Many sunscreen formulations lack adequate safety testing and are formulated with questionable ingredients. One such ingredient is synthetic vitamin E. There are two forms of vitamin E: tocopherol and tocopheryl acetate. Tocopherol is naturally-occurring, while tocopheryl acetate is synthetic.
Natural Vitamin E - Tocopherol
In an attempt to block some of the damage caused by sun exposure, antioxidants are added to sunscreens as a means to deal with ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-induced oxidative stress, and UVA and UVB radiation. Vitamin E is a powerful and effective antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells.
Synthetic Vitamin E - Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate
Vitamin E acetate, also known as tocopheryl acetate, tocopherol acetate, or vitamin E acetate is a synthetic form of vitamin E. According to Professor Daniel C. Leibler, Department of Pharmacology, University of Arizona, “Alpha Tocopherol protects the skin against cancer from the exposure to ultra violet (UV) B rays. In contrast the alpha – tocopherol acetate does not protect against these cancers. It is, therefore, disturbing that alpha-tocopherol acetate is form of Vitamin E in most of the commercial sunscreens and lotions”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said that fluid extracted from the lungs of injured patients who vaped all contained the chemical compound vitamin E acetate.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products may contain vitamin E acetate, a chemical that is sometimes used as a thickening agent in illicit THC-containing products. Vitamin E acetate appears to be associated with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use–associated lung injury (EVALI)”.
EVALI isn’t simply an adverse health effect from vaping. It’s an acute lung illness that has spread rapidly across the country, affecting mostly young adults.
The CDC stated the latest investigation means that for the first time, "we have detected a potential toxin of concern. These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs. Dr. AnneSchuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director, says this sharp spike strongly points to a single culprit for most of these cases: vitamin E acetate, an additive found in illicit cannabis-containing vapes.
Additional Potential Health Effects of Vitamin E acetate:
Skin: May cause skin irritation.
Eyes: May cause eye irritation.
Ingestion: Ingestion of very large doses stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, headache, unusual general body weakness, fatigue, blurred vision.
When sunscreen spray is applied, the active and inactive ingredients are atomized. Among these ingredients, sunscreen sprays containing tocopheryl acetate may be inadvertently inhaled into the lungs.
Because tocopherol acetate does not protect against skin cancer and inhalation concerns, all sunscreen formulations containing tocopheryl acetate should be avoided.