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Don’t get your oil soluble Vitamin C mixed up!

March 27, 2017

Vitamin C oil soluble

It has recently come to my attention that there is at least one brand selling a product that advertises on the front the active Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate but on the ingredients listing has Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate.

These are not the same chemical.

It took me a while to un-pick these two molecules as they have the same molecular weight and seem to have been registered under the same CAS number making it look like these could be two different names for the same molecule.

They are not the same chemical.

To make it easier for you to see what I see I’ve put the structure of the two chemicals side-by-side above.  As you can see the Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate has its four arms held out perfectly straight and long whereas the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate has bent arms.  This may not seem like much but this can mean a potentially significant difference in solubility or ability for the skin to utilise these chemicals.

If you were in the business of engineering chemicals (a truly fascinating business to be in) you would appreciate that getting those four arms to bend like that is a bit tricky given the heart of the structure.  The fact that this is quite tricky to achieve is just one reason the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is so much more expensive to make. The other thing that makes it more expensive (or valuable) is its efficacy data – there is quite a bit.  There is very little efficacy data for the Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate – it might well be a good molecule with excellent dermal functionality but there is next to no proof of that.

I wanted to let you know as things like this case of mis-labelling or mistaken identity can become endemic and make it hard for the lay-person to discern what they are getting.  You’ve only got to have a few bloggers say something like ‘these are just two names for the same thing’ or whatever and BINGO, the science goes out of the window.

In terms of use of these two chemicals, here in Australia the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is allowed in cosmetics at concentrations up to 10% although efficacy data shows it works at concentrations of 1% or even less.  In Japan this ingredient is listed as a quasi-drug and can be used for lightening the skin at concentrations of 3% and in Korea it is listed as a functional ingredient for skin lightening at 2% concentration.  The Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate has way less safety data and is only currently allowed at concentrations of 1% or less until the safety data deficit is addressed.

As these are both Vitamin C derivatives they play in a world where 20% Vitamin C rules – at least in terms of marketing.  This 20% number relates to Ascorbic Acid which is very cheap and quite unstable. It has been found in numerous studies to improve the appearance of the skin but that its increase in efficacy stops and then starts to go backwards at 20%. Basically if you use more than 20% you get no extra benefits and actually start getting side-effects – irritation being one of them.   Other forms of vitamin C like those mentioned here act in different ways and take different pathways through the skin meaning the 20% number is far less relevant.  In fact one study carried out by the manufacturers of the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate found it to be taken up by the cells at 10 times the concentration of Ascorbic Acid.  That, combined with its greater stability and oil solubility helps to explain why 20% is not at all needed.

The moral of this story is this,  a background in chemistry helps you to pick a good and effective cosmetic product.  For everyone else there is this blog piece 🙂

Happy buying, selling and making.
Amanda x

PS: After writing this I’ve found that even this Cosmetic Ingredient Review board have lumped these two chemicals in together when looking at their dermal penetration and have also stated that they are indeed two names for the same chemical. That is not correct and I will write to them and tell them.  I wonder how that got passed their eyes. Makes things very difficult indeed…..

68 Comments leave one →
  1. Maya permalink
    April 6, 2017 11:13 pm

    Great article, thank you.
    You mentioned that in AU there is 10% limit of Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate in a final product, but this brand has a 25% of it in their product:
    It’s actually 50% Squalane, 25% AT, 25% mixed Tocopherols.
    What’s your thought on this?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 7, 2017 5:32 pm

      Hi there, well my thoughts are that if AT is 25% that’s above the limit. 25% mixed tocopherols is also a lot more than the < 2% generally used but every formula is different.

  2. Kerry permalink
    May 29, 2017 4:38 pm

    Can you tell me what you think of this blog entry written:

    This particular company that sells tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate claims it is highly stable:

    What are your thoughts on its use in a DIY product?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 30, 2017 8:39 am

      Hi Kerry, the first article appears to me to be very much written from the angle that will get that brand a marketing advantage. No in-depth reasoning is given for why that particular type of vitamin C is ‘good’ and everything else is ‘bad’. Just being cheap isn’t really an indicator of chemistry, it is mainly an indicator of abundance or off-patent processing (many of these ‘new’ vitamin C derivatives are still under patent and so attract a higher price as the investors attempt to capitalise on their investment and recover costs. That’s hardly about efficacy but neither does it mean the new types are rubbish). Anyway, I can’t take that post seriously as a scientist. The second one is a web description for an ingredient. I’d expect that ingredient to be stable and acceptable for use in any vitamin C product but you would have to look into the background science to see how it compared in vivo and in vitro to other types of vitamin C. It is always advisable for DIY clients to use super stable forms of vitamin C as it is likely they don’t have the expertise to optimise a formula for stability and safety – it isn’t easy. So yes, I’d use that.

