Retinyl Palmitate Debate
What is Retinyl Palmitate?
June 21, 2010 (Be sure to read the update posted below)
We’ve been hearing a lot about retinyl palmitate (rp) lately. Just what is it and what is it alleged to do? Retinyl palmitate is an ingredient found in many sunscreens and skin products. It’s a form of Vitamin A that over the years has been shown to be very beneficial to the skin. Now, studies are showing otherwise. The FDA has just finished up a study (although it has not been released yet) about the effects of retinyl palmitate on the skin, using mice as their test subjects. Their findings suggest that RP stimulates lesion and tumor growth when in direct sunlight. And this is in many sunscreens, which is designed for use in direct sunlight! Read more about it here: EWG Retinyl Palmitate
Retinyl Palmitate in Dr. Mercola’s Sunscreen?
I also found out that retinyl palmitate (third to last ingredient) was in one of my favorite sunscreens, Dr. Mercola’s Natural Sunscreen with Green Tea. So I went right to the horse’s mouth for a response on this. I completely trust Dr. Mercola to use the safest and purest ingredients in his products and I wanted to hear what he had to say about the new findings. Here is Dr. Mercola’s answer:
“The use of the word retinyl palmitate can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and cause confusion between retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid. Both of these are of the same family, but retinoic acid is a prescription ingredient used to exfoliate the skin, and can also cause the skin to become hyper sensitive to sunlight. Retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) on the other hand, is the normal form used for application on the skin and has great anti-aging, superb antioxidant and moisturizing capabilities. It accelerates cell renewal and stimulates the fibroblast and collagen in the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Due to its antioxidant properties, it is also a great anti-aging ingredient, and helps promote a softer smoother skin. The topical application of vitamin A on the skin, when formulated into creams and lotions, has a host of positive effects on the skin, which includes:
Increases the activities of enzymes found in the skin
Stimulates the mitotic activity in the epidermis and thereby helps with the process of cell division
Stimulates cell proliferation in the epidermis and thereby stimulates growth
Helps to thicken the epidermis, which becomes thinner in aging
Improves the elasticity of the skin
Helps to normalize sun-damaged skin
Helps in wound healing
Stimulates collagen formation in the skin
Reduces UV-induced wrinkle formulation
Regulates keratin formation
Exposure to sunlight, which includes both UVA and UVB radiation, reduces the amount of Vitamin A not only in the skin, but also the blood.”
In the above quote, Dr. Mercola does a pretty good job of differentiating between rp and retinol but he doesn’t really discuss the effects of rp in sunscreen. For me personally, I am very disappointed that his sunscreen contains retinyl palmitate and I plan on finding a better sunscreen option, but I hope he will reformulate his future products to conform to the highest safety standards.
*UPDATE on Retinyl Palmitate* July 27, 2011
Newsflash! As of April 2011, Dr. Mercola reformulated his sunscreen and no longer includes retinyl palmitate. Hmmm, makes you wonder right? The quote above was taken directly from the doc…but now it leads me to believe he realized retinyl palmitate was not a beneficial ingredient and took it out of his sunscreen. The quote below is from the article where he discusses rp:
“The sunscreen industry uses vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that is thought to slow skin aging. However, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, when used in sunscreen and therefore exposed to sunlight may actually speed the development of skin lesions and tumors.
This conclusion came from EWG’s analysis of the findings released by the FDA and the National Toxicology Program. As EWG stated in the 2011 report:
“EWG analysis of product labels finds retinoid ingredients in hundreds of sunscreens, skin lotions, lip sticks and lip sunscreens—all of which pose safety concerns for sun-exposed skin. At this point, the NTP [National Toxicology Program] and FDA have invested more than a decade in studying retinoids, concluding in January 2011 that both retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid speed the development of cancerous lesions and tumors.
A year after EWG sounded the alarm about retinyl palmitate, there is still no FDA position on the safety of retinoids in cosmetics. Sunscreen industry trade groups continue to dispute EWG’s warning. Most cosmetics companies have not removed these ingredients from sunscreens and other skin and lip products.
EWG recommends that consumers avoid products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate and retinol.”
Our sunscreen used to have vitamin A in it, as at the time it was felt to be a benefit, but when we learned of its potential health problems we immediately removed it. However many other brands still include it in their formulas, so beware, and always check the labels when shopping for sunscreen.”
Read that whole article here.
The updated ingredients look fantastic:
- tintanium dioxide
- zinc oxide
- sunflower oil
- coconut oil
- jojoba oil
- tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E) [This was not in the formula I had based this article on. I suppose this is what he swapped out the retinyl palmitate for.]
- shea butter
- eucalyptus oil
I’ve also discovered another wonderful chemical free sunscreen chock full of natural ingredients such as shea butter, capuacu butter, and zinc oxide. Check it out here: Solis Botannical Sunscreen
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