Herbivore Botanical’s Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum Review

Herbivore’s Bakuchiol vs Retinol

Herbivore’s new product, the Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum, promises to refine and smooth fine lines and wrinkles by working both above and below the skin with a natural retinol alternative. This smoothing serum is designed to deliver retinol-like benefits without any of the irritation that retinol can sometimes cause. With exfoliating Polyhydroxy Acids, this serum is intended to work on most skin types, including sensitive skin.

As an avid retinol user, I was intrigued by this product. I didn’t rush to get the product to try, but after seeing a few reviews of it on Instagram and blogs I follow, I decided to give the Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum a shot.

Herbivore Botanical's Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

Herbivore Botanicals’ Bakuchiol Serum is a Plant-Based Retinol Alternative

Is it a Plant-Based Retinol or a Retinol Alternative?

First things first: this product is not exactly a “plant-based retinol” but, rather, a plant-based retinol alternative. It acts similarly to retinol to provide many of the same benefits one would get with a traditional retinol smoothing serum. This is why a lot of times, people refer to products like this as “Bakuchiol retinol” or “plant based retinol,” even though it’s not technically retinol.

What is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a plant-based ingredient derived from the Ayurvedic Babchi plant. This ingredient promotes cellular turnover and exfoliation, similar to how retinol works. However, according to the Herbivore packaging material, unlike retinols, this serum promises to do all this without “the irritation or sensitization associated with synthetic retinol.” Plus, it’s safe for daily use!

Besides the eponymous ingredient and the Polyhydroxy Acids, this product contains tremella — a “superfood” mushroom that helps promote hydration — and blueberry stem cells — vital antioxidants that help strengthen the skin against environmental stressors and free radicals.

Honest Thoughts on the Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum

The more I read about this product, the more interested I became. I went ahead and ordered the serum during a Sephora sale recently. The price point had made me hesitant originally; at $54, it made me stop and think about whether I really wanted the product or not. Part of this hesitation came from the underwhelming experience I ultimately had with Herbivore’s Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion. At first, I really liked the Prism product, and found it worked well with my skin. However, the product quickly became discolored and oxidized which made me uneasy about the effect it might have on my skin.

Regardless of the Prism experience, I am glad I decided to try Herbivore’s Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum out. The texture was the first characteristic I noticed when I first tried the serum out. This serum is thick and a little gummy at first, kind of like the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum. Like the Truth Serum, the Bakuchiol Serum applies evenly and dries cleanly. I found my skin absorbed it readily and that my skin was mostly dry to the touch when I went to add moisturizer a few minutes later.

Herbivore Botanical's Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

What I’ve Noticed So Far

So far, I’ve been using Herbivore Botanical’s Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum every other night for about two weeks. I apply it to clean toned skin, before applying moisturizer and facial oil. The serum seems to be boosting my skin’s hydration levels. This is particularly noteworthy for a retinol-like product, since retinols can be pretty drying.

Herbivore Botanical's Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

I’ve also noticed lingering acne clearing up more quickly since I began using the product. Whether this is related or not, I’m not quite sure just yet.

This serum is easy to work into an existing skincare routine, and if you’re concerned about hydration, I’d definitely give it a shot. It’s a little on the expensive side, but for a retinol-like product, the price point really isn’t bad. I’m glad I got it and am eager to see how the results continue to pan out over time.

Herbivore Botanical's Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

Herbivore Botanical’s Bakuchiol Serum is available on Amazon, Sephora, and Nordstrom.


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Herbivore's new serum, Bakuchiol, promises to refine the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by working both above and below the skin with a natural retinol alternative. As an avid retinol user, I was intrigued by this product. Read my honest thoughts on Herbivore Botanical's Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum here!