      • Kerry permalink
        May 30, 2017 10:52 am

        Thanks so much for your response. I’m glad I happened upon your blog. It’s great to find information from someone who actually knows their stuff.

  3. kezinda permalink
    August 24, 2017 6:53 am


  4. Kim permalink
    May 8, 2018 3:18 pm

    Hello! I don’t know if this is thread is still being followed or watched, but holy vitamin C debaucle Batman! I just found this post, after ordering some Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate to put in my lotion (diy – totally not a chemist, but do a lot of research and totally appreciate this post) and now realize I have a ton of questions, because many DIY sites interchange the names of the two (Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate aka Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate – so they say) or if they don’t interchange, I think they have the wrong use amount or are using the results for Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate in their description of Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Arrgghhh! Good grief Charlie Brown.
    So my biggest concern is if what I bought is truly Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, should I even use it at the amount they are stating, which seems like it may be for the other one, and if that’s the case, what is the correct amount for tetrahexyldecyl? I will also call the site, Lotioncrafter, here in the USA, to ask if she realizes she may have some information incorrect in regards to the results and amounts she lists, even if she realizes they are 2 different things.
    BTW, I HAVE SUPER SENSITIVE SKIN. I can’t use ascorbic acid anymore. I seem to be able to use MAP ok, but thought I’d bump things up a bit, but have read that these other two could be irritating to sensitive skin. Is this true for both of them or am I not reading the right info for each of them out there, since some people are saying they are the same thing?
    I so appreciate any help or if there is a better way to contact you for more in depth discussion of this? Thanks!!!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 10, 2018 10:52 pm

      The issue with the tetrahexylgecyl ascorbate is the lack of data behind it vs ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, especially applied, cosmetic data. It might be that they are interchangeable but from the limited information I’ve seen it appears not. I would not be surprised if more people don’t recognise the difference between these two molecules, after all, they have the same number of elements in them, they are just arranged differently – seems like no big deal on paper but…… With regards to sensitive skin, it is always possible that it is the low pH that triggers a reaction when you use ascorbic acid. Otherwise it could be the oxidation products as ascorbic acid serums do tend to oxidise quickly and the oxidation by-products are more irritating than the acid its self. It would be interesting to identify what it is or whether it’s the actual vitamin C its self – which I would have thought was unlikely but I don’t know if it is impossible.

      • June 16, 2018 9:47 am

        Hi, thanks so much fof this article as if has helped me work out the difference in price for the two chemicals. I formulate with ascorbyl tetraisopalmitaten ATIP at 1% . As a raw material, it is VERY expensive. Cost me arohnd $100 for 17ml… the other chemical tetrah…. is much cheaper at 30ml for 50. I will stick with what i know to be proven by data, which is the ATIP.

        The literature in the web is confusing as they lump these two together and its hard, as a formulator, to trust suppliers and other skincare manufacturers to market this correctly.

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        June 16, 2018 12:51 pm

        Hi Wei, glad the information helped. It was quite hard to find the right information as everywhere you look the wires seem to be crossed. I had to check back the structure in the patent data and then cross reference that with the structure of the other chemical.

  5. Kim permalink
    May 9, 2018 7:09 am

    Kim again. Sorry, but I was also curious if the Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is an ether or an ester? The diy sales pages call it an ester, but the cosmetic ingredient review board paper calls it an ether. My organic chemistry is 30 years old, so I can’t remember enough to recognize it from your pictures of the chemicals, ha! Thanks.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 10, 2018 10:49 pm

      HI there, This thread is still going – well I’m still looking. An ether is R-O-R whereas an ester group is R-C=O-O-R so the carbon is double bonded to an oxygen then attached to the rest of the chain via another oxygen. I would say that it’s an ester as there are the C double bond oxygen groups in the chains but I could be wrong. I’m not sure it really matters, it’s the carbon tail chain arrangement that is crucial to the difference between the two chemicals.

