Lab Notes

Updates on Azelaic Acid, Retinoids and PHA Regulation

What's new with cosmetic regulations for Azelaic acid, Retinoids and PHA in Canada?

Hi friends! Webster here, Head of Science at Regimen Lab. This is my first stab at our Lab Notes series. We want you to be more updated with what's happening with us, especially in the lab, so I'll be posting various ramblings about R&D, updates on products, deep dive into skin processes and sometimes random skincare thoughts from my absolutely restless mind.

Recently we've been getting a lot of questions about retinoids and Azelaic acid. There have been some challenges and changes in this area, especially around regulations, so I wanted to catch you up on some of these exciting updates.

On Retinoids

I consider retinoids to be one of the powerhouse actives of skincare. Although we are planning to develop a retinoid product in the future, development stalled because one ingredient we were interested in (Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR)) was lumped together with all-trans Retinoic acid (Tretinoin). The concern was that since HPR binds retinoic acid receptors directly, its safety should be studied more. But after receiving more evidence of its safety, the regulation was changed so that certain retinoic acid derivatives can be permitted as long as safety studies are done. This is a big win, and we're happy that Health Canada is very responsive to our comments during the consultation. 

On Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid and derivatives are next on the list. We've been eyeing these for a while now. Health Canada initially proposed that the limitation for these would be 0.3% for leave-on products and 10% for rinse-off. We knew that they won't be that effective at that percentage, so there's really no point in adding them. Thankfully after the consultation, the maximum concentration was increased to 14% for all cosmetic products.


Finally, newer acids such as Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA) are touted as milder acids for exfoliation. Currently, they are lumped up with AHAs and would have the same restrictions. Many comments contending PHA's current restrictions were submitted, but unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence to convince Health Canada that PHAs are milder than AHAs. Hence, Health Canada decided to retain PHA's current grouping with AHAs.

Continuous consultations with government agencies and experts are necessary to find balance between ensuring public safety and fostering innovation for better skincare products. I really commend Health Canada on this one as they listen and carefully consider comments submitted by experts on the field. 

What does it mean for you?

Well, it means that we have more "tools" for our R&D -- better retinoids and acids. The R&D for these is ongoing and we're exploring multiple paths to create the best product possible, but it will take more time before we even consider them ready for R&D testing. On more exciting news, something is already brewing in our R&D lab - so make sure you sign up and stay tuned!