Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl Palmitate

Also-called-like-this: Form of Retinoids


It's an ester form of vitamin A (retinol + palmitic acid) that belongs to the "retinoid family". The retinoid family is pretty much the royal family of skincare, with the queen being the FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient tretinoin. Retinol is also a very famous member of the family, but it's like Prince William, two steps away from the throne. Retinyl palmitate will be then little Prince George, quite far (3 steps) away from the throne. 

By steps, we mean metabolic steps. Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is the active ingredient our skin cells can understand and retinyl palmitate (RP) has to be converted by our metabolic machinery to actually do something. The conversion is a 3 step one and looks like this:

retinyl palmitate --> retinol -- > retinaldehyde --> all-trans-retinoic acid

As we wrote in our lengthy retinol description the problem is that the conversion is not terribly effective. The evidence that RP is still an effective anti-aging ingredient is not very strong, in fact, it's weak. Dr. Leslie Baumann in her fantastic Cosmetic Dermatology book writes that RP is topically ineffective

What's more, the anti-aging effectiveness is not the only questionable thing about RP. It also exibits questionable behaviour in the presence of UV light and was the center of a debate between the non-profit group, EWG (whose intentions are no doubt good, but its credibility is often questioned by scientists) and a group of scientists and dermatologists lead by Steven Q. Wang, MD,  director of dermatologic surgery at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. 

Dr. Leslie Baumann wrote a great review of the debate and summarized the research available about retinyl palmitate here.  It seems that there is a study showing RP being photo protective against UVB rays but there is also a study showing RP causing DNA damage and cytotoxicity in association with UVA. 

We think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and we agree with Dr. Baumann's conclusion: "sufficient evidence to establish a causal link between RP and skin cancer has not been produced. Nor, I’m afraid, are there any good reasons to recommend the use of RP". We would add especially during the day!

Bottom line: If you wanna get serious about retinoids, RP is not your ingredient (retinol or tretinoin is!). However, if you use a product that you like and it also contains RP, there is no reason to throw it away. If possible use it at night, just to be on the safe side.

Show me some proof

  • The Journal of investigative dermatology, 2003 Nov;121(5):1163-7., Vitamin A exerts a photoprotective action in skin by absorbing ultraviolet B radiation
  • Toxicology and industrial health, 2005 Sep;21(7-8):167-75., Photo-induced DNA damage and photocytotoxicity of retinyl palmitate and its photodecomposition products
  • Leslie Baumann, MD, Cosmetic Dermatology, 2nd edition, Retinoids, Chapter 30 - pages 256-262

Products with Retinyl Palmitate

A313 Vitamin A Pommade SHANI DARDEN Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum BRAD Biophotonic Skin Care Essential Elixir Pore-Tightening Resurfacing Replenish Serum Bio-Oil Specialist Skincare Oil Biobelle #Happyhour Facial Mask Sand and Sky Purifying Pink Clay Mask Christian Breton Liftox Anti-Wrinkle Eye Serum OZNaturals Hyaluronic Acid Serum Simple Sensitive Skin Experts Hydrating Cleansing Oil Aveda Balancing Infusion For Dry Skin Neostrata Bionic Face Serum 10 Bionic oskia Citylife I-Zone Balm Derma E Hydrating Cleanser Mary Kay Timewise Night Solution Pestle & Mortar Superstar Rodan and fields Redefine Intensive Renewing Serum Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Trader Joe's Nourish All In One Facial Cleanser Youth To The People Age Prevention Moisture Cream omega pharma Dermosan Derma E Hydrating Eye Crème With Hyaluronic Acid And Pycnogenol Image Vital C Hydrating Enzyme Masque Made from earth Vitamin Enhanced Face Firming Serum Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask Tula Multi-Spectrum Eye Renewal Serum theBalm Timebalm Foundation Biologique Recherche Lait U Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Moisture Cream Simple Beauty Retinol Cream BeautyBioscience R45 The Reversal 3-Phase Skin Transforming Treatment LilyAna Naturals Eye Cream Moisturizer Rosehip & Hibiscus Santaderm Emulsie Cu D-Panthenol 9% Etude House Bebe Foot Mask Evo Self Indulgence Body Creme Murad Essential-C Cleanser PCA Skin C And E Strength Max Palladio Dual Wet And Dry Foundation Rosen Apothecary Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Serum Sephora Supreme Cleansing Oil StriVectin Advanced Retinol Concentrated Serum Zelens Vitamin A Treatment Drops Derma E Hydrating Night Cream Eucerin Q10 Active Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment Jack Black Protein Booster Skin Serum Ole Henriksen Fresh Start Eye Cream Stila Illuminating Liquid Foundation Elemental Herbology Cell Nourish Radiance And Vitality Facial Serum MEDI-PEEL Bio Intense Gluthione 600 White Ampoule