  6. Ward permalink
    July 12, 2018 5:47 pm

    Great article Amanda. Thank you.

  7. Mai permalink
    September 25, 2018 5:02 am

    Oh I happened to find your blog when googling “Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate​ /
    Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate” because I was confused thinking they might be one especially when reading ingredients of The Ordinary Tetra C + Ferulic Acid! What a very helpful article. But I have 1 question about the concentration limit, Futurederm’s article mentioned product Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum (with a whopping 20% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate). Does that mean it’s also a marketing term regarding this product only?

    Thanks in advance.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      October 1, 2018 8:48 pm

      I couldn’t find any scientific literature about the efficacy of the Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate so I would guess that they are using 20% and hoping it is a 1:1 activity level the same as ascorbic acid. 20% is the maximum worth using but it’s pointless to use that much of a more effective form of the vitamin as it would just go to waste

  8. Darya Valevich permalink
    January 23, 2019 11:22 am

    Hello, I was looking for some information on AT and stumbled upon your website. Would you please tell me if the AT molecules are nano as they are able to penetrate into your skin faster and deeper than any other vit c derivatives? i also was looking into the moogoo vitamin c serum as someone mentioned before and wasn’t sure if it’s worth trying. It’s actually 50% Squalane, 25% AT, 25% mixed Tocopherols.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      January 24, 2019 9:04 pm

      Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate isn’t a particle, it’s a solution so no, not nano. In terms of penetrating the skin faster, skin penetration speed is not necessarily to do with molecular size either at all or alone, it’s to do with a combination of factors. AT has been found to penetrate the skin well and give Ascorbic Acid like efficacy at a lower dose and to a greater extent. I can’t comment on another brands products specifically but generally speaking the maximum efficacious dose of vitamin C as ascorbic Acid is 20% as the skin can’t use any more than that and at 20% after 4 days of use the skin becomes saturated. So, a serum such as the above may only need to be applied 1-2 times a week to give you a good result. That might suit you, I don’t know. The good thing about vitamin C is that you can’t really overdose on your skin, it’s more about wasting the material by not being able to fully utilise it, so it’s more a sustainability than irritation or OD scenario. So just go try it I say, see if it works for you. I do like the oil soluble vitamin C’s as they are more stable than AA but there’s nothing like AA for its cost effectiveness and instant efficacy.

  9. Darya Valevich permalink
    January 26, 2019 7:42 am

    Thank you a million for your response. Really appreciate your time and input. I will give it a go and update this thread once I see any results.

  10. val permalink
    March 13, 2019 3:06 am

    want to magnify Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate serum? i came across SVR..50% urea with glucono-DL @14%
    i make my serum with just oils at 10% put that on my face..then follow-up with my homemade lotion at 4.0 ph with one drop of 50% urea/glucono mixed in my lotion drop on my hand then put on my faster

    why..the urea/50% is at 3.0 need to lower the ph of face lotions to activate soposins
    it does more than that too…no acne, no eczema, etc etc…smooth skin

    use high linoleic oils in c serums too

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 20, 2019 11:39 am

      Thanks for sharing that.

  11. jay permalink
    March 19, 2019 3:38 am

    great article, we’ve been searching for temperature stability data of AT but not easy to find. Do you have any data on this? Since it’s oil soluble, would it be added in the heated oil phase or cool down phase?


    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 20, 2019 11:39 am

      Usually added to cool down as it is always worth being cautious with antioxidants as they have to be reactive to work. I didn’t find any more information about this but I do see the cheaper version becoming more and more popular. I guess people just don’t care about subtleties even if they do make all the difference…

  12. Carlos permalink
    April 24, 2019 9:43 am

    Hey Amanda,

    If the molecules aren’t the same why would the tetrahexyldecyl not be called “tetrapalmitate” or “tetrahexadecanoate”?

    I agree, the molecules you show are NOT the same, but google images of “tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate” show the same structure as the tetraisopalmitate one.

    Could the ingredient be mislabeled on purpose?



    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 24, 2019 10:52 am

      Good questions.

