An ingredient that is starting to crop up in cosmetics and that we can certainly expect to be seeing a lot more of is tocotrienols. This member of the vitamin E family is a powerful antioxidant and provides further evidence (listen up all you skeptics who don't believe that vitamins and other antioxidants can provide sun protection) that, along with vit C, that Es are an alternative sunscreen.

The better known vitamin E is tocopherol and it is in just about everything. All the Es are fat-soluble with tocopherol being the most bioavailable - meaning the body can easily absorb it - and this is why it has been used by so many potion formulators. In the past, α-tocopherol was seen the most important lipid-soluble antioxidant because it protects cell membranes from oxidation by reacting with lipid radicals produced in the lipid peroxidation chain reaction. This would remove the free radical intermediates and prevent the oxidation reaction from continuing.

Now, however, researchers are turning up evidence that may hand the mantle to tocotrienols. First of all these are the most complete form of vitamin E, being made up of both tocopherols and tocotrienols. Secondly, tocotrienols possess powerful neuroprotective, anticancer and cholesterol-lowering properties not exhibited by tocopherols because of their better distribution in the fatty layers of the cell membrane. Thirdly, they are absorbed super easily. Fourthly, you need less of them to do the trick.

However, some of the anticancer claims may be suspect. A seven-year trial on men to discover whether vitamin E (along with C and selenium) could prevent or cure prostrate cancer has been adbandoned. Although it was due to finish in 2011, the National Cancer Institute halted it early because the data showed there was no impact on prostrate cancer whatsoever.

Vitamin E lotions do provide some benefit in preventing and treating sunburns and also increase the effectiveness of sunscreens. They do not work immediately and must be applied about 20 minutes before sun exposure in order to allow the vitamin e to be absorbed deep into the epidermis layer. Nevertheless, the evidence here is more compelling than in the cancer department.

Studies on humans, published by the University of California Department of Dermatology, have convincingly demonstrated that topical antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage when applied before sun exposure.  The researchers concluded that regular application of skin care products containing antioxidants may be of the utmost benefit in protecting our skin from oxidation.

Vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium may be useless for prostrate cancer, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology, antioxidants have been proven to decrease the effect of the sun on the skin and actually prevent further damage. The study cited indicated that applying topical vitamin C to human skin 15 to 30 minutes after UV exposure decreased sunburn cells and began repairing the damaged skin.  It also mentioned that topical natural vitamin E was found to reduce the production of sunburn cells, chronic UV-induced damage and cancer causing cells.

According to researchers at the University of Berkeley, UV irradiation of skin destroys its antioxidants; however, prior application of TRF to mouse skin results in preservation of vitamin E. And this is where tocotienol comes into its own. This is the form of vitamin E that accumulates in the top layer of the skin, and are part of the first layer of protection against UV radiation.