You may have heard of bakuchiol, but is it safe for eyes? The new hot ingredient in eye & facial creams that is said to have the same wrinkle reducing, collagen enhancing, pigment reducing effects as retinol. But is it a safe alternative for using in the eye area? Let’s take a look at the current research and find out!
Bakuchiol! What is it? It is a chemical compound first isolated in 1966 from Psoralea corylifolia seed, which is a plant used in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine and is isolated from other plants as well. Bakuchiol has anti-cancer activity in pre-clinical models (possibly because it is structurally similar to resveratrol), as well as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties.
Despite NOT being similar to retinol, it functions like it due to retinol-like regulation of gene expression and unlocks pathways that retinoids unlock without actually being a retinoid. Most exciting is that bakuchiol demonstrates anti-androgenic activity - this is important and will come up later!
Is Bakuchiol Safe For Eyes in Skincare and Dermatology?
More about why we use bakuchiol in skincare and dermatology. The good news is it behaves like a retinoid without having the same negative side effects as retinoids and the benefits of treatment include treating acne, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and inhibiting action of sebaceous glands via 5 alpha reductase (enzyme).
To continue with more good news as far as benefits of bakuchiol, it also reduces hyperpigmentation, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, slows down collagen breakdown, and increases production of ECMatrix proteins like collagen.
It doesn't photosensitize, is in fact photostable, and is well-tolerated in sensitive skin. Bakuchiol is showing up in facial creams, facial Serums and eye creams, which is exactly why we are exploring if it is safe for eyes.
Safe For Eyes? What does the research say?
What research do we have? We know that Bakuchiol has anti-androgen activity, as I mentioned above. That’s detailed in a study by Miao L., Ma S, Fan G et al published in (2013) titled "Bakuchiol inhibits the androgen induced-proliferation of prostate cancer cell line LNCaP through suppression of AR transcription activity, I’ll put my references down below.
Unfortunately, the use of antiandrogens leads to the development of MGD as evidenced in this paper: Krenzer KL, Dana MR, Ullman MD, Cermak JM, Tolls BD, Evans JE, Sullivan DA. Effect of androgen deficiency on the human meibomian gland and ocular surface. J Clin Endocr Metab 2000;85:4874-4882. You can learn more about the reality of hormones and Dry Eye in my video all about menopause and dry eye.
We must ask ourselves the final and most important question; Is it safe for eyes? Unfortunately, the answer here has to be I’m not really sure! The reality is that although we can try to extrapolate information from the studies I mentioned above, we still don’t have any studies directly on the eyes and bakuchiol that would give us our definitive answer. To be incredibly conservative, it’s worth avoiding until we know more.
Now, do keep in mind that this is coming from an eye doctor specializing in Dry Eye. Out of an abundance of caution, and knowing fully that in general Bakuchiol has a better safety profile than retinol, I STILL have to tell you that this falls in the same category as tea tree oil and should be carefully considered in the eye area to avoid this anti-androgen activity that leads to meibomian gland dysfunction.
For my take on safer eye creams, take a look at this recent video I did on the subject. What we're concerned about in eye creams are preservatives but it's important to really think about the risk-benefit ratio here. Without preservatives it is possible to grow all kinds of nasty things inside your eye cream container which can cause all sort of eye problems and conditions.
So you don’t always want something that has no preservative it all because preservatives are very necessary to keep things shelf-stable so you can use them for months at a time but that means that looking at the preservatives is also going to be really important if you have some degree of dryness or eye irritation because it could be that you're more sensitive to a certain preservative then another.
The major preservatives to look for are parabens, Bak phenoxyethanol, formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasing or donating chemicals.
If you are still wanting to try bakuchiol anyway, take a look at this video I made about how to apply retinol. I would consider applying Bakuchiol in the same fashion.
I want you to make sure you get no Bakuchiol inside the line of your orbital bone. The orbital bone is the bony structure you feel where you have a bony protrusion above your eyes underneath your eyebrows, around the sides of your eyes and then down below your eyes, just under your “eye bags” if you have them!
I don't want any of your Bakuchiol going inside of that area that means unfortunately I really want you to avoid where you get crow's feet as it is just too close to the eye. I think the best method of applying retinol or Bakuchiol on your face is to first put on a very gentle hypoallergenic eye cream all around your eyelids first. Then apply the Bakuchiol to the rest of the face.
The reason I like this method is it's going to reduce the amount of migration of the Bakuchiol to the actual eyelids. We know that as you sleep overnight that the Bakuchiol or retinol cream is going to move naturally, and also as you toss and turn but having a barrier closer to your eyes is going to minimize how much Bakuchiol actually makes it into the eye. Remember to take a look at this video I made about how to apply retinol and use all of that information to apply to how you handle Bakuchiol near your eyes.
I hope you’ve learned something that will keep your eyes safe, remember, learning is lifelong!
Miao L., Ma S, Fan G et al. (2013). "Bakuchiol inhibits the androgen induced-proliferation of prostate cancer cell line LNCaP through suppression of AR transcription activity". Tianjin Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 30 (5): 291–293.
antiandrogen use leads to the development of MGD
Krenzer KL, Dana MR, Ullman MD, Cermak JM, Tolls BD, Evans JE, Sullivan DA. Effect of androgen deficiency on the human meibomian gland and ocular surface. J Clin Endocr Metab 2000;85:4874-4882.
Sullivan DA, Rocha EM, Aragona P, Clayton JA, Ding J, Golebiowski B, Hampel U, McDermott AM, Schaumberg DA, Srinivasan S, Versura P, Willcox MDP. TFOS DEWS II Sex, Gender, and Hormones report. Ocul Surf 2017;15:284-333.