worms, lower back aches and many skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, skin eruptions, boils, leukoderma, scabies, vitiligo and ringworm. It’s named ‘Kustanashini’ the leprosy destroyer. Babchi (Bu gu zhi) is used in TCM for tonifying kidney yang and essence.

Herbs for  vitiligo –

Studies have  been done on :

  • Ginkgo biloba,
  • Cucumis melo,
  • Khellin,
  • Picrorhiza kurroa,
  • Polypodium leucotomos,
  • Green Tea Polyphenols,
  • Capsaicin,
  • Curcumin

It’s interesting how many of the herbs used are also used in cooking! Let food by they medicine, remember that advice from the Greeks?

Some of the most common herbal products used for vitiligo treatments, and their main components

HerbsActive components
Cucumis meloCucumis melo superoxide dismutase
Green TeaEpicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin
Picrorhiza kurroaPicroside I and picroside II
Polypodium leucotomosp-coumaric, ferulic, caffeic, vanillic, 3,4 – dihydroxybenzoic, 4 – hydroxybenzoic, 4 – hydroxycinnamic, 4 -hydroxycinnamoyl – quinic, chlorogenic acids

Ayurvedic Herbs for  vitiligo

Babchi is said to alleviate kapha and vata doshas but aggravate the pitta dosha.

Psoralea corylifolia  is called most often called  ‘Kushtanashini”in Ayurveda.

Other Sanskrit names include:

Aindavi, Avalguja, Bakuchi, Chanderlekha, Chanderprabha, Sitavari, Somaraji, Vejani, Vakuchi, Sugandha kantak, Krishnaphala, Chandraraji, Asitatvacha, Kalameshi, Somavalli, Bakuci, Sasankarekha

Chinese herbs for vitilgo

Babchi is called many names in China – Ku Tzu, Pu Ku Chih, Bu Ku Zhi, Cot Chu

The most commonly prescribed Chinese herbs for vitiligo

Angelica Sinensis, Ligusticum wallichii, Tribulus Terrestris, Polygonum multiflorum, Fructus psoraleae, Radix Paeoniae Rubra, Rehmannia glutinosa, Glossy Privet Fruit, Eclipta Alba, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Liquorice, Angelica dahurica

Examples of TCM for vitiligo treatments

Main components: 
Treatment 1Systemic treatment: walnut, red flower, black sesame, black beans, zhi bei fu ping, lu lu tong, and plums
Treatment 2Systemic treatment: ligustrum, lycium, morus fruit, cuscuta, eclipta, epimedium (to restore liver and kidney), plus tang – kuei, red peony, cnidium, carthamus, persica, moutan, lithospermum (to promote circulation); plus tribulus, psoralea, cuscuta, black sesame seed, ho-shou-wu, angelica (to promote cutaneous pigmentation). Topical treatment: psoralea, cuscuta, tribulus, angelica, mume, sulfur, and various toxic metals
Treatment 3Systemic treatment:
Phase 1: bupleurum, tang-kuei, red peony, dalbergia, and pangolin scale (to regulate circulation and vitalize blood), plus ligustrum and eclipta (to nourish liver and kidney). Duration treatment: 3-6 months.
Phase 2: astragalus, ginseng, tang-kuei, rehmannia, cnidium, cinnamon bark, millettia, psoralea, and epimedium (to regulate circulation and stimulate skin pigmentation). Treatment duration: several months.
Topical therapy: psoralea.

 

 

Foods Rich in Psoralen

  • Anise seeds
  • Caraway seeds
  • Carrots
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dill
  • Fennel seeds
  • Figs
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Lovage
  • Mustard seeds
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Root parsley
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Reference Links:

  1. Psoralea corylifolia by Wikipedia
  2. Antipsoriatic microemulsion gel formulations for topical drug delivery of Babchi oil (Psoralea corylifolia) by Ali J, Akhtar N, Sultana Y, Baboota S, Ahuja A, published in PubMed
  3. Psoralea corylifolia Linn.—“Kushtanashini” by P. S. Khushboo, V. M. Jadhav and N. S. Sathe, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College of Pharmacy and Y. M. T. Ayurvedic Medical College, India published in PubMed
  4. Compounds isolated from Psoralea corylifolia seeds inhibit protein kinase activity and induce apoptotic cell death in mammalian cells published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
  5. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/pronunciation/english/vitiligo
wendy gardner

About Me

Wendy Gardner is the skincare alchemist at Glow Skincare. When she's not making creams or writing updates, she likes to draw, drink tea and read great fiction!

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