Review Wednesday: Should You Avoid Retinyl Palmitate?

image courtesy of www.annmariegianni.com

Today, rather than a product review, we are going to explore a common product ingredient, so you can make informed shopping decisions. I hope that the "ingredient spotlight" feature will become a monthly column, so let me know what you think! First up: retinyl palmitate. 

Last week while researching my review of Gabriel Moisturizing Liquid Foundation, I noticed that the main reason the product got a bad rating from the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database was because it contained retinyl palmitate - this got me curious.

Retinyl Palmitate is a vitamin A supplement often used in skincare products. It is also added to milk to add back the antioxidants lost during the fat-removal process. However, high doses of topical retinyl palmitate have been linked to cancer in lab animals. For this reason, EWG has rated the ingredient 8, or high hazard (on this 1-10 scale, the most dangerous chemicals are rated a 10). 

Adding to this concern, the EWG website explains that when retinyl palmitate is exposed to UV light, it can break down into toxic free radicals, which can also lead to cancer, or speed tumor growth in existing cancer. So when wearing this product, or other products containing retinyl palmitate, make sure to avoid sun exposure (check your sunscreen labels to make sure they don't contain this ingredient). FDA also raised a concern that extensive, daily skin application of vitamin A creams may build up in the woman’s body a high enough level of Vitamin A that may be toxic to the developing fetus. 

However, a 2010 study concluded that that retinyl palmitate is safe except for in very high doses. The American Academy of Dermatology has concluded that the ingredient does NOT cause skin cancer (even in sunscreens). 

Conclusion: There is still major confusion about this ingredient. I have decided that I will continue to buy products that contain this ingredient, but that I will use them sparingly (as indicated on the product label, or less), and will try to purchase retinyl palmitate-free sunscreens just in case!