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Health Benefits

Skin Health

The increasing demand for cosmetic dermatological products raises awareness on the need for naturally safe and effective ingredients with multi-usage potential. Similarly, the obsession with a youthful appearance has become commonplace that ageing and sun-damaged skin are fast becoming dermatologic concerns.


Vitamin E is well-known for its multi-usage benefit for the past decades. It is an antioxidant with healing and reparative properties, that help to prevent skin ageing and certain cancers. Recent studies, however, have found that tocotrienol, a more potent form of vitamin E that occurs in certain plant seeds such as oil palm, exhibit superior antioxidation activity compared to the common form of vitamin E, tocopherol. Tocotrienol’s distinct chemical structure confers it unique biochemical properties responsible for providing skin health benefits beyond antioxidation. For example, the double bonds in the farnesyl tail of tocotrienols enable it to move easily between lipid membranes. This distinct chemical structure enables its cellular uptake in biological systems 70 times higher than alpha-tocopherol [1]. A study by Podda, et al has shown that tocotrienol is found in high concentrations in mouse skin tissue suggesting efficient delivery of antioxidant defenses in the skin [2].




Tocotrienols reduce the effects of oxidative stress by directly interacting with antioxidant enzymes [3]. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 64 human subjects aged 37-78 years old showed a significant reduction of DNA damage in their blood samples after 3 months of 160 mg daily dose of tocotrienols. The positive effects continued to the end of the trial at 6 months [4].


Tocotrienol provides skin health benefits that go beyond its established antioxidation properties.


Skin Cancer

In addition to its ability to penetrate the skin’s deepest layers and neutralize the damaging effects of UV-induced free radicals, tocotrienol acts on key proteins within skin cancer cells to induce cell death and to help prevent cancer cell growth. This mechanism suggests tocotrienol’s potential role in supporting skin cancer prevention and treatment [9].


Skin Hydration

Tocotrienol reduces water loss from the skin and strengthens the skin’s barrier function. Either singly or in combination with other ingredients, tocotrienol improves efficacy in skin hydration [5].

Sun Protection
Unlike normal skin ageing, photo-ageing results from constant and prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. UV radiation increases the production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species in different layers of the skin causing cellular damage which hastens the ageing process and increases the risk for skin cancer. Excellent antioxidation properties of up to 60 times greater than tocopherol confer tocotrienol the ability to help protect the skin from ageing and UV-induced damage caused by constant and prolonged sun exposure [1]. Formulations with tocotrienol exhibited a radical skin factor of 4.15. The RSF measures a substance’s ability to reduce free radicals generated in the skin during UV exposure. An RSF of 4.15 suggests that tocotrienol formulations reduce free radical production in the skin by 76% resulting from exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays [5].

Radiation Protection
Human beings are exposed to radiation every day. Radiation can cause cells to grow abnormally- a process that could lead to cancer. Normally, at low doses, cells are able to repair any radiation-related damage easily. However, in excessively high doses, affected cells may die causing tissues and organs to fail.

Tocotrienols are found to improve survival and reduce radiation-induced injuries in tissues and organs after total body irradiation in animal models [6]. In addition to its excellent antioxidant properties, tocotrienols’ potent radioprotective effects arise from its ability to reduce highly reactive oxidants in the blood by inhibiting a protein called HMG-CoA reductase [7].

Skin ageing comes with normal ageing and commonly presents as fine wrinkling and laxity of the skin while sun-damaged skin is associated with increased skin pigmentation, discolorations and deep wrinkles. Fibroblasts are cells commonly found in the skin, bones and other tissues in the body. When left unchecked, the effects of oxidative stress can repeatedly induce DNA damage in these cells contributing to the effects of cellular ageing.

Results from pre-clinical studies showed that tocotrienol has the ability to prevent cellular ageing by reversing the effects of oxidative stress in human diploid fibroblasts (HDF). In addition, tocotrienols increased the length of DNA structures called telomeres. Telomeres progressively grow shorter each time a cell divides. In most cells, telomere length is closely associated with cellular ageing: the shorter the telomere, the older the cell [8].

Skin Repair
Tocotrienol triggers the movement of cells called fibroblasts suggesting tocotrienol’s potential role in skin repair and wound healing [5].

Skin Depigmentation
The skin-lightening market is predicted to reach $10 billion by the year 2015 with the strongest area of growth predicted in the Asia-Pacific.

As published in the leading Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, DavosLife research showed tocotrienols’ ability to promote skin depigmentation through inhibition of the key protein tyrosinase in melanin synthesis. In the study, tocotrienols reduce melanin production by 55% through tyrosinase inhibition that is up to 150 times more potent as compared to other skin depigmenting agents (Fig. 1) [3].

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A growing body of evidences point to a promising future for tocotrienol in high value dermatological products for protecting the skin against free radicals.. As natural antioxidants, tocotrienol is granted GRAS status by the US FDA and can be readily incorporated in cosmetics and skin care products.

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