A Closer Look at Retinyl Palmitate :: Vitamin A

What is retinyl palmitate?
The simple answer is that retyinyl palmitate is Vitamin A.  It is the ester of retinol (vitamin A) that is combined with palmitic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid that is a major component of palm oil.  Retinyl palmitate is easily absorbed by the skin and once it is there is converted into retinol.  It is a yellow to yellow-red solid or oily substance.

What do experts say about retinyl palmitate in skin care?
The CIR Expert Panel evaluated scientific data and concluded that Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate were safe as cosmetic ingredients. In 2005, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate and reaffirmed their conclusion.  CIR Review: The CIR Expert Panel noted that vitamin A is an essential nutrient with a Recommended Daily Allowance orally that varies for different groups: 5000 and 4000 International Units (IU) daily for male and female adults, respectively; lesser amounts for infants and children; and 5000 and 6000 IU daily for pregnant and lactating women, respectively.

The CIR Expert Panel reviewed the safety data on Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate and concluded that these ingredients were not mutagenic or carcinogenic. Cosmetics and personal care products containing 0.1-1% of these ingredients were at most slightly irritating. These products did not result in skin sensitization.  In addition Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union.  Health Canada permits the use of Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations equal to or less than 1%.

The state of California lists Retinol and retinyl esters, including Retinyl Palmitate, as Proposition 65 chemicals “known to the state” to cause reproductive toxicity at daily dosages in excess of 10,000 IU.   Cosmetics and personal care products do not contain large amounts of Retinol and retinyl esters, including Retinyl Palmitate, and these ingredients dermally applied do substantially contribute to the amount of vitamin A in the blood (more than 10,000 IU). Therefore, cosmetics and personal care products containing Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate do not need to be labeled with a Proposition 65 warning.

So what is all the fuss about retinyl palmitate?
The Envirnmental Working Group has campaigned against the Sunscreen industry for using retinyl palmitate.  This campaign has been interesting because not only did they come out with more bad science but they attached a hard hitting campaign for donations to the report.  Their online campaign against sunscreens has on one hand warned you of claimed dangers of sunscreens and at the same time encouraged you to buy them on Amazon with a portion of your charge going to support EWG.  Donna Maria wrote an excellent blog titled, The Hypocrisy of Using Scare Tactics to Impact Public Policy that best addresses this double standard.

The studies on retinyl palmitate
Here are the studies for you to come to your own conclusion about retinyl palmitate.

Sunscreens and the debate explained a
I am not an expert on sunscreens.  I use them on myself and my children, but I don’t make them.  Here are two very well written websites that address the issue of sunscreen safety.

Science Based Medicine, The Great Sunscreen Cover Up
Of significance from this article from Science-Based Medicine regarding retinyl palmitate and the study referenced, “The mice were treated with retinyl palmitate — not sunscreen that contained retinyl palmitate. It’s known that retinyl palmitate can be a photosensitizer.”  The full article can and should be read by all consumers here.

Skin Cancer Foundation, Response to The Environmental Working Group 2010 Report and Senator Schumer
This site is full of great information on sunscreens.  The short version of the Skin Cancer Foundations response to the EWG claims is:  “After reviewing the recently released report from The Environmental Working Group, The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee, a group of renowned experts in the study of the interaction of ultraviolet radiation and the skin, have come to the conclusion that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) is a photocarcinogen in humans.”  The full report can be read here.

  • David Steinberg, FRAPS

    Vitamin A is Retinol not the esters or the acid

  • DrFlinton

    You have to research a little bit before using a product. Not doing that can only cause trouble, but at the same time, doctors should be more responsible with their suggestions for vitamins intake.