Retinyl Palmitate is an essential nutrient and a vitamin A ester that holds the key to maintaining healthy skin.
Unfortunately, constant sun exposure can alter your skin’s DNA blueprint, leading to various skin conditions like premature ageing, wrinkles, sensitivity, and hyperpigmentation. The sun’s harmful impact depletes the natural vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) present in your skin, leaving it vulnerable.
Your skin’s DNA is the blueprint within every cell in the body, including your skin and controls cellular growth and renewal and determines how skin cells replicate, making it crucial to safeguard this blueprint from damage.
The damage caused by the sun will permanently alter how your skin cells reproduce and perform unless you take action with the daily use of broad-spectrum sunscreen and replace vitamin A, which is found naturally in the skin but lost when exposed to light and UV radiation.
By applying a daily dose of vitamin A, you are providing additional protection to your skin and repairing and reversing the visible signs of sun damage.
Enter Retinyl Palmitate.
Retinyl palmitate is an ester of vitamin A which is the dominant vitamin found in the epidermis (the top layer of the skin).
And while Retinyl palmitate does not replace the daily use of broad-spectrum sun protection, it does offer additional protection against the harmful rays of the sun.
Retinyly palmitate provides antioxidant protection and minimises the oxidising impact of free radicals, and as an ester of vitamin A, it’s well tolerated by most skin types, making it ideal for maintaining vitamin A within the skin.
When is the best time of day?
I know you’ve been told you shouldn’t apply vitamin A during the daytime. And while that’s partly true, applying a low concentration of vitamin A daily offers the nutrition your skin needs to protect itself during daily environmental exposure.
But of course, no point in going to all this trouble if you’re not wearing broadspectrum sunscreen during the day; think of retinyl palmitate and sunscreen as a double act protecting your skin—rain, hail or shine.
How to avoid a vitamin A deficiency within your skin?
It’s worth noting after sun exposure; it can take many days for the body to restore vitamin A in the skin, making a daily topical application necessary to keep the skin in a healthy and normalised state of being.
- Apply a topical vitamin A, such as retinyl palmitate.
- For the overall health of your skin and prevent many of the skin conditions we’ve talked about today.
- If you’re applying retinyl palmitate every day, both morning and night, rest assured your skin always has what it needs to protect itself.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen—every day.
- While vitamin A is destroyed by daily exposure, a broadspectrum sunscreen will limit damage to the DNA of your cells.
- Vitamin A is stored in the liver as retinyl palmitate and, when needed, is released into the bloodstream.
- Choose a balanced diet with foods rich in Vitamin A
- Animal protein and dairy products are good sources of retinyl palmitate.
Playing and winning the long game.
Retinyl palmitate has fewer side effects than other forms of vitamin A, such as retinoic acid or retinol. When used every day, retinyl palmitate gives your skin long-term protection and a fighting chance to win the war on skin damage caused by the sun.
And, as retinyl palmitate is less irritating than its stronger cousins, there is a greater chance you’ll continue with the application of vitamin A. In contrast, retinoic acid or pure retinol can cause troubling redness and irritation and increase the likelihood of you stopping altogether.
But you’ve heard retinol is your best option?
Retinol is often recommended as an excellent option for skin repair, and while retinol has a more direct conversion into the cell and is great for targeting DNA repair and activating other activities within the skin’s extracellular matrix (collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid), using a daily dose of the ester retinyl palmitate offers daily protection while retinol is great for targeting existing skin conditions.
But here’s the thing. The more sun damage in the skin, the less susceptible the skin is to accepting retinol into the skin cell, so those higher vitamin A concentrations like retinol, while useful, are unable to enter the cell.
They’re shut out instead of being welcomed into the cell’s cytosol (the inner liquid world of the cell), where they’re needed for DNA repair. I know this sounds complicated, which is why a daily dose of a low-grade concentration of vitamin A that’s well tolerated primes the skin when you and your skincare professional decide a retinol serum or cream is necessary.
The Retinoid Pathway.
Persuading your skin cells to accept vitamin A.
Think of it this way. You’ve got the key to your new home, but you’re still sitting on the stoop, unable to get inside because the lock’s broken, and no jiggling of that key is going to get you inside.
Let’s suppose your skin has long-term sun damage, which can lead to the inability of the cell to accept retinoic acid or retinol. In that case, an ester of vitamin A is going to be a far better option, as a steady daily supply will slowly activate or wake up retinoid receptors to open the door to the internal world of your skin cells.
