What is it? Firstly, let’s recap retinol. It’s part of a group of similar ingredients called retinoids that are all derivatives of vitamin A. Some retinoids are available over the counter in beauty products, such as retinol, while others, such as tretinoin, are only available on prescription. They all work in the same way by converting into retinoic acid in the skin, which is what gives you smooth, plump, healthy and line-free skin. The differences between them focus on how quick that conversion into retinoic acid takes, and the quicker the conversion, the more noticeable the results. The faster, more aggressive, retinoids are those that are only available on prescription.
Who should use it? Retinol can be used by everyone of all skin tones and types. The general consensus is to start on a low percentage and apply it to cleansed skin two or three evenings a week, building up to nightly use over time. There will be some sensitivity and dryness to begin with as your skin adapts to it but, for most people, this passes over time. Those that find the sensitivity remains may want to try a retinol alternative. The important thing to remember is that retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, whatever your skin tone, so only use it at night and follow up with a broad-spectrum SPF in the day.
What is it? Bidens pilosa, also known as farmer’s friend and Spanish needle, is a plant-derived retinol alternative from a daisy-like plant grown in South America. It’s known as a bio retinoid because it offers some results similar to those achieved by retinol, namely regulating sebum and softening the appearance of lines and wrinkles with regular use. Some skin experts find that it also helps to improve radiance while calming irritation and even acne. It’s an exciting ingredient as a study has found that bidens pilosa can increase collagen and elastin production in the skin - which is responsible for lending the skin its firmness and tone. It’s slowly starting to trickle out into skincare products and it’s certainly one to watch.
Who should use it? Anyone with sensitive skin who wants to improve the appearance of lines, wrinkles and texture but have found that retinol creates too much irritation. Because bidens pilosa has a similar effect on skin without the sensitivities that can come with that conversion to retinoic acid, it can be comfortably used twice a day, morning and evening. It’s still an active ingredient though, and so your skin will be best served with a layer of sun protection afterwards during the day. You can find the ingredient in Ren Clean Skincare Bio Retinoid Youth Serum, $68.80.
What is it? Bakuchiol is a potent antioxidant extracted from the leaves and seeds of the psoralea corylifolia plant. It’s now hugely popular in skincare because it offers a host of renewing and protecting benefits. Like bidens pilosa, bakuchiol can help reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles and other signs of photoaging, but it won’t deliver as remarkable results as retinol in the same timeframe. It is often found combined with other skincare actives - such as niacinamide - but sometimes it is actually used in combination with retinol as it’s known to help reduce the irritation and sensitivity in the skin making it a good partner to vitamin A.
Who should use it? There’s nothing to stop anyone from using bakuchiol, even those with acne. It’s calming and anti-inflammatory properties make it a decent anti-ageing, or renewing, ingredient for everyone. You don’t need to be showing signs of ageing to use it either as skin of any age will benefit from its excellent antioxidant properties. If you like the results you achieve with retinol but dislike the irritation, try a product that combines it with bakuchiol. However, with or without retinol, bakuchiol is a very active ingredient and SPF during the day is a must.