Is Retinyl Palmitate Good or Bad for Your Skin?
Created by combining palmitic acid with retinol, Retinyl Palmitate offers numerous benefits when it comes to skin care products. Not only is Retinyl Palmitate an antioxidant, it also encourages the growth of new skin cells. Tiege Hanley explains these and other skin care benefits of Retinyl Palmitate.
If you’re not a dermatologist or skin care industry expert, reading the ingredients label on your favorite products can amount to reading a foreign language. If you use serums or renewal and wrinkle creams, though, there’s a decent chance you’ve scanned across Retinyl Palmitate. As a form of vitamin A, the antioxidant reduces signs of aging and is touted to protect against environmental damage.
Those who are highly engaged in the industry may have also seen debate about the pros and cons of its use. In short, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-governmental organization, argues Retinyl Palmitate can lead to skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin that will be exposed to sunlight (See claim: first paragraph). The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) disagrees, arguing the ingredient is FDA-approved and that years of research actually suggest retinoids help reduce the risk for skin cancer (See claim: 10th paragraph). Quite the dichotomy.
Since you’re likely wondering what to believe, we’re here to lay out the facts and help settle the debate.GOT WRINKLES?
What is Retinyl Palmitate?
Retinoids are a class of skin care ingredients that are highly prized for their anti-aging benefits. Retinyl Palmitate, in particular, is made by combining palmitic acid with retinol.
Citing a study from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EWG believes Retinyl Palmitate and other ingredients in cosmetics can contribute to vitamin A toxicity due to excessive exposure. In sunlight, they claim Retinyl Palmitate can form small molecules that damage DNA. The findings came as a result of a year-long experiment conducted on hairless mice coated with a vitamin A laced cream. The mice were exposed to ultraviolet rays for 365 days and NTP researchers concluded Retinyl Palmitate accelerates development of cancerous lesions and tumors on UV-treated animals. They did concede that it is difficult to suggest this means similar likelihood exists for humans to develop skin cancer.
The latter part of the NTP study is where the AAD takes greatest issue. Because of the fact that mice and human skin are significantly different, and that Retinyl Palmitate is not isolated (as it was in the NTP experiment) when applied to skin, they do not believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest the increased risk of skin cancer. Perhaps the central part of their case is that Retinyl Palmitate works together with a number of other antioxidants to cut down on the risk of free radical formation seen in experiments. The environment, subject and amount of Retinyl Palmitate present all impact this conclusion.
Due to its FDA approval and common use in both prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs and as a food additive, Retinyl Palmitate seems to fill its anti-aging role safely when combined with other needed antioxidants. The AAD strongly argues, and for good reason, that consumers are well-advised to continue using sunscreen while also taking further actions to reduce exposure to UV rays.
Now that we’ve laid out the good vs. bad debate, here’s some other relevant information to keep in mind.
Potential Benefits of Retinyl Palmitate
- When used on skin, your skin’s natural enzymes convert Retinyl Palmitate to retinol, which is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that treats wrinkles by encouraging the growth of new skin cells.
- Retinyl Palmitate is an ingredient that will help improve skin tone.
- This ingredient helps thicken skin, which gives your skin added resiliency and a smoother look.
- Retinyl Palmitate is not so much an ingredient when used in sunscreen, but rather is a cosmetic agent. In addition to its antioxidant quality to improve product performance against aging effects of UV exposure, Retinyl Palmitate boosts the aesthetic qualities of sunscreen.
- Retinyl Palmitate (along with other retinoids) will make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays. If retinoids are a part of your routine, be sure to use sunscreen daily.
- Retinoids can be irritating to skin. Although reactions to Retinyl Palmitate are rare (since it is one of the gentlest forms of retinol), you should still patch test this ingredient on a small area before using regularly.
Other Ingredients to Consider
Tretinoin, retinol, adapalene, retinaldehyde and various other retinoids can all produce similar results, but Retinyl Palmitate is a much gentler ingredient to use to fight signs of aging.