So, if you’re wondering why your skin is getting overly irritated with the use of retinol, it’s likely it’s unable to enter the cell. If it’s not getting into the cell and left to sit outside, it’s likely to become an irritant to the skin.
And if you’re in this for the long haul, and you should be, then a retinyl ester is an excellent non-irritating option and a great place to start your vitamin A journey.
The two-fold function of retinyl palmitate.
Firstly, and as we’ve already discussed in this article, retinyl palmitate provides your skin with environmental protection, making it an important aspect of ensuring your skin remains healthy.
Secondly, once stored in the skin, retinyl palmitate is converted to retinoic acid, where it’s picked up by vitamin A receptors and delivered into the cell and onwards to the cell’s nucleus to repair your DNA (See diagram above).
Vitamin A receptors are like the front door of your home; you hear a knock, you answer the door, and if you recognise the person at the door as a friend, you’ll invite them in.
Pretty cool, right?
But let’s go a little deeper into the dermal layer. In this layer, specialised cells known as fibroblasts require vitamin A to synthesise collagen.
And while your fibroblasts make collagen, enzymes are roaming around in your dermis, breaking down collagen.
It’s an enzymatic process called collagenase. Vitamin A disables these enzymes to protect your collagen.
If you’d like to know more about how collagen breaks down in the skin, you might like this article: Vitamin A for the skin: Activate your youth enzymes.
Vitamin A produces new collagen and protects existing collagen. This is a win on all counts. You’ve won the skincare lottery with your daily supply of vitamin A.
It’s important not to wait for problems to occur. Start using an ester of vitamin A every day, no matter your age. In fact, the sooner, the better.
The Esters of Vitamin A for your skin.
Think of them as siblings, great together but equally do well on their own, and all need to be converted to retinoic acid in the retinoid pathway.
Retinyl Palmitate: Found naturally in the epidermis layer of the skin. As a topical ingredient, it is retinol + palmitic acid and is essential for skin health.
Retinyl Propionate: This is another ester of vitamin A. It’s retinol + propionate acid and is a gentler option with good results. Impressive.
Retinyl Acetate: Another ester of vitamin A, a smaller molecule and slightly more active, giving it a bit more bite than its siblings but gives the other two a boost of confidence when they all go out together.
hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR): It’s an ester but not as well known, and not enough substantive research to support it. It has absorption enhancers added and doesn’t irritate the skin, which is great in theory, but I’m a little sceptical, so I’ll keep you posted on this one when more research comes to light.
Vitamin A alcohols, acids and aldehydes.
Retinol: The alcohol form of vitamin A, it’s an excellent choice, but it can be irritating if you go hard early or you don’t have the retinoid receptors to accept it. Keep this one up your sleeve and apply it a couple of times a week for a more intense result, but don’t forgo your daily dose of a retinyl ester.
Tretinoin: It is what it is, the active (carboxylic acid) form of vitamin A, also known as retinoic acid*, and in Australia, it’s only available on prescription. Your skin recognises it, but for some, the benefits are outweighed by the potential for a retinoid reaction.
*Please note: Retinoic acid is not to be used while pregnant as it may cause congenital disabilities.
Retinaldehyde: An aldehyde form of vitamin A and another excellent source, but it’s expensive, and some say not stable enough to do the job.
All forms of vitamin A work on the skin but in varying degrees of intensity, speed, tolerance and comfort.
Retinyl palmitate is already found in the skin, and it’s a good place to start your vitamin A journey. It’s there to protect your skin, primarily from the sun, but also airborne pollutants that mess with your skin, activating free radicals and causing damage wherever they go.
It makes perfect sense to top up daily with a retinyl ester like retinyl palmitate to prevent long-term damage and slow down premature ageing, stop the enzymes that break down collagen and protect your skin barrier from moisture loss and other marauding environmental invaders.
And now you.
Phew, that was a long post. But I wanted to give you an inside look at vitamin A for skin, specifically the ester Retinyl Palmitate. Vitamin A esters are often dismissed when they really shouldn’t be.
You might also like this interview with Dr Des Fernandes, the founder of Environ and a pioneer in using vitamin A in skincare and Beauty Editor Nadine Baggott.
If you’d like more on the subject of vitamin A, you may find these articles helpful:
It’s a big topic, and if this article presents you with more questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email here.
See you next time,