Retinyl Palmitate pops up in products all the time – from creams to war paint. It is, surprisingly enough, a derivative of vitamin A. This ingredient is added to dozens upon dozens of skincare items nowadays for it’s touted anti-aging benefits. Just as you may find it in your sunscreen of choice, you’ll also see it perhaps in your eye and night creams, moisturizers, lipsticks, etc. The exposure to this ingredient by consumers on a daily basis is astounding. Who hasn’t purchased a combination of products touted as “anti-aging” and think about how streamlined our beauty regimen will be?
First of all, what is it exactly? Retinyl is the ester of Retinol (Vitamin A) and it is combined with Palmitic Acid, which is a saturated fatty acid that is found in humans, animals and plants and is (as the name implies) a major component of palm oil. Although it isn’t (strictly speaking) Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate is easily absorbed by the skin and once it is there is converted into Retinol, a pre-formed Vitamin A.
As stated in EWG.org:
“A study by U.S. government scientists suggests that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight (NTP 2012). Officials in Germany and Norway have cautioned that retinyl palmitate and other vitamin A ingredients in cosmetics could contribute to vitamin A toxicity due to excessive exposure (German BfR 2014, Norwegian SCFS 2012a).”
Just like we’ve covered in our previous articles related to the other dangerous toxins in sunscreens, this chemical can actually lead to a variety of ailments once it’s converted and can cause developmental and reproductive infertility, hormone disruption, skeletal abnormalities in developing fetuses, cellular level changes, cancer, osteoporosis and organ system toxicity.
If that wasn’t enough to scare you, FDA scientists have also found that Retinyl Palmitate forms free radicals once it’s been exposed to UVA and UVB rays and also breaks down from its original chemical composition into photomutagenic compounds. However, even with all of this indisputable evidence, the FDA still hasn’t offered an official announcement on the dangers of this chemical. Instead, it has continued ordering more testing and research (about 10 years worth more) meanwhile seemingly ignoring what the studies have already shown. Thereby allowing this toxic chemical to continue to be added to beauty products far and wide. Unbelievable! Note to remember, just because the FDA says it’s always looking out for you, it’s not, really.
How to avoid the risks
Most importantly, turn the bottle around and read the actual ingredients. If Retinyl Palmitate shows up, put it back on the shelf. There are too many healthier alternatives on the market today that don’t compromise your already over-compromised fertility. Check out our favorites, in our Shop. Additionally, if Vitamin A and any other pre-forms of it are listed ingredients such as Retinol, Retinyl Acetate, Retinyl Linoleate and Retinoic Acid avoid these products as well.
Don’t get me wrong, Vitamin A is a powerful anti-aging ally and its benefits to your skin are amazing. However, if you do plan on using it (whether in the over-the-counter products available today or with a prescription-only Retin A or Renova), use with caution. Apply the treatments only at night, if possible, and always keep your sun exposure to a minimum in order to avoid these harmful chemical reactions to occur on your skin and to avoid a nasty sunburn, as Vitamin A makes you extra sun sensitive.
As always, should you suspect that you are pregnant, discontinue use immediately and discuss it thoroughly with your doctor.