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Chemistry Class: Antioxidant Vitamin E (alpha-Tacopherols)

Many have asked me if they could use vitamin E as preservatives instead of those synthetically manufactured preservatives (DMDM Hydantoin as sold in Soap Lab) in their body product and again ill have to stress this NO!. If you have not read on why do we need to use preservatives in our body product please click the link here.

So what exactly is Vitamin E then?
Well besides its awesome benefits in skin care (photo protection, anti-inflammotory, anti-agin, wound healing etc), it is also a very powerful antioxidant that can be used in skin care to ensure longer stability.

If its not a Preservative, How does it work as stability?
Though Vit E is not a preservative, it is as mentioned a very powerful antioxidant. Oil, as you can read in this chemistry of oil post here, is a very beautiful alien looking chemical strucure called the triglycerides. Different oils have gt different structures and those oil that has double bonds or triple bonds are more easily being attacked by free radicals, causing it to get oxidised. The more double bond there are in a oil structure, the more easily it gets rancid. This is where Vitamin E comes in. It basically becomes the shield that protects this double bond from being attacked by these free radicals, resulting in longer duration before it gets rancid and ultimately spoilt your product (it will stink once it gets rancid).

Example of oil with a lot of double bonds is grape seed oil (shelf life 3-6 months) as compared to Canola Oil (shelf life more than 2 years). Take a look at the triglyceride structure below. Do you see the structure it has this extra 'line'? Well thats a double bond. Notice that grape seed oil has got so many more double bonds than canola oil. These are the reason why grape seed oil are easily broken down and goes rancid fast. Because its structure is that weak as compared to canola oil.
Grape Seed Oil Structure

Canola Oil Structure

So how much of vitamin E should i put for preventing rancidity?
It all depends on the concentration of the Vitamin E you purchased. The more concentrated it is the lesser you have to put. Generally its about 1-2% if you get your Vitamin E from Soap Lab.

If I use Vitamin E, do i still need to use preservatives?
Yes. Please click here to read about preservatives.

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