|What is it?||Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and beneficial skincare ingredient, helping protect the skin from environmental damage. It’s a naturally occurring vitamin that can be found in many carrier oils, like argan oil and cherry kernel oil, but when we talk about adding vitamin E to our formulations, it is a refined and concentrated ingredient.
The term “vitamin E” refers to 8 different chemical compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta). Different vitamin E products can contain different blends or isolations of these different vitamin E chemicals. Those different blends can mean the product is better suited to certain uses than others, and can also impact the price. I recommend this very thorough article from Skin Chakra to learn more. The Wikipedia article on tocopherol is also very helpful.
It is important to know that vitamin E is not a preservative. While it can help extend the shelf life of our products by delaying the onset of rancidity, it does nothing to prevent microbial growth.
I use Vitamin E MT-50 Full Spectrum in my formulations. This product is composed of 50% tocopherols (d-alpha, d-beta, d-gamma, and d-delta) in a base of GMO-free soybean oil. You could use Vitamin E USP instead, but it is typically more expensive. I don’t recommend using vitamin E capsules or oils that are designed for direct application to the skin as these are not cosmetic ingredients, but cosmetic products.
|Appearance||Viscous amber liquid|
|Usage rate||I typically use vitamin E at 0.5% of the oil phase to delay oxidization. New Directions Aromatics recommends 2–30% for skincare benefits.|
|Approximate Melting Point||The 50% vitamin E I have is a thick liquid at room temperature; the more concentrated the product is, the thicker it will be.|
|Solubility||Vitamin E is oil soluble.|
|Why do we use it in formulations?||When you see vitamin E used at low concentrations (≤0.5%), it is there as an antioxidant, acting to delay the onset of rancidity. At concentrations of 2% and more, it will be contributing skin benefits as well as antioxidant benefits to the formula.|
|Do you need it?||Yes.|
|Refined or unrefined?||Vitamin E only exists as a refined product.|
|Strengths||Vitamin E is an excellent, readily available antioxidant that also has skincare benefits.|
|Weaknesses||It can be a bit pricy, but a little goes a long way!|
|Alternatives & Substitutions||Look for other oil-soluble antioxidants; rosemary seed extract is a common one, though it is more expensive.
Vitamin E acetate is not a great alternative for tocopherol if you are including vitamin E in a formulation as an antioxidant (source). Vitamin E acetate can sub in for skin benefits, but not as an antioxidant.
|How to Work with It||Include tocopherol in the cool-down phase of your formulations.|
|Storage & Shelf Life||Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, vitamin E should last 12 months. I don’t recommend purchasing vitamin E in bulk; at 0.5% you likely won’t use much over the course of 12 months!|
|Tips, Tricks, and Quirks||Learn more about vitamin E with this great blog post from Realize Beauty! This awesome post includes a de-bunking of the myth that excess vitamin E becomes a “pro-oxidant”.|
|Recommended starter amount||30g (1.06oz)|
|Where to Buy it||Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon. I don’t recommend using dietary capsules, though if you really want to please research exactly what is in the capsules you want to use so you understand what you’ve got.|
Some Formulations that Use Vitamin E
- Clear Lip Gloss Base (without Versagel!)
- Almond Oat Creamy Conditioning Face Wash
- Summer Glow Body Oil
- Sweet Magnolia Natural Cleansing Oil
- Almond Oat Powder to Foam Facial Cleanser
- Berry Glow Facial Serum
- Blackberry Lip Gloss
- Bi-Phase Hyaluronic Acid Hair Serum
- Macadamia Vanilla Emulsified Body Butter
- Argan Plum Body Oil
- Almond Oat Balm to Milk Cleanser
- Dry Argan Oil Hair Mist
- Rich Plum Face Wash
- Summer Stone Fruit Creamy Face Mask
- Rose & Tea Ultra-Light Conditioning Hair Balm
- Strawberry Kiwi Cleansing Conditioner
- Summer Stone Fruit Lip Balm
- Happy Hemp Hand Cream
- Strawberry Kiwi Conditioning Hair Treatment
- Sea Glass Salt Scrub