  13. Larissa permalink
    December 25, 2019 7:48 am

    So oil soluble ascorbyl palmitate is more potent in your opinion?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      January 3, 2020 7:14 am

      My opinion is that I like both. The science is that the oil soluble vitamin C has an increased stability and different solubility profile that would give it the capacity to penetrate the skin differently and deliver the ascorbic acid over a (potentially) longer time frame and to different skin layers. Whether than makes it better or not is dependent on what you are measuring, how you are applying it, how much you are applying and what ‘better’ means to you. In terms of stability then yes, it is better.

  14. coco permalink
    January 29, 2020 1:24 am

    So the ordinary got this totally wrong?……….
    It calls it ascobyl tetraisopalmitate but in the ingredient index it says tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate…………

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      February 11, 2020 6:21 pm

      It appears they may have, I can’t work out why the two chemistries keep getting mixed up but it does happen sometimes, especially when one chemistry is expensive as it is covered by a patent and the other is not but that may not be the reason here. It could also be a case of close-enough-is-good-enough or I may be completely wrong. I just can’t fathom out how.

  15. February 18, 2020 1:56 pm

    Hi. This article was indeed very useful. I was wondering if you could tell me- since
    the oil soluble form of Vit C- VC-IP (Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate) is highly stable, in a facial serum ( facial oil) containing 3% of this kingredient, what would be the expiration date on the final product, after it leaves the factory??
    and once opened, how long could it last?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 15, 2020 12:45 pm

      Stability doesn’t work like that. It’s an applied test so to know that we would need to test the formula

  16. Kelly permalink
    April 27, 2020 8:21 am
    Are you aware of this study which used Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate at 7%?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 28, 2020 1:45 pm

      Hi there,
      No I hadn’t seen that before. I’m just wondering why they combined ascorbic acid with the tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate vs a placebo. We already know that ascorbic acid works so it would make more sense to just try the oil soluble vitamin C vs placebo or vs ascorbic acid to gauge the difference.

  17. Judy permalink
    May 26, 2020 9:55 am

    I really appreciate your work and your articles.
    Could you find out more or did the board reply?
    I’m informing myself about the different forms of Vitamin C and their efficiency, a quite confusing task.
    Kind regards,

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 26, 2020 9:59 am

      I felt I’d done enough with this in the end as nobody other than me and a handful of other chemists seem to care. I actually lost interest in spending my money solving other peoples problems – not directing that to you but just in general. The problem is spelled out here for anyone to pick up and take further if they wish (so far nobody has but the passing off of one thing for another has settled somewhat now that The Ordinary brand has a more established owner).

  18. June 11, 2020 12:03 pm

    I first discovered you through your posts on why not to DIY your own sunscreen (and I’ve referenced it often over the years so I don’t have to try and reason with people over and over, such a good post as was the other one on particle size) but only recently read this one. I know this is old but do you by any chance know where I can find the manufacturer done study on Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate and how it has a higher uptake into the cells vs ascorbic acid? Would love to read more but couldn’t find it.

  19. Snoopy permalink
    July 12, 2020 8:02 am

    Very interesting! I hadn’t caught up on that until I read this. Bummer as I thought The Ordinary had a solid AT product. Is 3% an effective strength for AT?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      August 19, 2020 11:16 am

      Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is effective from 0.1% and at 3% it is listed as a quasi drug in Japan for its lightening properties so yes, 3% is effective.

  20. Estee Ashbridge permalink
    July 20, 2020 6:11 am

    Hi, I have been using the Aspect Dr C serum for years with brilliant effect. One of its key ingredients was tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. I chose this product because my skin can’t tolerate Ascorbic Acid (and I heard it was less irritating and more effective.) I restocked this product a few months ago and have been having alot of problems with rashes on my face, so much so, I went to a dermatologist who said I had some sort of contact dermatitis and that I should lay off this product and start using cortisone cream on face for an interval. Looking at the list of ingredients on my recent repurchase, I see the tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate has been switched to Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. Is it possible that in some cases this type of vitamin C is likely to cause more irritation?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      August 19, 2020 11:14 am

      Hi there,
      The serum you have mentioned contains a whole range of ingredients, many of which could potentially trigger a contact dermatitis reaction. I am totally out of my lane to diagnose or give advice on your skin reaction but what from a chemist point of view I would definitely encourage you to put the vitamin C aside in favour of looking at the preservatives, fragrances (including essential oils), plant extracts and surface-active chemicals such as emulsifiers, surfactants etc. I feel you may find an answer there.

