What is Retinyl Palmitate?

Christine Hudson
Christine Hudson
Retinyl palmitate is a common ingredient in skin care products.
Retinyl palmitate is a common ingredient in skin care products.
Retinyl palmitate is a common ingredient in skin care products.

Retinyl palmitate is a chemical compound of retinol and palmitic acid. It may also be referred to as “retinol palmitate," though this is not a scientifically correct spelling. Retinyl palmitate is used primarily as a synthetic vitamin A supplement, available in oil or powder form, and it is quite often used as a treatment for anyone with a vitamin A deficiency. The compound is also commonly used in low-fat milk or other forms of dairy to replace some of the vitamin A which may be lost in the extraction of milk fat.

Kale and spinach are high in beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Kale and spinach are high in beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Kale and spinach are high in beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.

Beta-carotene is also converted to vitamin A in the body, allowing the vitamin to be obtained from more natural sources. Foods like carrots, kale, and spinach are high in beta-carotene. Deficiencies in this vitamin can lead to growth retardation in children, severe night blindness, and an increased vulnerability to respiratory infections. Those with diets deficient in vitamin A may benefit from synthetic vitamin supplements if they are unable to eat foods high in beta-carotene.

Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to severe night blindness.
Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to severe night blindness.
Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to severe night blindness.

Aside from food and supplement use, retinyl palmitate is also a common ingredient in skin care products. Many sunscreens, moisturizers, and wrinkle creams will most often have a form of retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate listed as “vitamin A” in the ingredients. Retinyl palmitate is widely marketed as an ingredient in these products, which provides younger-looking and more radiant skin.

The retinyl or other forms of vitamin A are added to skin products as a type of emollient. They are used to help soften the skin, increase collagen, and help the skin hold moisture without clogging the pores. Skin which is lacking in vitamin A is commonly dry and sometimes rough. It is said that moisturized skin is healthier, though it is possible to overuse these products.

Many sunscreens contain a form of retinyl palmitate that's listed as vitamin A.
Many sunscreens contain a form of retinyl palmitate that's listed as vitamin A.
Many sunscreens contain a form of retinyl palmitate that's listed as vitamin A.

As retinyl palmitate is a synthetic version of vitamin A, many individuals may not realize that it still carries the same precautions. Overdoses of vitamin A, whether topical or ingested, can be harmful. It can cause brittleness in the bones, vomiting, and possibly even death. These dangers are also present with the use of retinyl palmitate, so it is generally a good idea for individuals to follow the instructions on any product containing this compound. Those with known allergies to natural or synthetic vitamin A should usually avoid products with retinyl palmitate, and those with sensitivities might benefit from consulting a dermatologist or doctor first.

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    • Retinyl palmitate is a common ingredient in skin care products.
      Retinyl palmitate is a common ingredient in skin care products.
    • Kale and spinach are high in beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
      Kale and spinach are high in beta carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
    • Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to severe night blindness.
      Deficiencies in vitamin A can lead to severe night blindness.
    • Many sunscreens contain a form of retinyl palmitate that's listed as vitamin A.
      Many sunscreens contain a form of retinyl palmitate that's listed as vitamin A.