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Tocopherol in skin care: What are the potential benefits?

The benefits of tocopherol for your skin | Curology

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
woman applying serum on her face
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Tocopherol, also known as vitamin E, might just be the secret ingredient your skin’s been looking for. This naturally occurring compound has a variety of functions in skincare, including acting as a powerful antioxidant. Not only does it have potential benefits for your skin, but it can also provide some TLC for your hair. 

Want to learn more? Here’s the 411 on tocopherol in skin care, including how it works, its potential benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.

What is tocopherol?

Tocopherol, also known as vitamin E, has antioxidant properties that may play a vital role in the battle against conditions like arthritis, cataracts, and more.¹ Often used as a health supplement, this vitamin has been on the skincare scene for more than 50 years.² There are eight forms of this fat-soluble vitamin³ (who knew?), including alpha-tocopherol. What is alpha-tocopherol, you ask? Alpha-tocopherol is the most potent fat-soluble antioxidant known in nature.⁴

Tocopherol can be found in many skincare, hair care, and cosmetic products, from creams and serums to lip glosses and hair conditioners. It’s an ingredient in some of Curology’s products, too, including our lip balm and sunscreen, so it’s easy to incorporate into your skincare routine. 

Potential tocopherol benefits for your skin 

Using tocopherol in skincare may help top up your vitamin E levels, which UV light zaps from the body as you age.⁵ That’s just one of many reasons to consider topical vitamin E for your skin. We’ll let you judge for yourself if vitamin E is the skincare superstar it’s hyped up to be: 

  • It has antioxidant properties: Tocopherol has antioxidant properties, which means it can help protect the body from the free radicals that can cause skin damage and oxidative stress.⁶

  • It may have photoprotective properties: When combined with vitamin C, tocopherol may help protect your skin from the sun.⁷ According to a recent study, vitamins C and E may reduce the skin’s sunburn reaction when combined, which could reduce the risk of UV-induced skin damage later on.⁸

  • It may help treat some skin conditions: According to research, tocopherol may help reduce the symptoms of skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.⁹

  • It may help treat wounds and reduce the appearance of scars: Tocopherol has often been used to treat wounds and burns and reduce the appearance of scars.¹⁰ However, more studies are needed to determine its efficacy.  

  • It may fight the signs of aging: Tocopherol may help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Most over-the-counter anti-aging creams contain 0.5%–1% of vitamin E.¹¹ 

  • It may help hydrate the skin: Research shows that tocopherol may help hydrate the outermost layer of the skin and enhance its water-binding capacity.¹²

Is tocopherol safe and non-comedogenic?

If you have acne-prone skin, you know how important it is to choose skincare products that won’t clog your pores. That’s where vitamin E (tocopherol) can come in handy. Tocopherol is not comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores or contribute to breakouts. It’s generally considered safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin, so you can feel confident adding tocopherol to your skincare routine. 

Potential benefits of tocopherol for hair 

Tocopherol doesn’t just have potential benefits for the skin—it could also be great for your hair. Here are a few ways tocopherol may be able to give your locks some love:

  • Hydration: Tocopherol may help hydrate your scalp, so you can potentially say goodbye to dryness and flakes. It also may help hydrate brittle hair. 

  • Repair: Heat styling with tools like flat and curling irons can take a toll on hair, but tocopherol may help repair the hair and protect your strands from damage. 

  • Growth: If you’re trying to thicken your hair, tocopherol may be able to help. Research shows that supplementation with tocotrienol, a chemical in the vitamin E family, may promote hair growth.¹³ 

Potential side effects of tocopherol 

Tocopherol is typically considered suitable for all skin types, which means adverse reactions are unlikely. Still, some people may experience an allergic reaction when they apply it to their skin. If you’re using a new skin or hair care product for the first time and have any concerns about a potential reaction, our dermatology providers suggest doing a patch test first. To conduct a patch test, apply the tocopherol-containing skincare product to a small patch of skin (such as the inner crease of your elbow) twice daily for seven days to see if you have a reaction. 

Vitamins you may want to try for healthy skin 

Tocopherol isn’t the only vitamin known for having some tremendous potential benefits for the skin. Vitamins A, B3, and C are powerhouse skincare ingredients that may protect the skin, reduce the appearance of dark spots, boost collagen production, and more. Here’s a bit more about that: 

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is another hot skincare ingredient on the scene today. Research shows that it may help enhance the skin’s collagen production.¹⁴

  • Vitamin A: Did you know that retinoids like retinol and tretinoin are vitamin A derivatives? These ingredients may help reduce the breakdown of collagen, which could in turn help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.¹⁵

  • Vitamin D: Research shows that the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D3, may have anti-aging and photoprotective properties.¹⁶

  • Vitamin B3: Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 popping up in many different skincare products these days. It may help enhance the skin’s elasticity and improve the appearance of wrinkles.¹⁷

Personalized skincare by Curology

Curology was founded by a board-certified dermatologist to offer accessible dermatology services. We provide professional skincare solutions for skin concerns like acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and the signs of aging. 

Our licensed dermatology providers will help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine. They’ll work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options. You can rely on us to guide you through your skincare journey and deliver the ingredients and products your skin needs.

Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap a few selfies to help us get to know your skin better. If Curology is right for you, one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers will create a personalized prescription formula that targets your specific skin goals. They’re available to answer any questions you may have and can modify your formula if necessary as your skin’s needs naturally shift over time. 

FAQs

What is tocopherol?

Tocopherol, also known as vitamin E, has antioxidant properties that may play a vital role in the battle against conditions like arthritis, cataracts, and more. Often used as a health supplement, this vitamin has been on the skincare scene for more than 50 years. There are eight forms of this fat-soluble vitamin (who knew?), including alpha-tocopherol. What is alpha-tocopherol, you ask? Alpha-tocopherol is the most potent fat-soluble antioxidant known in nature.

Is tocopherol safe and non-comedogenic?

If you have acne-prone skin, you know how important it is to choose skincare products that won’t clog your pores. That’s where vitamin E (tocopherol) can come in handy. Tocopherol is not comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores or contribute to breakouts.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Rizvi S., et al. The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. (2014).

  2. Thiele, J., Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage, S. Vitamin E in human skin: Organ-specific physiology and considerations for its use in dermatology. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. (2007).

  3. Medina, J., Gupta, V. Vitamin E. StatPearls. (2022).

  4. Tucker, J.M., Townsend, D.M. Alpha-tocopherol: roles in prevention and therapy of human disease. Biomed Pharmacother. (2005).

  5. Vitamin E for skin: what does it do? Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.).

  6. Rizvi S., et al. The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. Ibid..

  7. Lin JY, et al. UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2003).

  8. Placzek, M., et al. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-α-tocopherol (vitamin E). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1998).

  9. Keen, M.A., Hassan, I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. (2016).

  10. Keen, M.A., Hassan, I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. Ibid.

  11. Keen, M.A., Hassan, I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. Ibid.

  12. Gehring, W., et al. Influence of vitamin E acetate on stratum corneum hydration. Arzneimittelforschung. (1998).

  13. Beoy, L.A., et al. Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers. Trop Life Sci Res. (2010).

  14. Fitzpatrick, R., et al., Double-Blind, Half-Face Study Comparing Topical Vitamin C and Vehicle for Rejuvenation of Photodamage. Dermatologic Surgery. (2008).

  15. Schagen SK, et al. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. (2012).

  16. Bocheva G, et al. The Impact of Vitamin D on Skin Aging. Int J Mol Sci. (2021).

  17. Bissett DL, et al. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. (2005).

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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