Which types of vitamin E prevent essential oil oxidation?

Robert,

I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what type of vitamin E to use to slow the oxidation of essential oils, as in cream. Is it just tocopherol? Or some other type?

Thank you for your time.
Stephanie P.

PS. I enjoyed your webinar very much!

Hi Stephanie,

There are four principal isomers (chemical subtypes) of tocopherol:

alpha
beta
gamma
delta

There are also sub-types of each one.

You can use ‘mixed’ tocopherols: all four in various proportions. But my preference for essential oils is to use alpha-tocopherol, specifically d-alpha tocopherol. Here is a supplier that sells small quantities, as well as large.
 Because it is very viscous, you may want to mix it 50/50 with a fatty oil or essential oil before adding to your product. You don’t need much – the tocopherol should be added at 0.1% by weight of the total product. Putting more in won’t be more effective.

Although ‘tocopherol’ and ‘vitamin E’ are often used synonymously, vitamin E is actually even broader, because the term encompasses both tocopherols and tocotrienols.

- Robert

10 comments to Which types of vitamin E prevent essential oil oxidation?

  • This is so helpful – we have students ask about the different types of Vit-E all the time!

  • Linda

    Hi,
    I have read (don’t remember where) that tocotrienols is superior and better to use than tocopherol. Is it true? Which is more natural?

    Thanks,
    Linda

  • robert

    Linda – tocotrienols and tocopherols both occur in nature. How natural they are depends on how they are made though! “dl” isomers point to synthetic origin. Tocotrienols are not very antioxidant, but they are great to add to skin products as dermal nutrients (vit. E).

  • Liz

    I don’t see the name of the Vitamin E supplier that you refer to in your post Robert. Can you offer that to us?

  • Thank you, Robert. We truly appreciate the valuable information!

  • Would you tell us what happens to essential oils when they oxidize. How do they look, smell, the texture, do these change? Are they bad to use?

  • robert

    Hi Heather, when an essential oil oxidizes the smell changes, becoming less fresh and progressively less pleasant. Because the process is so slow – it takes months – you may not notice unless you compare with a new oil. I have smelled oils that probably oxidized over 10 or 15 years, and they can smell intensely foul. It’s a graphic illustration of what does eventually happen. When an oil oxidizes, many of the constituents are chemically changed as they combine with atmospheric oxygen. These “oxidation products” tend to be not useful therapeutically, and can be allergenic. The bigger problem is actually not the allergenicity, it’s the fact that instead of 70% limonene, your lemon oil now contains only 30% limonene (and 40% oxidation products of limonene), and it’s not going to do what it’s supposed to do!

  • Suleiman

    Hi Robert,

    I am currently having some issues in formulating an oil based cosmetic product containing Tocopherol. Instead of Tocopherol preventing oxidation it seems as though it may be exacerbating it. Do you have any idea as to why this may be occuring?

  • robert

    Suleiman, I don’t know why you think the tocopherol is exacerbating oxidation, but this is possible if you use too much tocopherol.

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