Photodecomposition and phototoxicity of natural retinoids

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2005 Apr;2(1):147-55. doi: 10.3390/ijerph2005010147.


Sunlight is a known human carcinogen. Many cosmetics contain retinoid-based compounds, such as retinyl palmitate (RP), either to protect the skin or to stimulate skin responses that will correct skin damaged by sunlight. However, little is known about the photodecomposition of some retinoids and the toxicity of these retinoids and their sunlight-induced photodecomposition products on skin. Thus, studies are required to test whether topical application of retinoids enhances the phototoxicity and photocarcinogenicity of sunlight and UV light. Mechanistic studies are needed to provide insight into the disposition of retinoids in vitro and on the skin, and to test thoroughly whether genotoxic damage by UV-induced radicals may participate in any toxicity of topically applied retinoids in the presence of UV light. This paper reports the update information and our experimental results on photostability, photoreactions, and phototoxicity of the natural retinoids including retinol (ROH), retinal, retinoid acid (RA), retinyl acetate, and RP (Figure 1).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cosmetics
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Photochemistry
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry
  • Retinoids / chemistry
  • Retinoids / radiation effects*
  • Retinoids / toxicity*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Cosmetics
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Retinoids