Retinyl Propionate



Retinyl Propionate at a glance

  • A stable, synthetic derivative of vitamin A
  • Has an impressive synergy with niacinamide
  • Offers the same benefits that retinol provides
  • Shown to be less likely to irritate skin than pure retinol

Retinyl Propionate description

Retinyl propionate is a synthetic ester derivative of vitamin A, made from pure retinol and propionic acid, a type of carboxylic acid that’s considered a volatile fatty acid. This combination makes for a more stable retinoid that has a longer half-life, meaning it takes longer for the ingredient to be metabolized, allowing for a longer stretch of efficacy. This form of vitamin A has demonstrated all the same benefits of retinol, including visible reduction of fine lines and deep wrinkles, improvement of uneven skin tone, refining signs of enlarged pores, and fading the look of discolorations from sun exposure. Research has demonstrated that most people tend to tolerate retinyl propionate better than retinol; however, if your skin tolerates retinol it remains one of the gold standard anti-aging ingredients to consider. Part of the reason for this greater tolerance is that the conversion of retinyl propionate to retinoic acid happens differently and more slowly than it does for retinol. This has to do with how retinyl propionate interacts with specific receptor sites within skin’s uppermost layers. Usage levels of retinyl propionate in skin care range from 0.1–0.4%. It is often paired with niacinamide because this B vitamin enhances the stability and bioavailability of retinyl propionate.

Retinyl Propionate references

  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, September 2021, pages 33–40
  • Experimental Dermatology, February 2021, pages 226–236
  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2021, pages 102–106; and December 2017, pages 589–599
  • British Journal of Dermatology, March 2010, pages 647–654
  • Clinical Interventions in Aging, December 2006, pages 327–348
  • The Educational Journal of the British Association of Dermatologists, July 1998, pages 162–167

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.