Retinol Treatment Before Pregnancy?

I am using three-retinol treatment and want to became pregnant soon. I have purchased a retinol product with high concentration of it (retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate). Are there any precautions, considering getting pregnant, or to be precise, how long do I have to wait for pregnancy after retinol treatment?

Doctor Answers 1

Use Until Pregnancy

First, I think you might be surprised to see how many skin care products contain Retinyl Palmitate as an ingredient. It is very popular, since, unlike Retinoic acid, it does not need a prescription. Basically, in simple chemistry terms, there is a transformation from Retinol ( the alcohol form of Vitamin A) to Retinyl Palmitate ( an aldehyde derivative) to Retinoic acid ( tretinoin..Retin A) gaining  in strength. Retinyl, while not as effective, is milder than Retin A and is a good alternative for those who find Retin A irritating.

Now where people develop concern about Retinyl Palmitate and pregnancy is through extrapolation. Accutane, 13 cis- Retinoic acid, is a known teratogen ( causes birth defects). It is extrapolated that  related compounds may cause similar birth defects. The obvious logical misstep, is that Accutane is given orally, rather than applied topically.  Further, topicals containing these derivatives are customarily only applied to the face, not the whole body. True, the closer the compound is structurally to Accuante, the more concerned we should be: for instance Tazorac, whether rightfully or not, carries a Category X during pregnancy ( the other Retinoids are in Category C).

The FDA recommends that pregnant women keep their Vitamin A intake below 5000 I. U. a day. Applying Retinyl Palmitate increases the amount of Vitamin A, minutely. The absorption of this product into the blood stream is minimal. You would elevate your Vitamin A levels far more by consuming three carrots! In addition, we have retinoids in our system naturally.

There has not been a single study I am aware of, that shows that using Retinyl Palmitate during pregnancy causes birth defects. The reason, physicians warn patients not to use these products during pregnancy, is that it has not been PROVEN that they are entirely safe to use while pregnant either. It is very unlikely that such studies will ever be done. Nobody, ethically or legally, will perform such tests on pregnant women. 


Virginia Beach Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.