  21. Antony Ounsworth permalink
    September 1, 2020 11:29 pm

    which if any of the oil soluble vitamin C’s are ingestible

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      September 2, 2020 10:40 am

      You’ll have to look to a food ingredient supplier for that data.

  22. Noelle permalink
    October 25, 2020 5:33 am

    Sorry if this is a duplicate comment — WordPress didn’t give me a confirmation when I submitted my comment the first time.

    I found your article super helpful, but then got confused while looking for a seller of Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate to add to a DIY squalane serum. It was hard to find, but I found the below website which, go figure, described it as the same molecule as Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate.

    Well, I went to leave a comment asking them to correct their listing and noticed someone else had already asked and linked to your article. Their response was:

    “I am not sure how accurate that article is, however…the product I sell is the original Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, manufactured by the patent holding Japanese manufacturer.”

    Then, scrolling further down, they replied to another commenter’s question about whether the product was liquid or powder by saying:

    “What on earth is ‘solid phase’ Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate? Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a PATENTED product, which is ONLY manufactured in one way: an oily liquid.”

    I am completely out of my depth here, but two questions. (I am trying to figure out what, if anything, I should believe of what they are saying.)

    1. Based on what you said, if the molecule is oil-soluble, then by definition it can’t inherently be “an oily liquid” …. can it?? Wouldn’t that be a solution, therefore including something else?

    2. And what about their claim that they sell the original patented Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate –yet continued reference to is as interchangeable with Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, and apparent belief that distinguishing them is unnecessary?

    Do you believe what they are claiming? Are they quacks or is there more to the story than a humble non-chemist can understand?

    I would love your thoughts and advice.

    Also if you know of anywhere a person can reliably get this elusive Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, not in huge quantities, I’d be grateful!

  23. Olivia permalink
    November 5, 2020 2:04 pm

    Hi Amanda, glad I came across this great article. I’m also curious about the Moogoo AT 25% serum – maybe you should do a paid partnership with them lol!
    Are there any studies about the percentage conversion from AT (or any of the other derivatives) to Ascorbic Acid in the skin? I can imagine how difficult this may be to measure, especially in-vivo.
    Also, which derivative would you recommend for the most effective antioxidant protection?

  24. Lorraine Dan permalink
    November 6, 2020 10:57 am

    Truth Treatments says that its vitamin C serum is 80% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and that their vitamin C balm is 60% (I think). What are your thoughts on those products? Do you think there are less expensive alternatives in the marketplace?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      November 15, 2020 10:06 pm

      Thoughts don’t count for much in science, evidence does.

  25. January 26, 2021 9:27 am

    So lucky to find your blog:) Thank you for your professional explanation.

  26. August 3, 2021 6:34 pm

    Hi Amanda,

    I was wondering how you came to the conclusion that tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate has the structure on the right? I’ve been digging into data sheets and everything I’ve found points towards both ATIP and THDA having the structure on the left.

    Based on IUPAC naming conventions “hexyldecyl” would indicate a 10 carbon chain with a 6 carbon branch like on the left structure (although it should be ascorbyl tetrahexyldecanoate rather than tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, since the name of the alcohol comes first). The structure on the right would be ascorbyl tetrahexAdecanoate – or, if you mess up the order of the words in the ester name, tetrahexAdecyl ascorbate.

    “Isopalmitic acid” would indicate an extended 15C chain with a penultimate methyl group, which would be neither structure (I think the Japanese scientists who originally named it messed up the naming and assumed “isopalmitic acid” just meant any isomer of palmitic acid).



    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      August 4, 2021 1:10 pm

      Hi there Michelle,

      Thanks for the comment and to be honest I actually can’t remember how I found that although I do remember also spending ages digging thorough different papers (not that it really maters but just for context). Back when I wrote this I wasn’t always listing the sources I used so I’m definitely kicking myself because of that now…

      This article was prompted by me being mentally stuck on the idea that the two HAD to have different structures so that was my internal bias. I generally find it easy to set that aside but I can’t discount that it could have led me to stop searching too soon, when I felt I’d found the answer without testing that further maybe or checking my understanding of naming protocol with someone who knew that field better than myself ( my knowledge is rusty now as it’s years since I did this at uni so I would not be as bold as to write like I was completely right now some 3-4 years on).

