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Antioxidant, photoprotection, wound healing

Important Chemical Components:

Vitamin E is actually a family of eight fat-soluble isomers that include four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. The molecular formula of α-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E, is C29H50O2. By contrast, the molecular formula of α-tocotrienol is C29H44O2. The molecular formula for γ-tocopherol, the most frequently consumed form of vitamin E in the U.S. is C28H48O2.1

Origin Classification:

Vitamin E is found naturally in many vegetables, oils, seeds, nuts, and other foods. Most topical formulations contain synthetic laboratory-made α-tocopherol or one of its many esters or ethers.

Personal Care Category:

Antioxidant, moisturizing, antiaging

Recommended for the following Baumann Skin Types:



Obtained in the diet through fresh vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, grains, corn, soy, whole wheat flour, margarine, and in some meat and dairy products, vitamin E, or tocopherol, is the main lipid-soluble antioxidant found in human skin (via sebum), membranes, plasma, and tissues that protects cells from oxidative stress (Table 56-1).2–5 Meeting the definition of a vitamin, it is not synthesized by humans. Vitamin E is frequently used to treat minor burns, surgical scars, and other wounds, although its use for dermatoses has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). The use of vitamin E is thought to mitigate lipid peroxidation and protect against cardiovascular disease.6 Similarly, it protects cutaneous cell membranes from peroxidation. In addition to its antioxidant activity, it is now understood to regulate cell signaling and gene expression.7 The main biologically active form of vitamin E is α-tocopherol.8

TABLE 56-1Pros and Cons of Tocopherol

Tocopherols, unlike tocotrienols, are found in olive, peanut, sunflower, and walnut oils.9 One of the most abundant sources of tocotrienols is palm oil, which is free of trans-fatty acids, accounting for its increasingly widespread popularity, particularly in the United States.9,10 Tocotrienols are also found in edible sources such as rice bran, coconut oil, cocoa butter, soy bean, barley, and wheat germ, as well as inedible ones such as latex (Hevea brailiensis).9–11


Herbert Evans and Katherine Bishop are credited with discovering vitamin E in 1922.12–14 After inducing sterility in rats, ...

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