Tocopheryl Acetate: What Does Vitamin E Actually Do For Your Skin? The Benefits of Tocopheryl Acetate and How It Can Help to Improve the Appearance of Your Skin - The Dermatology Review

Tocopheryl Acetate: What Does Vitamin E Actually Do For Your Skin? The Benefits of Tocopheryl Acetate and How It Can Help to Improve the Appearance of Your Skin

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03.30.21 AD DISCLOSURE

What Is Vitamin E?

Tocopheryl acetate is the long, scientific name for vitamin E. Vitamin E used for its powerful antioxidant, protective and natural skin conditioning properties. 

Did you know that the term vitamin E actually refers to a group of eight nutrients that all have similar structures yet slightly different functions? The group consists of four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Out of these eight nutrients, D-alpha-tocopherol is the most abundant and biologically active form in the human body. Vitamin E can be found naturally in avocado, pumpkin and wheat germ oil but is also synthetically derived. Some studies have suggested that unlike other synthetic ingredients, natural sources of vitamin E may be more potent than the synthetic version. However, with this difference in efficacy comes a significant difference in cost. The other thing to consider when deciding to use a synthetic or natural form of vitamin E is that as a naturally-sourced ingredient, natural vitamin E needs to undergo several steps to purify the ingredient and remove pesticides and other plant products. This is one of the reasons it is more expensive to use a naturally sourced vitamin E. 

Tocopheryl acetate is the synthetically produced ester of tocopherol and acetic acid. In chemistry, an ester is a chemical compound derived from an acid, in this case, acetic acid, in which at least one hydroxyl group is replaced by an alkoxy group. Tocopheryl acetate is often used as an alternative to pure tocopherol because the phenolic hydroxyl group is blocked, providing a less acidic product with a longer shelf life.

The lipophilic or oil-based nature of tocopherol makes it a great ingredient for providing the skin with moisture protecting oil that allows for its benefits to be absorbed through the skin. However, in order for the body to absorb and use the tocopherol from tocopheryl acetate, it must remove the acetate group. It is estimated that when tocopheryl acetate is applied to the skin, about 5% is converted to free tocopherol. This is why synthetic vitamin E is often used in slightly higher concentrations in formulations compared to naturally-derived vitamin E. 

Vitamin E

the good:Sodium benzoate is an effective preservative that prevents the growth of molds and bacteria in skincare and cosmetic formulations.

the not so good:Vitamin E products are best used at night as pure vitamin E is too thick to use under makeup. When applied under makeup it can cause slipping or make the make up products move or shine.

Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients but especially with vitamin C and ferulic acid.

Keep an eye on:Always speak to your doctor or specialist if you are going to introduce a vitamin E dietary supplement.

What Are The Benefits of Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is used to help protect the skin’s natural barrier, help retain the skin’s moisture, heal and provide the skin with antioxidant properties.

 

Skin’s natural barrier and hydration

Vitamin E helps to maintain the skin’s natural barrier. The barrier consists of the uppermost layers of the skin and the oils, amino acids, ceramides and fatty acids. The barrier, as its name suggests protects the skin from allergens, bacteria and prevents transepidermal water loss or TEWL. TEWL occurs when water from the skin is lost to the environment, it is particularly common in dry environments or in aging skin. The lipophilic or oil loving nature of vitamin E helps to replenish the skin’s natural oils and aids in maintaining this natural barrier. 

When tocopheryl acetate is delivered to your skin through the oil glands, it hydrates the uppermost layer of skin and improves water-binding capacity. It is also considered an effective ingredient for imparting skin protection and supporting treatments for eczema.  

 

Antioxidant

Vitamin E, whether as tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate, is included in a wide variety of skin care products due to its powerful antioxidant activity. In the 1940s, vitamin E was labeled a ‘chain-breaking’ antioxidant for its role in hindering the chain reaction induced by free radicals. Free radicals occur naturally as a result of a process known as oxidation. Free radicals have been found to cause damage to the cell and have been linked with the aging process. Vitamin E as an antioxidant may help to reduce the negative effects of free radicals on the skin. Researchers have determined that vitamin E is the major lipid soluble or oil-soluble antioxidant in skin.

 

Sun care

According to a 2016 publication in Dermatology News by Dr. Leslie Baumann, MD, ‘significant evidence has been amassed to suggest that topically applied vitamin E confers photoprotective activity against erythema, edema, sunburn cell formation, and other indicators of acute UV-induced damage as well as responses to chronic UVA and UVB exposure, including skin wrinkling and skin cancer.’

