Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion AM Moisturizer SPF 30

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion AM Moisturizer SPF 30. Photo: Courtesy Peter Thomas Roth

When we learned that Peter Thomas Roth had launched a product containing retinol and sunscreen for daytime use called Retinol Fusion AM Moisturizer SPF 30, alarms went off in our heads.

You see, over the summer there was a huge beauty brouhaha about sunscreens containing vitamin A (from which retinol is derived) causing cancer. The concerns were raised by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a watchdog group that used a 2009 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study to draw their conclusion.

In the one-year FDA study, cancerous cells developed 21 percent faster in lab rodents who received an application of cream containing retinyl palmitate (a derivative of vitamin A) than a control group who were treated with a vitamin-free version. Both lab groups were exposed to the equivalent of nine minutes of direct noontime Florida Sun every day for a year. And both groups were not given any sunscreen.

The EWG contended that the results point to vitamin A as a photocarcinogenic, meaning that the vitamin causes cancerous tumors when exposed to sunlight. "The evidence is troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens," stated the EWG in their report.

Technically, the EGW's report was incorrect, since they were drawing conclusions about sunscreen when no sunscreen was used in the study. But still, after all the controversy we decided to dig a bit deeper into the issue of vitamin A derivatives, sunscreen and potential harm to our skin and our overall health.

If we slather on a vitamin A-infused cream during daylight hours, are we inadvertently causing damage?

"You can't extrapolate this study conducted on rats to humans," Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist in New York City, told Stylelist. "In general, the dermatology community outlook on this controversial study with rats is negative, because it was poorly designed and it's hard to interpret animal findings in comparison of the effect of this agent on human skin," said Dr. Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, a Miami dermatologist.

So for now, there is no evidence that retinyl palmitate is a human health hazard.

What Stylelist found was that the dermatologists we spoke to, and Peter Thomas Roth himself, are much more concerned with the cancer risk from UV rays in humans than they are of the unconnected dots between the FDA's study on the effects of retinyl palmitate on rats exposed to sun and cancer risk in humans.

We asked Roth why he decided to launch a retinol product for daytime use. "We hadn't come out with a retinol product in years and launched Retinol Fusion PM last year," he told us. "Then we got reports that Sephora consumers were asking for a retinol product they could use during the day. And you can't make a retinol daytime product without sunscreen because you can't be sure consumers will wear sunscreen on top if it and they need to -- so we found a formula to combine the two ingredients."

We're excited about the convenience of a product with both retinol (a vitamin A derivative that speeds cell turnover and diminishes the signs of aging like fine lines and age spots and also slyly helps prevent acne) and sunscreen (to prevent future sun damage and more of those unwanted brown spots and wrinkles) that we can use in the morning without fear of sun sensitivity.

The oil-free, fragrance-free lotion contains 1.5 percent retinol in a time-released solution, making the delivery gradual over the course of the day, eliminating the potential for irritation. Since we love the potency of retinol, but we hate the redness and peeling that usually comes with it...this could be our new favorite anti-ager, daily sunscreen and stealth acne fighter.

Our morning routine just got a lot more streamlined -- thank you, PTR.