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Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl Palmitate

Also-called-like-this: Form of Retinoids
Irritancy: 1-3
Comedogenicity: 1-3

Official CosIng Information


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

Pixi Overnight Retinol Oil Skin Authority Vitamin A Cell Renewal A313 Vitamin A Pommade Sarah Chapman Skinesis Power A Renewal System Urban Skin Rx Hydranutrient Radiance Restore Oil SHANI DARDEN Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum BRAD Biophotonic Skin Care Essential Elixir Pore-Tightening Resurfacing Replenish Serum Bakel Nutrioil Nourishing Serum Beauty Pie Über Youth Complexion Overhaul Multi-Action Ampoules Bio-Oil Specialist Skincare Oil Biobelle #Happyhour Facial Mask Sand & Sky Brilliant Skin Purifying Pink Clay Mask Sand and Sky Purifying Pink Clay Mask facetheory Regenacalm Serum Benefit Boi-ing Brightening Concealer Christian Breton Liftox Anti-Wrinkle Eye Serum DCL Alpha Beta Gel Toner Derma E Anti-Wrinkle Toner Face Theory Retin-C Retinol Scar Treatment Oil OZNaturals Hyaluronic Acid Serum Simple Sensitive Skin Experts Hydrating Cleansing Oil Sonoma naturals Vitamin C Face Mask Algenist Advanced Anti Ageing Oil Arcona Eye Dew® Plus Aveda Balancing Infusion For Dry Skin Colleen Rothschild Balancing Gel Cleanser Crème De Skin Nutritions Double Strength- Retinol Night Repair Serum Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Glow Pad® Intense Glow EXTREME GLOW Strong Lightening Serum ElsheSkin Vitamin C Serum Neostrata Bionic Face Serum 10 Bionic Pixi Retinol Jasmine Lotion SORBET Salon Skin Specialise Care 3-In-1 Cleansing Oil SeneGence Glossy Gloss Serious Skincare A Force Xr Time Released Nanoencapsulated Retinol Serum Concentrate Shills Purifying Peel Off Mask Skin doctors Vein Away Plus Suave Vitamin Lotion TonyMoly Vital Vita 12 TonyMoly Vital Vita 12 Moisture Ampoule Topix Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 15% Topix Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 20% e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer oskia Citylife I-Zone Balm Beaussentials Skincare Anti Aging Cream (Light) + Vitamin Gel Derma E Hydrating Cleanser Disciple Skincare Dreamy Skin Retinyl Oil Ebanel Vitamin C 20% Serum Euroderm Máscara Bioderm Caballo D’Oro Kose Clear Turn Hada Fukkura Moisture Eyezone Mask