Research has suggested that vitamin E may have protective abilities against the harmful effects of UV rays. The mechanism of action is similar to that of vitamin C, acting as an antioxidant to reduce the effects of free radicals produced by exposure to the sun. This is why you will often find vitamin E in sunscreen formulations. It is important to note that vitamin E is not, by itself a sunscreen and shouldn’t be used as such. 

Is Tocopheryl Acetate Vegan?

As tocopheryl acetate is a synthetically produced ingredient derived from vegetable oils or petroleum products it is considered to be a vegan ingredient. 

If you are looking for a vegan product make sure to check that the product is cruelty-free and the other ingredients are free from animal or animal byproduct ingredients. 

What Is The Difference Between Synthetic and Naturally-Occurring Vitamin E?

Vitamin E can be found naturally in avocado, pumpkin, and wheat germ oil but is also synthetically derived. Some studies have suggested that, unlike other synthetic ingredients, natural sources of vitamin E may be more potent than the synthetic version. However, with this difference in efficacy comes a significant difference in cost.

 The other thing to consider when deciding to use a synthetic or natural form of vitamin E is that as a naturally-sourced ingredient, natural vitamin E needs to undergo several steps to purify the ingredient and remove pesticides and other plant products. This is one of the reasons it is more expensive to use a naturally sourced vitamin E. 

The oil-based nature of vitamin E makes it a great ingredient for providing the skin with moisture-protecting oil that allows for its benefits to be absorbed through the skin. However, in order for the body to absorb and use vitamin E from tocopheryl acetate, it must remove the acetate group. It is estimated that when tocopheryl acetate is applied to the skin, about 5% is converted to free tocopherol or vitamin E. This is why synthetic vitamin E is often used in slightly higher concentrations in formulations compared to naturally-derived vitamin E.

Is Vitamin E Safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes tocopherol on its list of nutrients considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).

The safety of tocopheryl acetate has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel, a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that tocopheryl acetate is safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products.

There is some controversy about the production of tocopheryl acetate (as well as synthetic tocopherol) because the process involves the use of trimethylhydroquinone. Many believe that products made through this process will contain traces of hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is in a class of chemicals called aromatic organic compounds. It is one of the most common skin bleaching agents in the US. However, there are claims that hydroquinone may cause cancer.

This claim originated from a study that examined the effects of hydroquinone on mice. In misleading terms, this study reported that after being exposed to hydroquinone the mice developed hepatic and renal tumors. The real results of this study, as explained in an article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, were that hydroquinone was actually protective to the mice by increasing the number of benign liver tumors and reducing the amount of malignant liver tumors. Additionally, according to Dr. David J. Goldberg, a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, ‘Over 100 scientific articles confirm hydroquinone is a safe topical for humans; no independent studies prove the opposite.’

In conclusion, the trace amounts of hydroquinone that may be found in products that contain tocopheryl acetate should not be a safety concern. Overall, tocopheryl acetate is safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.

What About Hydroquinone and Tocopheryl Acetate? 

There is some controversy about the production of tocopheryl acetate (as well as synthetic tocopherol) because the process involves the use of an ingredient called trimethylhydroquinone. 

Many believe that products made through this process will contain traces of hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is in a class of chemicals called aromatic organic compounds. It is one of the most common skin bleaching agents in the US. However, there are claims that hydroquinone may cause cancer.

This claim originated from a study that examined the effects of hydroquinone on mice. In misleading terms, this study reported that after being exposed to hydroquinone the mice developed hepatic and renal tumors.

 The real results of this study, as explained in an article from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, were that hydroquinone was actually protective to the mice by increasing the number of benign liver tumors and reducing the number of malignant liver tumors. Additionally, according to Dr. David J. Goldberg, a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, ‘Over 100 scientific articles confirm hydroquinone is a safe topical for humans; no independent studies prove the opposite.’

In conclusion, the trace amounts of hydroquinone that may be found in products that contain tocopheryl acetate should not be a safety concern. Overall, tocopheryl acetate is safe for use in cosmetics and skincare products.

References:
Keen, M, & Hassan, I, 2016. ‘Vitamin E in dermatology’, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 7(4), 311–315. 
Nachbar, F & Korting, H, 1995. ‘The role of vitamin E in normal and damaged skin’, Journal of Molecular Medicine, 73, 7-17.

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