Retinyl Acetate



Retinyl Acetate at a glance

  • Synthetic derivative of vitamin A, made from retinol and acetic acid
  • Converts to retinoic acid more slowly in skin
  • May offer some of the same benefits as retinol, but more research is needed
  • Seems to work well combined with other retinoids

Retinyl Acetate description

Retinyl acetate is a synthetic vitamin A derivative (chemically known as an ester) made from retinol and acetic acid. It is considered more stable than retinol; however, it also requires more conversion steps within skin to become retinoic acid. As such, retinyl acetate is not considered as effective as other retinoids such as retinyl propionate and retinal (also known as retinaldehyde). When encapsulated in a nanoparticle polymer delivery system, retinyl acetate’s delivery to skin was slower and showed better retainment after 24 hours (as measured on mouse skin). Given its slower conversion and taking a delivery system into account, in theory retinyl acetate may be less likely to provoke irritation in those sensitive to retinol. One study showed a product that contains the retinoids retinol, retinyl acetate, and retinyl palmitate at a combined concentration of 1.1% showed comparable improvements in signs of sun damage as 0.02% tretinoin, a prescription retinoid. Results were most notable on subjects with deep wrinkles after daily use for a period of 24 weeks. At the time of this writing, no published studies have looked at what results retinyl acetate on its own can provide. Usage levels of retinyl acetate in skin care range from 0.1–1%.

Retinyl Acetate references

  • Advances in Therapy, October 2022, pages 5,351–5,375
  • Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, August 2019, pages 392–397
  • Regulatory Pharmacology and Toxicology, March 2017, pages 102–104
  • International Journal of Pharmaceutics, February 2011, pages 281–288
  • Aesthetic Surgery Journal, August 2009, pages 74–77

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.