Our Promise to You Things We Love Wholesale Info FAQ

Be Wild,
Be Beautiful.

Sign up for our Newsletter and
get FREE tips on how to look
and feel amazing here...

Ingredient Watch List: Tocopheryl Acetate, the Potentially Irritating Form of Vitamin E

  • Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute read more...

    for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

If you have read up on your vitamin E, you may recognize the word “tocopheryl” in this ingredient. Wouldn’t that be something good for you?

Take anything and mix it with something else, and you can come up with something potentially harmful. That can be the case with tocopheryl acetate. The tocopheryl part is vitamin E, but the acetate comes about when the vitamin E is mixed with acetic acid.

The resulting ingredient can actually irritate your skin more than help.

It contains vitamin E, but it’s been messed with in the lab.

What is Tocopheryl Acetate?

What's Your Skin Score?

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 attacks the skin. A simple carboxylic acid, it’s used in the production of chemicals for photographic film, wood glue, and synthetic fibers and fabrics. Why would manufacturers mix perfectly good vitamin E with this irritating ingredient.

Two words: cheaper, and longer lasting. Adding the acid to vitamin E makes it last longer on the shelves. That makes it easier for manufacturers to process, ship, store, and sell their products.

What are the Concerns?

The concerns with this ingredient are first, that it can be potentially irritating to skin, causing redness, rashes, and potential allergic reactions. According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) of the ingredient, tocopheryl acetate helped protect against oxidative damage, but produced skin sensitizing or skin irritating effects in one animal study. A 1991 study detailed four cases of contact dermatitis caused by cosmetic creams that contained tocopheryl acetate.

The CIR, though it concluded that tocopheryl was safe for cosmetics, also noted that studies with the ingredient demonstrated some “enhancement of photocarcinogenesis,” which means it may actually encourage the carcinogenic effects of UV rays.

High doses of this ingredient have also been found in animal studies to cause tumor formation. 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.

Another issue comes from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which notes concerns regarding contamination with hydroquinone, a whitening compound. During the manufacturing process, tocopheryl acetate may be contaminated with hydroquinone, which can also cause dermatitis, increase sensitivity to UV rays, and may have potentially carcinogenic properties.

Why Take the Risk?

Of all the potentially harmful ingredients, this is probably one of the milder ones. It is vitamin E, which can have some benefits. The thing is, why not just stick with natural vitamin E? Why take the risks with tocopheryl acetate when you don’t have to?

Have you had a reaction to tocopheryl acetate? Please share.

* * *

Photo courtesy Administrador Galeria Uninter via

Cosmetic Ingredient Review, “Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopheryl Linoleate, Tocopheryl Linoleate/Oleate, Tocopheryl Nicotinate, Tocopheryl Succinate, Dioleyl Tocopheryl Methylsilanol, Potassium Ascorbyl Tocopheryl Phosphate, and Tocophersolan,” International Journal of Toxicology, November 2002, Vol. 21, No. 3, suppl 51-116,

You Might Also Like:

Your Comment
Discussion Dos & Dont's
  • Share your thoughts.
  • Be nice.
  • Post anonymously.
  • Be nasty and mean.

COMMENTS ( 94 and counting )
  1. Tony says:

    Within minutes of applying to. My face the burning was obvious. I knew something acidic was on my skin.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I have known that I was allergic to vitamin E/tocopherol since I was 17 and used deodorant that boasted that vitamin E was its active ingredient. My skin became red, swollen, erupted with boils and my skin broke open in bloody sores. In recent years, vitamin E (tocopherol) has become the darling of the manufacturers of cosmetic, sunscreen and paper products. It is in everything and it has become almost impossible to identify body contact products that don’t contain a bit of vitamin E/tocopherol. I know that I am not the only one, but it seems that we are a customer set that has been ignored by manufacturers and the government. Each subsequent time my skin comes in contact with vitamin E/tocopherol my reaction becomes more severe. I recently discovered that there are some manufacturers that outsource their paper fillers and do not know what is contained in the ingredients they are using. Thus, they only list what they add to the product and have taken no interest in what their suppliers have already included. Another gripe I have is that the ingredient list on the back of most products is getting so small that I need a magnifying glass to read it. To those that share my malady; my sympathies.

  3. Marlane Ndwland says:

    I have tried many moisturisers and makeup and body lotions and oils which always left my skin red and burning – I noticed that they contained Vit E and it was only when I read that jojoba oil contained Vit E and what it did that I realised it was actually burning my sensitive skin – now I am having great difficulty in finding an oil for my dry flaky skin – especially face – any suggestions – even meu oil has vit added for preservative. Coconut oil has Vit E – shea butter has Vit
    E – I am sure it does many p[eopel well who are not sensitive to it – Thanks for any advice

  4. Catherine says:

    I put some pure vitamin e oil on a scar I has on ny cheeks. Few days later, I developped a severe, very itching rash around my mouth. I never had any allergy before. I went to the doctor who said it was a perioral dermatitis. I resorbed slowly. Months later, I tried the vitamin e again : within hours the rash reappered! It did everytime I applied the vitamin e anywhere on my body.

  5. Janice says:

    I have searched and successfully found, and use cosmetics and cleansers without TA. Higher end and low end products both have it in their ingredients. I am happy to share all that I am using if anyone is interested, just reply. I’ll post a list. Both high end and lower priced items are part of my regimen.

    • LJ says:

      Yes, Please Janice! Share your list of products. It is almost impossible to find any body products at all without vit E Tocopherol or Tocopheryl Acetate.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I have never had an allergy to anything in all of my 47 years. 6 months ago, I started to have reactions to something. My neck would get red and itchy.My lips would get chapped, swollen and slightly scabby with a clear exudate. My eyes started to swell up and get red. My scalp itched all the time. I went to a dermatologist for chemical skin testing. I tested positive for tocopherol acetate. I understand that this may occur with build up. I read labels of all of my skin care products and was shocked to see it in nearly everything. I have been searching all over for tocopheral free products. One think I have noticed is that even if the ingredients say “tocopheroal”, instead of “tocopheraol acetate”, I still cannot trust it. I question whether label laws require differentiation.

  7. Claire webster says:

    I a waiting for patch testing as 18months ago I developed cracked swollen sore lips. I have never had a problem before then and have always wore lipstick but if I wear it now my lips burn crack and peel. Having read about tocopherol acetate, I am now trying to find a product without it. It may sound vain and some would say don’t wear it but it’s the one thing that I loved to wear. And why only 18 months ago. I’ve never had a problem before then and never even had chapped lips. Is there a cosmetic company that don’t use this so I can try eliminate what I’m allergic to myself as I have heard that in many cases patch testing is inconclusive? Thanks

  8. Veronica says:

    After using J.R. WATKINS shea butter hand cream, I noticed my hand getting irritated. At first, I thought it was because I had dry skin so I used the product more but strangely enough my hands got more rashes and it got to the point where I had to wake up to scratch my hands. I checked the ingredients and found that the product contained tocopheryl acetate. I used to have the same issue on my face when I used sunscreen with tocopheryl acetate. That time, I didnt know what caused contact dermatitis (as my skin doctor had examined) but knowing that both the sunscreen and the handcream had tocopheryl acetate, and after reading this article, I am now more sure that this ingredient is the big cause.

  9. Beverly says:

    I am halfway through a 3-month program of using the Environ cleansing mitt followed by AVST1 Vitamin E cream – and I find my skin feels (but doesn’t look) irritated. Not sure if the problem is letting water near my skin, the exfoliating effect of the mitt, or the tocopheryl acetate I now find is in AVST – but I think I am going to ditch this program!

  10. Jaimee says:

    i just bought me and my husband some vitamin e oil and we were using it on our faces for a few days now and our faces are covered in an itchy rash! My husbands is painful but mine is not. My face is completely broke out and I will never use vitamin e again! I’m so frustrated because I’m a finatic when it comes to skin care. Does anyone know how long this annoying rash will continue on my face? Please help!

  11. JA says:

    I also am sensitive to this ingredient that is in everything! Lotions, sunscreen, foundation, shampoos, hair spray, eye shadow, masquara…..If anyone knows of products that do not have this please let me know, My list of products to use is dwindling!

  12. Hannah says:

    I had a very severe reaction about a year ago when I got my belly button pierced. I had read that it was good to put vitamin E oil on the piercing to help it heal. So I did, and a few weeks later I developed a horrible rash all over my stomach. It was so itchy and painful. My doctor prescribed an ointment to put on my rash and it went away within days. Recently, I put vitamin E oil on my thighs to help get rid of stretch marks, and I developed the same rash. After reading this article, I know now that I’m not able to use the vitamin E oil because the only ingredient is Tocopheryl acetate.

  13. Wendy says:

    I have developed a huge allergy to tocopheryl acetate. If I could only share pictures & horror. Over the past 2-3 weeks, my face has swollen, left eye swollen shut-I looked deformed. I was trying to heal my face from using essential oils, which I’m also allergic to. I tried using a vitamin e oil, which contains, of course, tocopheryl acetate. My husband actually figured it out. Once I stopped using everything that contained that ingredient, my face healed in no time. That stuff is in soo many things 🙁

  14. Janice says:

    Okay, but what about the vitamin pills that you digest? Does it contain acetate in it as well? would that kill me?

  15. JJ says:

    I used vitamin E gel capsuels the”good” kind around my eyes ! And i regret sooooo much doing it ! Before i did this I read alot about how Vitamin E oil would help soften wrinkles around my eyes and that the best time to use it was at night and it would work miracles! Yea right!!!! The first night i used vitaminE oil around my eyes i didnt feel anything But the next day in the morning that i woke up! Ohh My!!! I had really ugley swollen ,puffy eyes even got some red like hives around my eyes ! I got so scared! Couldn’t belive how bad my eyes got to the reaction of vitamin E oil !! I know not every one has the same reactions to Vitamin E ! But i just wanted to let some of you know the reaction i got from Vitamin E oil ! I guess iam allergic to tocopheryl 🙁

  16. BaliRob says:

    Was suffering a local infection on lower lip from biting it accidentally after tooth extraction. Had three small white heads (spots) which were pressed to release pressure resulting in small quantities of pus and blood – these were very small spots not abscesses. My partner then coated the lower lip with lip balm made in Indonesia – the label showing tocopheryl acetate. A few minutes later retired to bed. Awoke to find the whole of the lower lip to have been inflated like a small inner tube and my body and scrotum area itching like crazy. Obviously the acetate was more easily absorbed through the expressed spts. Have never used a balm in my life before.

  17. Sylvia N says:

    One of my cousins is an RN at a large hospital in Columbus Ohio and she shared that the hospital had recently removed all hand sanitizers containing this product from their facilities because of the UV dander and carcinogenic dangers.

  18. Shannon says:

    I had a horrible reaction to tocopheryl acetate around my eyes. I thought I would begin an antiaging regime at 25 by applying rosehip oil containing tocopheryl acetate around my eyes. The next day the skin surrounding them was red and flaky. Over the course of the next 6 weeks I experienced extreme dryness, flaking, and redness around my eyes. I decided to put some vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate…as you can see at this point I hadn’t clued in yet) around my eyes and within an hour was in the emergency room as one eye had swollen shut over the course of 10 minutes, while the other barely remained open. The skin around my eyes then became infected, the swelling remained for a week, and my skin was pussing and bleeding. Healing involved anibiotics, probiotics, b vitamins, and apple cider vinegar….followed by candida cleansing at a later date.
    I looked like a horror movie character. There were massive scabs around my eyes for 10 days while they healed. I didn’t know how my face would look once the scabs were gone, or if they would scar. Luckily, the skin healed well and you would never know I experienced that. Thank you for educating others on this scary ingredient……

  19. artur says:

