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Retinol, the ultimate anti-aging powerhouse ingredient, has been a buzzword in the skincare world for decades. Derived from vitamin A, this ingredient is very well-known for its skin-rejuvenating properties and ability to combat various skin concerns from fine lines and wrinkles to acne.
However, there has been some confusion about the European Union’s concerns on the safety of this ingredient, causing many to ask Is retinol banned in Europe?
We’re here to set the record straight and explain what’s really happening and what it all means for your skincare routine.
Is Retinol Banned in Europe? Let’s Explain the Confusion
No, it’s not banned, but its use is being restricted in certain cases.
The myth that retinol is banned in Europe likely stems from misunderstandings and misinterpretations of regulations.
While it’s true that certain forms of retinoids have faced restrictions in the European Union (EU), this does not mean that retinol itself is entirely prohibited.
Let’s explain the confusion.
According to European Commission Regulation (2023), the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS) – the experts who look into the safety of things we use (like creams and lotions) – stated that using vitamin A is usually safe.
But they realized that people might end up having too much vitamin A in their system from both creams and the food they eat. That was back in 2016.
Later, in 2022, these experts revised scientific opinion on vitamin A3 concluding that vitamin A is safe in cosmetic products up to concentrations of 0,05 % Retinol Equivalent (RE) in body lotion and 0,3 % RE in other leave-on and rinse-off products.
However, they also said that even though the amount of vitamin A you get from creams is usually low, some people who already get a lot of vitamin A from food and supplements could be at risk if they also absorb too much of it from creams.
They also suggested that on top of these limits, there should be a warning on the products for those people who might be at risk from using too much vitamin A. This way, everyone can use these products safely.
Image source: Freepik
Does This Mean Retinol Is Dangerous?
No, not if used correctly.
The purpose of this ban is to protect consumers at risk of exceeding the upper limit of vitamin A intake.
The main concern that several research papers explored is that consuming significant amounts of Vitamin A could lead to reduced bone density (osteoporosis).
This is a particular concern for menopausal women, who happen to be the primary audience for anti-aging products.
So essentially the problem isn’t in retinol products, but the overall consumption of vitamin A – orally, through food and supplements as well as through the skin, with active ingredient serums and creams.
So What’s Going to Happen?
Well, retinol and other retinoids (other vitamin A derivatives like retinol, tretinoin, adapalene, etc.) won’t be actually banned in the EU, but the use of certain retinoids will be restricted.
However, that doesn’t mean all products will be abolished overnight. There’ll be a transition phase from ratification onwards, in which existing products can be sold. Products with higher concentrations have to be off shelves in 36 months (meaning in 2026).
That also doesn’t mean you need to stack up. Retinol products will still be available, only in lesser concentrations. This means we’ll definitely be seeing more retinal and combo products, in which we’ll find a blend of retinal, retinol, and retinoid esters.
But think of it as a great chance to try out new and exciting formulations and products! Here are some products that are definitely here to stay:
Are There Any Alternatives to Retinol?
There are several alternatives to retinol that offer similar skincare benefits without some of the potential side effects. If you want ingredients that aren’t in the retinoids family, here are a few alternatives to consider:
Bakuchiol is a plant-derived ingredient that has been dubbed a natural alternative to retinol – often referred to as plant-retinol.
It’s known for its ability to help with fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone, similar to retinol, but with less chance of irritation.
Bakuchiol targets similar cellular pathways which boost collagen production and increase skin cell turnover. But on top of that, this ingredient also has anti-inflammatory effects that help reduce redness and alleviate any skin irritation.
Although peptides aren’t considered a natural, plant-based option like the others on this list, it does work well as a retinol alternative, especially as a gentler option that’s preferred by those with more sensitive skin types.
This makes them suitable for a lot more people.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that can help improve skin texture and firmness by signaling skin cells to produce more collagen.
Another non-plant alternative is niacinamide, a form of vitamin B-3.
The benefits are quite similar as they both work wonders for increasing collagen production, treating acne, and decreasing hyperpigmentation – but on top of that niacinamide also helps maintain hydration in the skin, whereas retinol can be quite drying.
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip seed oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty oils, which help maintain the epidermal integrity of the skin and help strengthen the skin barrier.
But it also contains a small amount of retinoic acid (tretinoin) which can help with skin regeneration, improving the appearance of scars, and promoting a more even skin tone.
To Sum Up
Retinol isn’t getting banned in Europe – especially not in countries outside of the European Union – but the EU will limit the use of this ingredient in skincare products.
So the myth that retinol is now banned in Europe is not accurate. While certain retinoid derivatives have faced restrictions due to safety concerns, retinol itself is still available in skincare products.
Retinol’s benefits for skin health are well-documented. It can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation irregularities. However, it’s important to use retinol responsibly to avoid potential side effects.