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

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

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 repair or heal it.

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

What is Tocopheryl Acetate?

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 thinkā€”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 vitamin E? Why take the risks with tocopheryl acetate when you don’t have to?

All Annmarie Gianni products that have vitamin E have the pure kind. No acids added! I say, get the full benefit of the real stuff that hasn’t been tampered with in the laboratory. Your skin will thank you!

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

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Photo courtesy Administrador Galeria Uninter via Flickr.com.

Source
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, http://ijt.sagepub.com/content/21/3_suppl/51.abstract.

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75 Responses to “Ingredient Watch List: Tocopheryl Acetate, the Potentially Irritating Form of Vitamin E”

  • Sophie says:

    I purchased a Victoria’s secret body wash from the airport last week and when I used it I had lumpy skin spots forming on my body which were soo itchy. I couldn’t put my finger on it as I tried to remember if I came in contact with any unusual plants or ate anything that might give me an allergic reaction. This went on for a week and I thought it was subsiding, but then I had a shower and used this body wash again . And lo and behold the itchiness came back, awful itching at night! I visited the clinic that day and was put on antihistamines and cortisone cream to get rid of it!
    I read the ingredients on the the bottle and sure enough it has this tocopherol acetate in it with some other toxi sounding ingredients in it. I can’t be 100 percent sure that this is the culprit but it sure sounds like it might be. I will not be using this stuff again!

  • Aesha says:

    I had an allergic reaction to Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15 a while ago, but stopped using it. Today, I tried a sunscreen called EltaMD Clear SPF 46. After about 30 minutes my face was itchy with a burning sensation and where I scratched, hives were starting to develop. I compared the ingredients of the Cetaphil and the EltaMD and found only one common ingredient – Tocopheryl Acetate.

  • Barbara J. Cook says:

    I have had reactions for years to tocopherYl . Lotions, shampoos, dog food and the dogs that eat it, kleenex with lotion, fruit juices that contain it… Most any severe allergic reaction I have had I can trace back to it or the possibility. Frustrating now that they only list it as Vitamin E supplements. I can’t eat anything with vitamin E supplements!

    Is it possible I could take or eat tocopherol so that receptors would be taken up with the natural form and the YL form would be quickly neutralized or eliminated (neutralize the acetic acid?) instead of creating an allergic reaction? How come some don’t seem to be sensitive to it hardly if at all?

  • Chanah Lee says:

    I have been using Clairol Light Ash Blonde.every 2 months for years. It contains Tocopheryl and Acetate. Perhaps there was a buildup because my forehead is now covered with little bumps. I wish it could be made leaving out the cause.

  • Ali Oli says:

    I just purchased a product called Denine Define with this ingredient, now I’m skeptical about using it… Any answers?

  • Patricia says:

    I have been having allergies & starting switching products to what I thought was going to be more conducive to my body. Mistake it seems that when that is listed it is not indicated it is synthetic unless it is listed from (sunflower or certified organic). Lesson Learned, after a rash that itched like CRAZY from sides face to end of torso, my culprit was an allergy to ragweed which is a cross allergy to sunflower which is what the vitamin E tocopheryl acetate was from. Individuals are like targets for these companies marketing can be deceitful and misleading. Buyer Beware & do your homework first.

  • DR says:

    i used Purell Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel on my hands (as I had a bacterial eye infection — highly contagious — and wanted to make sure my hands were clean when visiting the Doctor today.) I thought: Oh no, now what: I have itchy bumps over parts of my hands (within an hour of using it — twice — and looked up the ingredients. Sure enough: Tocopheryl Acetate is one of the ingredients. Found this site and the description matches the reaction I am having on my hands
    And I was contemplating colouring my hair — will embrace the strands of gray I now possess =) instead. (after reading one of the above comments.)
    On a cheerful note: I’m glad to learn that my whole body isn’t falling apart and that I have had an allergic reaction instead =)

  • Pat says:

    Hi I bought vitamin e oil in January and did not affect it only after 6 months I developed a terrible allergic reaction. I only realized it came from the Vitamin E when my reaction cleared the first time and when I applied it the second time that is when I woke up with red and swollen face. I will never use this again. it definetly was the tocopherly acetate that they mix with Vitamin E

  • Ashley says:

    Hello! I recently found out that I am allergic to tocopheryl. But I am having THE hardest time finding ANY products without it. Literally all of my makeup, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. have it. ALL of them. And I’ve been researching for the last week trying to find alternatives but because I have other allergies (propylene glycol, lauryl glucoside, parabens, etc.) I’m just not finding anything.

    Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • Carmen says:

      Hello Ashley I wanted to let you know about a growing company that I heard of not too long ago called Healthy Home Company! They sell completely toxic-free products! If you’re at all interested please visit healthyhomecompany.com/565890 When looking over the website keep in mind that if you become a member for just 9.95 a year you get a huge discount on products. If you’re interested in what toxic-free means compared to non-toxic shoot me an email – cwomack1912@gmail.com or just call me on my cell 208-789-3486 Have a great day!

  • Deborah says:

    I’ve been donating my plasma for a few months and have developed a hard knot at the site the needle is inserted. The the phlebotomist said was just scar tissue. She told me to apply vitamin e oil and it would soften and heal right up. I couldn’t find a suitable product at the pharmacy as all listed the first ingredient as soy bean oil, so I figured that I would use some of my vitamin e capsules that I get from my homeopathic nutritionist by popping it and dripping some on my arm. As for the knot, it worked wonders almost immediately, sadly though, I soon developed a horrible itchy rash. At first I thought I was allergic to the latex bandage they were wrapping my arm up in so I continued with the vitamin e oil for a few weeks and asked them to use a different type of bandage. The rash only got worse and seems to be spreading so I assume the rash can only be contributed to applying straight vitamin e oil directly. I’ve since stopped using it (yesterday) and have been applying a cortisone cream. I hope this goes away soon!

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