Kopuchiol (Bakuchiol) is a vegan skincare ingredient found in the leaves and seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia?(Babchi) plant, which is a purple-flowered herb that’s commonly used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as well as Tamil Siddha practices.
The Psoralea Corylifolia plant is part of ‘The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India’ (Part- I Volume – I) published by Department of Ayush, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. This plant is also listed as ‘Common Medicinal Plants of Ayurveda’ at National Health Portal. The plant where Bakuchiol comes from, is endemic to certain Asian countries such as India, Himalayan regions of Pakistan and China. It is a wild species that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
The whole plant is used to treat various conditions like laxative, aphrodisiac, and diuretic. But the seeds, commonly called Babchi seeds have significant medicial properties in particular for skin diseases. It has been used both topically and internally to treat leukoderma or psoriasis or leprosy.
Bakuchiol is a meroterpene (a chemical compound having a partial terpenoid structure) in the class terpenophenol.
It was first isolated in 1966 by Mehta et al. from Psoralea corylifolia seed and was called Bakuchiol based on the sanskrit name Bakuchi of the plant. It is a wild leguminous plant that grows from 60-100 cm and takes 7 to 8 months to reach maturity.
The seeds that contain Bakuchiol are wild harvested between December and January. It has also been isolated from other plants, such as P. grandulosa, P. drupaceae, Ulmus davidiana, Otholobium pubescens, Piper longum and Aerva sangulnolenta Blum.
Although Bakuchiol has shown many physiological properties and has been known for well over 45 years, and the first complete synthesis of Bakuchiol has been described in 1973, its first commercial use in topical applications did not occur until 2007 when it was introduced to the market under the trade name Sytenol® A, by Sytheon Ltd, a 99% purity Bakuchiol. Free from unwanted compounds, it is the only version of Bakuchiol registered by REACH (EC # 685-515-4), the regulation of the European Union, aiming to improve the protection of human health and the environment notably in cosmetics.
Bakuchiol has the added ability to strengthen skin’s moisture barrier (via the upregulation of genes responsible for barrier function), which reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL), as well as irritation. Bakuchiol is also an anti-inflammatory, so it rarely triggers the redness and peeling that are often part and parcel with the initial application of many retinol products.
This plant-based compound is used as an alternative to retinol for people with sensitive skin.
Bakuchiol possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Bakuchiol is known to be a gentler alternative to retinol but has many of the same benefits.
Despite having no structural resemblance to retinol, Bakuchiol was found to have retinol functionality through retinol-like regulation of gene expression. This similarity was confirmed by the side-by-side comparison of the modulation of individual genes, as well as on the protein level by ELISA and histochemistry.
In 2018, a randomized, double-blind, 12-week clinical study with 44 volunteers demonstrated that Bakuchiol is comparable with retinol in its ability to improve photo-aging (wrinkles, hyperpigmentation) but has a better skin tolerance.
Bakuchiol has been found to possess antiandrogenic activity in prostate cancer cells, which inhibited cell proliferation.
According to a study in The British Journal of Dermatology, bakuchiol is not only as effective as retinol at targeting fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone; it’s also less irritating. "Much like a retinol, Bakuchiol triggers the genetic pathway in skin cells to create several types of collagen that are useful in skin health and anti-aging,"
However, it doesn't decrease the size of oil glands—so that means no stubborn dryness or irritation. Plus, unlike retinol, which can make the skin more sensitive to the sun (always make sure to wear SPF during the day), Bakuchiol may actually help to make skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays.
Vinay Kumar Singh.
Kumar Organic Products Research Centre Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore