Retinol ban: is retinol banned in the EU?

Retinol Banned? The Ordinary & Paula’s Choice retinol will be gone soon

In Acne, Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Can you believe it? We haven’t seen an ingredient lockdown like this retinol ban in quite some time.

News flash: retinol’s being banned in the EU above concentrations of 0.3% for face care and hand products and 0.05% for body care.

Retinol can be fantastic for anti-ageing and for reducing acne symptoms (the two big topics we’re dedicated to here).

But if you’ve been with me here at Honesty For Your Skin for a while, you know I’ve never been a fan and there is a major anti-ageing/anti-acne alternative I live by instead (not just for my client’s skin but for my own too).

Here’s what to expect from the EU’s ban on retinol plus the major alternative you should be using instead (if you aren’t already).

Is there a retinol ban? The Ordinary retinol banned.

Is Retinol Banned?

It was summer 2023 when the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), who regulate non-food consumer products (i.e. skincare) in the EU, made skincare addicts on the continent gasp.

Yet this retinol ban’s been lurking since 2016.

(most people aren’t aware!)

In 2016 the SCCS huddled together and surprised the EU with an ‘Opinion on Vitamin A‘ (SCCS/1576/16) that would change the world of retinol serums forever.

Is retinol banned? Is there a retinol ban?

Instigated by Germany: the member state called to the SCCS – ‘Hey SCCS, we’re seeing a ton of new retinol products on the market, with higher and higher concentration and with better and better delivery mechanisms meaning our peeps are absorbing WAY more retinol than before. We’re worried that a small amount of the population could be exceeding the OK limit of vitamin A’.

The SCCS began their investigation.

The Beginning of the Retinol Ban

Germany visited the SCCS with their worries in 2012 kicking off the SCCS revealing research.

Important: the SCCS investigation included retinol, retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate.

It was years of nail-biting until October 2016 when the cosmetics world gasped.

The conclusion: Vitamin A (as retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl acetate,) is safe when used as a cosmetic ingredient;

  1. In hand/face cream, leave-on and rinse-off products up to a concentration of 0.3 %
  2. In body lotions up to the maximum concentration of 0.05 %

Yet we have thousands of retinol serums and creams on our skincare shelves with well over 0.3% retinol.

The Ordinary’s Retinol 0.5% in Squalane and their Retinol 1% in Squalane.

Is retinol banned? Is there a retinol ban? The Ordinary retinol banned.

Is retinol banned? Is there a retinol ban? The Ordinary retinol banned.

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.

Is retinol banned? Is there a retinol ban? Paula's Choice retinol banned.

The INKEY List’s 1% retinol serum (using retinol acetate).

Is retinol banned? Is there a retinol ban? The INKEY List retinol banned.

Then a gigantic wave of relief came: the SCCS was recommending limits of 0.3% retinol in face products – this was not law (…yet).

Psst, get my 5 Best Anti-Ageing Actives Cheatsheet to find alternatives now.

Will Retinol be Banned?

You can see the writing was on the wall eh (kind of like an engagement ;)). In June 2023 the cogs began turning (the wedding planner started) as the EU created a draft amendment to the EU cosmetics regulation (the law for cosmetics).

The retinol ban is to become adopted law by June 2024.

And skincare companies get time to adapt.

Companies like The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice can continue making and selling retinol products above 0.3% for 18 months (until June 2025) and have 36 months to ‘wash out’/remove all retinol products using over 0.3% from your skincare shelves (Dec 2026).

Think of it like the honeymoon. The lawful wedding is achieved and the honeymoon period begins.

The Retinol Ban: Is Retinol Unsafe?

It sounds scary right? But the fact is this new retinol ban regulation is safeguarding an extremely small minority who might be taking vitamin A supplements, eating a ton of vitamin A rich foods like liver and using copious amounts of retinol serums.

Here’s exactly what the SCCS report concludes;

…the contribution from food and food supplements shows that the exposure to vitamin A of the most exposed consumers (5% of the total population) may already exceed the upper limit. Compared to food, the contribution of vitamin A from cosmetics is lower. However, it will add to the overall consumer exposure and this may be of concern for consumers with the highest exposure (5% of the total population) to vitamin A from food and food supplements. SCCS/1639/21

Psst, some context – the tolerable upper limit for vitamin A is set to 3,000 micrograms a day.

Some acne studies like a major one I talk through inside Acne Warrior find no side effects from taking 30,000 micrograms a day.

(although it’s not a supplement I recommend as a first treatment for acne – find out more inside Acne Warrior)

Bottom line: retinol serums are not ‘unsafe’ to use for most people. Even the 5% of the population who might exceed the upper tolerable limit are highly unlikely to experience side effects.

My Holy Grail Retinol Alternative

I imagine this retinol ban’s sending R&D teams around the world into meltdown.

(I’ve been on the inside when bans like this come into force, I vividly remember the paraben ban – the company I was working for made Veet hair removal cream using paraben preservatives – the news on parabens was like a bomb going off in our offices)

Imagine being told you can never eat chocolate again 😉 now you’re getting the aura of our offices 😂

Yet I’m truly not sad about the retinol ban. I’ve never been a fan.

Retinol is a grandad retinoid – only popular because it was the first.

Retinol for many people is highly irritating and irritation itself can cause both inflammageing and acne. The very skincare product you turn to for help could be causing fine lines and breakouts.

It’s why I love retinal also known as retinaldehyde. If retinol were a stormy night, retinal is a sunny, blue sky day – gentler, enjoyable to use and just as effective.

I recommend you make the switch to retinal now, giving you time to find your skin’s perfect pairing. As you join my online anti-ageing video course AgeLock you’ll get instant access to my best retinal serum skincare library plus step-by-step instructions for setting up your best anti-ageing skincare routine yet. Here’s the link you need to age beautifully on your own terms.

Your scientist friend, Cheryl xo

Start anti-ageing skin the sensitive way with AgeLock.