    This report that you mention says that tocohperol is far more irritant than tocopheryl acetate…
    “dl-α-Tocopherol was classified as having moderate sensitization potential in a local lymph node assay (LLNA).63 Twentyfive
    µl tocopherol in 3:1 ethanol:diethyl phthalate was applied to the dorsum of the ears of CBA female mice for 3 days. T”

  20. Cheryl says:

    I have been allergic to tocopherol since it was first introduced in cosmetics, creams and deodorant back in 1973. At the time it was not as frequently used as it is today. Now it is almost impossible to find a cosmetic that does not include this horrid additive. When my skin comes in contact with tocopherol I break out in blisters, my skin becomes very red and swelling ensues. However, I have noticed over the last few incidents that my reactions have become progressively worse with just the slightest exposure. I find it particularly maddening that products that I once used without any problems are not adding this horrific concoction to their formulations. I can usually tell within a minute if a product contains this ingredient. My skin becomes warm, red and very painful. Even if I wash it off within minutes it will take days for me to recover from the exposure. I am afraid that eventually I will develop an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily, I already carry an Epipen in case I get stung by a bee. I wish there was some way of getting cosmetic companies and the congress will enact legislation that will prevent usage or include a specific warning.

  21. Nina says:

    I bought this Vitamin E Cream that my boyfriends mother uses and recommended to me. After just the first day of using it I noticed my face felt more rough than smooth like the product should have been doing and I’ve always had a smooth face. Turns out there’s littlw skin irritation all over my face where I have applied the product. I have read the ingredients and found no issue really until i did my research and found this article. It in fact has the added acetate in the vitamin E ingredient. I’m never going to touch this cream again and next time I look for a Vitamin E cream I will look for the right kind!

  22. Anna says:

    I used physician’s formula mineral wear, transulent light. It says “minimalist formula, for extra sensitive skin”. Well, after wearing it once for four hours, and then washing it off, my face felt itchy about two hours after wearing it.

    The next day my skin was less dry, but red and tingly feeling. Not burning but sort of tingly. It was though surprisingly smooth and soft to the touch (?).

    I saw this product contains tocopheryl acetate. I think the tocopheryl part helped my skin but the acetate made it prickly feeling. After two days the tingly feeling is almost completely gone. I threw the product away.

    I think i had an allergic reaction to it.

  23. Allergic! says:

    This vitamin e oil with the acid caused terrible hives all over the face! It takes days for it to calm down. The acetate is an allergen to my skin. Yuck!

  24. Tania says:

    I got red rashes when in use evoin vitamin e capsules and lemon now I got red rashes tell me how to cure it in one day

  25. Laura says:

    I have been allergic to Tocopherol/Tocopheryl Acetate since I was 16. I have found it to be quite easy to avoid cosmetic products that contain it, but you just have to read the incl lists carefully.

    What really bugs me is that they add these substances to a lot of “organic” cosmetic products, and to almost all sunscreens. Thus it makes it very hard for me to find a sunscreen that doesn’t cause allergies. Luckily Lush has one 🙂 It’s the only one I’ve found so far!

  26. Sierra says:

    I actually wish I could share a before and after picture of my skin. I am currently 16 weeks pregnant and developed what they referred to as pregnancy induced eczema. My skin was thick, peeling, and horribly itchy. I tried all the usual coconut oil mixtures I could think of, but they only further irritated it. I tried different lotions and creams with all natural ingredients- none helped. I finally started putting vitamin E oil- in the form of tocopheryl acetate- on it and it immediately stopped itching and has almost completely cleared. I’m not saying I’m a proponent of it and I certainly have no further use for it after this is gone as coconut oil does me just fine, but in this case I was thankful for it so that I could avoid putting steroids on my skin.

  27. G. says:

    I have had redness and soreness and peeling at the ends of my fingers for several years. Have been testing various products. Just noticed that babywipes (Kirkland) which I’ve been using for several years, contain tocopheryl acetate.

  28. Linda says:

    I have to avoid soy. I think soy is likely “Tocopheryl Acetate” – Vitamin E.
    It is a cheap product, and sounds good.