What is Vitamin E (tocopherol)?

Daniel Judd BSc MBiol
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What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is commonly used in cosmetics as it is an antioxidant that helps prevent and repair skin damaged by the sun’s UV rays, environmental pollutants and cigarette smoke. It is a fat soluble vitamin which means it is stored in the body for a period of time and it is easily absorbed by cells. It is found in various foods including vegetable oils like wheat germ or sunflower oil, sunflower seeds and nuts (such as almonds and peanuts), some green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and some dairy products like eggs. It is important for heathy skin and hair.

Vitamin E is in fact a group of eight very similar molecules, four ‘tocopherols’ and four ‘tocotrienols’ and vitamin E on a product label could refer to either a single one of these or a mixture of several although the most commonly used one is often listed in the ingredients as α-tocopherol.

Sometimes a modified version of vitamin E, called a conjugate, is used in skin care products to increase the length of time vitamin E remains in your skin. In a conjugate, a vitamin E molecule is glued to another molecule that will slowly break away, giving a time delayed release of the vitamin once it’s absorbed into your skin. These conjugates may be listed in the ingredients as something like ‘Tocopheryl acetate’ although the word following tocopheryl may be different.

Vitamin E, Ingredients, Harley Street Emporium

How does it work?

As an antioxidant, Vitamin E works to prevent damage caused by reactive molecules called ‘free radicals’ (often caused by the sun’s UV rays, environmental pollutants or smoking) which target your cells’ DNA, causing breaks and mutations. DNA damage sparks an immune response that ultimately damages the collagen and elastin in your skin. The result is premature skin aging – wrinkles and sagging.

There is evidence however, that skin care products containing vitamin E can boost your skin’s defence to the initial free radical damage, lowering the loss of collagen and the signs of aging that come with it.

 

Safety

Vitamin E is generally regarded as safe but as it is fat soluble, it is stored in your body so it is important, if you are taking supplements, not to take more than the daily recommended dose. The NHS recommends 4mg a day for men and 3mg a day for women

Side effects.

Topically applied vitamin E may irritate the skin.

If you take too much Vitamin E in supplements it can cause nausea, headache, bleeding, and tiredness.

Interactions with other medicines:

As Vitamin E is blood thinner people who take prescription blood thinners (warfarin, heparin) should not take vitamin E supplements without their doctor’s permission.

Excessive amount of vitamin E can be dangerous. If your vitamin E intake is above 1,000 milligrams per day you are at risk of developing Hypervitaminosis E which can cause bruised and blotchy skin as well as increased risk of bleeding, among other symptoms.

 

Some other names it goes by

Acétate d’Alpha Tocophérol, Acétate d’Alpha Tocophéryl, Acétate de D-Alpha-Tocophéryl, Acétate de DL-Alpha-Tocophéryl, Acétate de Tocophérol, Acétate de Tocophéryl, Acétate de Vitamine E, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, Alpha tocotrienol, Alpha tocotriénol, Alpha-tocopherol, Alpha-Tocophérol, Beta tocotrienol, Bêta-tocotriénol, Beta-tocopherol, Bêta-tocophérol, Concentré de Tocotriénol, D-Alpha Tocopherol, D-Alpha Tocophérol, D-Alpha Tocopheryl Succinate, D-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, D-Alpha Tocotrienol, D-Alpha Tocotriénol, D-Alpha-Tocopherol, D-Alpha-Tocophérol, D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acid Succinate, D-Alpha-Tocopheryl Succinate, D-Alpha-Tocopheryl, D-Alpha-Tocophéryl, D-Beta-TocopherolDL-Tocophérol, D-Tocopherol, D-Tocophérol, D-Tocopheryl Acetate, Mixed Tocopherols, Mixed Tocotrienols, Palm Tocotrienols, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin E Succinate, Vitamina E, Vitamine E, Vitamine Liposoluble.

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