The dirty truth about Retinol & Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A)

Quick facts:

1.Marketed as a “high end,” “medical-grade” skincare agent, Retinol is on the Beautycounter never list and banned for topical use in several other countries.

2. As an oral supplement (for some high risk populations), Vitamin A has been shown to reduce skin cancer. However, topical use has been shown to predispose and increase cancer risk in combination with excessive sunlight exposure—i.e. NINE. MINUTES. A. DAY. (Yes, you read that correctly).

3. What’s worse? In America, we like to add it to preventative skincare, prescription acne medications, & sunscreen! In reality, it only puts a band aid on real inflammatory problems. Ugh. 

Check out the EWG’s data for photocarcinogenicty (skin tumor growth) in mice when exposed to both UV light and Retinol cream for a year.

Spoiler, it’s no bueno for the mice…

Check out the rest of The Never List to learn about ingredients to avoid. 

On a lighter note, I’m always available for safer, cleaner individualized skincare consults. I’ve done the research and medical practice, let me help guide you. You can have clinical-grade skincare without the risk to you, your family, or the environment. 

What should your skincare resolution actually look like? Depends on your skin type and your own concerns, but here’s what I recommend to start:

1. Daily cleanse with a gentle, basic cleanser ($$-$$$: Beautycounter Charcoal Bar, Cleansing Balm , or Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil. $: Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Foam )

2. Daily Sunscreen ($$ Beautycounter  & Supergoop Mineral lotions are great daily options)

3. Daily Moisturize–especially in winter months ($$: Beautycounter Sleep Recovery Cream, $: Andalou Naturals Daily Defense CoQ10 , Every Man Jack Daily Sun Protection Lotion

+/- Add a serum or anti-aging treatment if you wish (Best to start in your mid-20s). I recommend ($$-$$$: Beautycounter Countertime Hydrating Mineral Essence and/or Tripeptide Radiance Serum).

+/- Concerned about Acne? Counter+ Charcoal Mask,  Tula “Clear It Up” Gel and Averr Aglow Clear Skin Elixir have salycilic acid treatments that are worth their moderate price ranges. 

As always, book a skincare consult with me for a recommended personalized clean skincare regimen!


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Author Kim Suvak Warden Kim Suvak Warden, NP, is the founder and sole provider at KSW Medical Aesthetics in Medford, Massachusetts. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner with a background in health and wellness, urgent and primary care. She has spent the last decade researching and documenting critical links to rising disease rates and our exposure to unregulated chemical ingredients–many of which, reside in our daily personal care products. Her mission is to educate and empower consumers to make better beauty choices, while supporting the national movement for ingredient oversight and legislation. Clinical-grade skincare does not have to come at a cost to your health or your wallet.

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