One of my pet peeves with the big box skincare industry is that “tocopheryl acetate” is widely found on ingredient labels for products that are marketed as containing Vitamin E. Marketing synthetic Vitamin E is not only misleading, but this cheap alternative is concerning for many reasons.
What Does Vitamin E Do For Skin?
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and also one of the most researched. It is available in 8 different forms that are either extracted from nature or synthetically produced. Vitamin E molecules derived from nature are known as d-alpha-tocopherol; synthetically created molecules are known as dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate.
In skincare, natural d-alpha-tocopherol is attributed with antioxidant, anti-aging, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and enhanced SPF properties, including the following benefits:
- enhances the efficacy of active sunscreen ingredients
- reduces the formation of free radicals from exposure to UV rays
- promotes the healing process
- strengthens the skin’s barrier function
- protects the skin barrier’s lipid balance
- reduces transepidermal water loss
Tocopheryl Acetate: What is It?
This ingredient is basically a form of vitamin E created in the laboratory. Manufacturers take natural vitamin E and add acetic acid to it.
Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar. The word “acid” means just what you’d think—it’s corrosive, and aggravates the skin. Why in the world would manufacturers mix perfectly good vitamin E with this irritating ingredient?
Two words: cheaper and long-lasting. Adding the acid to vitamin E makes it last longer on the shelves. That makes it easier for manufacturers to ship and store their products.
What are the Concerns?
- Irritating to skin, it can cause redness, rashes, and potential allergic reactions. In an animal study, it produced skin sensitizing or skin irritating effects.
- High doses of this ingredient have also been found in animal studies to cause tumors. Though that’s not likely to be a concern if you’re using only a little of the ingredient, as in most personal care products, the concern is the potential buildup over time. We simply don’t have the necessary safety studies on this ingredient when used for several times a day over many years.
- Tocopheryl acetate may be contaminated with hydroquinone (a whitening compound), which can also cause dermatitis, increase sensitivity to UV rays, and may have potentially carcinogenic properties.
Why take the risks with tocopheryl acetate when you do not have to? At Hothouse Botanicals, we only use d-alpha-tocopherol, the pure Vitamin E (with no acids added or tampering in the laboratory). You can find pure Vitamin E in our Cocoa/Lime Hemp Lip Balms and our Whipped Sugar Scrubs. Your skin will be happy!