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What is ribonucleic acid (RNA)?

Yingdee Chew, MPharm

28 Dec 2017

RNA, or to give it its full name, ribonucleic acid, is present in all living cells. Its principle job is to act as a messenger, carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins, although in some viruses RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information [1]. Without RNA, our bodies would not be able to manufacture proteins.

The RNA compound occurs naturally in our bodies, but it can also be synthesised commercially – derived from animals as it is present in all living cells.

Which skincare products contain RNA?

RNA is used orally in nutrition formulas that reduce the amount of time needed to heal after surgery, to boost the immune system’s response and to improve outcomes for burn patients and patients in intensive care.

As a shot, RNA is used to treat skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, hives and shingles. However, there has been insufficient evidence to confirm its effectiveness for these uses [2].

RNA is also added to anti-aging preparations in order to help skin radically fight the signs of ageing, including sagging skin and brown spots.

With the recent advent of RNA interference (RNAi) technologies, novel small RNA molecules have been found that can provide more potent effects in targeted gene suppression, such as aging-related genes [3].

In skincare and cosmetic products, RNA is used as a surface film-forming agent with moisturising action to promote healthy and hydrated skin or hair.

which is why you’ll often find RNA in hair care products and moisturisers.

What are the health risks of RNA?

The Environmental Working Group classified RNA as having an overall low health concerns. RNA appears to be safe for most people when injected under the skin.2

However, it may be unsafe to take RNA as a supplement during pregnancy. There is also little information available regarding the safety of RNA when breast-feeding.

How can I avoid RNA?

If you are concerned, check your product list for ribonucleic acid, RNA or its derivatives: hydrolysed RNA, RNA hydrolysate, micro RNA, miRNA.


If you’re unsure whether a product contains ribonucleic acid, just download the SkinNinja app. From there, you can easily scan the product’s barcode. The app will instantly generate a report on the product’s ingredients, if any health risks are associated with them, and suggest alternative products free of these health risks.

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