Incorporating retinol into your skincare regimen isn’t the easiest — you need to do your research, read between the lines, and avoid certain combinations of skincare products.
In recent buzzing skincare news, retinol is rumoured to be banned in Europe. This half-truth sent the internet on a wild goose chase of misinformation, but we’re here to break it down for you!
Related read: How to use retinol: what can you mix and not mix
Is this the end of retinol?
Before spreading the wildfire, check your sources! Europe is not banning retinol. Instead, it has implemented a ban on retinol skincare that contains more than 0.3% retinal.
How the retinol restriction came about
Retinol, or vitamin A, has been on the European Union’s radar for years now.
In 2016, a legal draft about the safety levels of vitamin A concentrations was discussed by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), namely the scientific Opinion (SCCS/1576/16) on vitamin A (retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate).
Fast forward to October 2022, this team of safety, regulatory, and scientific professionals produced a revised and final draft of the opinion.
They’ve come to a conclusion that is set to amend the Annexes to the EU Cosmetics Products Regulation (CPR).
What’s written in the regulation?
The SCCS committee has unanimously agreed that vitamin A in cosmetics is safe when it’s at the concentration of 0.05% Retinol Equivalent (RE) in body lotion and 0.3% RE for other leave-on and rinse-off products.
From ratification onwards, in which existing products can be sold, there will be a transition phase. Retinol products with higher concentrations have to be off shelves by 2026.
Additionally, other conclusions have also been made based on risk assessments. Kojic acid, which is commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation, can only be used up to 1% in face and hand products.
Meanwhile, alpha-arbutin, the better half of vitamin C, can only be used in up to 2% in face products and 0.5% in body products. Arbutin alone can be used up to 7% in face creams.
Is it still safe to use retinol?
The ban doesn’t mean that retinol isn’t good or safe to use. The very fact that it took the committee over five years to draft the regulation shows the slightly minute scale of the “issue”.
In a video by skincare YouTuber Mad About Skin, he raves about the great results he’s gotten from retinol products and how it’s completely safe to use besides from pregnant and breastfeeding mummies.
He mentions the cautions and parameters of using retinol, which include introducing retinol gradually to prevent irritation and using a broad spectrum SPF alongside retinoid.
This top anti-ageing active ingredient, that’s preferred by many skin experts and dermatologists, can effectively smooth out lines and wrinkles while boosting cell turnover.
Retinol is not for YOU….IF…. 👀
However, retinol is also one of the most skin-irritating skincare ingredients. Most times, it’s due to misuse, which happens when you’re not matching the right level of concentrations to your skin’s sensitivity.
Other times, it’s due to using it inaccurately or mixing it up with other skincare ingredients that will do more hurt than healing to your skin. Sounds familiar?
The scientific reasonings for the retinol ban are yet to be disclosed. So perhaps restricting retinol products to 0.3% will drastically reduce cases of irritated or damaged skin.
What about retinal?
Mad About Skin has also taken to TikTok to share the news. In his video, he mentioned that the restriction only applies to retinol and not retinal.
For the uninitiated, retinal is less potent in prescription strength but more potent than retinol. A study by celebrity-favourite skincare brand Medik8 found that retinal can work up to 11 times faster than retinol.
Skincare consultant Megan Felton shared with Byrdie that retinal gives results quicker than retinol but can be quite harsh and cause inflammation easier.
That’s because it provides most of the active benefits quickly as compared to traditional retinol, which slowly converts over time instead.
Ultimately, both retinol and retinal can be aggressive towards our skin but retinal is best suited for those with mature skin types who want to see significant improvement in fine lines and wrinkles.
What does this mean for us and our skincare?
We are of the opinion that this may not affect those of us residing in the APAC as much. Paraben is a good case in point.
Five different parabens (isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben, and pentylparaben) are completely banned in Europe since 2014, while other parabens are regulated as they are believed to be endocrine disruptors.
However, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagrees that parabens present a danger to our health when used in cosmetics. To this date, paraben is commonly found in lotions, foundations, and many other beauty products across US and Asia.
Some popular, best-selling products that won’t be available in Europe in the near future are the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream, The Ordinary’s Retinol 0.5% and 1% in Squalane, and Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.
All three brands either originate from or produce their products in the States. So to put it plainly, it’s highly unlikely that this 0.3% retinol restriction will seep over to the APAC.
Will skincare brands struggle due to retinol restrictions?
Although these skincare brands are still allowed to sell remaining retinol products in Europe for the next three years, anything that’s left will have to be discarded.
And brands that have seen great financial jumps in the company’s income due to retinol products will have to face a gradual or steep drop from 2026 onwards.
With Europe out of the box, these skincare brands will have to think of other ways to make up for the financial loss, which could possibly mean increased prices of other products everywhere else.
❕NEW REGULATION ALERT ❕ EU is about to limit the availability out of counter of Retinol abover 0.3% concentration due to its risk of irritability for the skin if miss-used. They want to control better its usage. Brands like @The Ordinary @Drunk Elephant and @Paula’s Choice are concerned. We can expect stock to go low already and removal from shelves in few months. #retinolupdate #retinolusage #retinol #theordinaryretinol #drunkelephant #paulaschoiceretinol #brexit #europebeauty #retinolbanned #retinolbaneurope
And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that people can get into a frenzy and start stocking up on ridiculous amounts of retinol products, which might result in these products being sold out for an unknown period of time.
Whatever that’s drawn in the stars of our skincare future, at least we’ll always have retinol alternatives from peptides and azelaic acid to plant-based bakuchiol.
Feature image credit: @skincarestan/TikTok, @anais.ia/TikTok