      However, the more time goes on, the less I’m inclined to take INCI names and CAS numbers literally and as the whole story.

      Internal training doccuments produced by Nikko do give information on the structure of their molecule, enough to make you feel like you know exactly what they have produced but maybe that’s just the point. We think we know but we don’t. I definitely remember the non Nikko supplier data being very much vaguer and harder to come by. Literally like their key sales point was that they were the same as the Nikko stuff proved by having the same CAS number and chemical name.

      My recent investigative work on simple ingredients like Glyceryl Stearate have shown how dangerous those assumptions can be. That there are so many different combinations of chemical reality that fit under that INCI name and CAS number. Maybe this is similar?

      I think it’s all very interesting and am happy to accept that a) I may be competely wrong and the two chemicals are the same or b) I am on the right path but my chemistry naming skills are less than perfect or c) another outcome.

      I would love to know for sure whats going on with this chemistry but am no longer convinced the answers can be found at a desk.
      Time to invest in some analytical chemistry maybe?

      • October 5, 2021 12:24 pm

        Yes, I feel like this could be a lot more easily solved with some experiments! Maybe hydrolysis followed by NMR? But it’ll probably turn out more complicated than expected, like most analyses 🙂

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        October 5, 2021 12:25 pm

        Indeed! The science- meets- marketing haze

  27. Magma permalink
    August 23, 2021 10:18 am

    Hello, I’ve read one article that Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate is petrochemical-based, but I cannot find a scientific source for this.
    All I ever read is, simplified, an ester is mixed up with Vitamin C and you get Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.
    Products containing Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate are regularly advertised as “petrochemical-(or mineral oil)free”, hence I’m a bit confused now.

    By any chance, do you know any link where the manufactoring process of Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate is confirmed? From what I’ve read, it’s the tetraisopalmitate bit which is derived as petrochemical.

    Thank you very much in advance for a reply!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      September 2, 2021 12:49 pm

      It’s a bit more complicated than it just being one thing or another. I delved into this in depth for a Help Desk client the other day with information from the manufacturer of this ingredient. This is a chemical that doesn’t exist in nature (so it could be called synthetic based on that) but that is made by reacting natural feedstock chemicals together (which could make it naturally derived). The ambiguety comes in the reaction which requires catalysts
      of which at least one step includes a petrochemical derived ingredient (definitely synthetic). The manufacturer nominated the product as synthetic (probably for simplicity) but the end product (this chemical) is not actually made using petrochemicals. The catalyst is not part of the finished product, it just helps the reaction progress. So you take your pick I guess but I’d be happy defending this as a naturally derived ingredient for the most part unless my audience was particularly hard line about the issue in which case they may not like this on the INCI name alone.

  28. Rex permalink
    January 15, 2022 9:59 pm

    please see the latest news, this problem has been fixed by Sytheon. Two different molecules, two CAS number now!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      March 13, 2022 3:10 pm

      Thank you Rex, about time hey! It is good to see that there is now some original data behind it too. It was riding on the coattails of its older brother there for quite some time. Not sure whether that was intentional or not but it definitely didn’t hurt sales.

      • April 4, 2022 8:18 pm

        I came across this issue after reading a relatively new review article on , vitamine C derivatives (Enescu et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021; 00: 1– 11., which lists ATIP (aka VC-IP) and THDA as different ingredients. The authors claim “The major difference is that VC-IP’s fatty acids are branched and bent whereas those of THDA are straight”, without giving any source for it (maybe they read it here, as this blog post is listed rather high in Google?).

        However, a recent study on Sytheon’s THDA lists it as “a lipid-soluble AA precursor esterified with branched chain fatty acid (2-hexyldecanoic acid)” (Swindell et al. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2021; 22(16):8756. Michelle already pointed out in a previous comment that that is exactly what the name suggests.

        In fact, most papers studying the effects of Nikkol’s VC-IP actually do not give a precise molecular structure (in particular, both Ochiai et al. J Dermatol Sci. 2006 Oct;44(1):37-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2006.07.001 as well as Yokota and Yahagi. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021 Dec 15. doi: 10.1111/jocd.14604. are rather vague about it). The only one I could find was Xiao et al. J Cell Biochem. 2009 Mar 1;106(4):589-98. doi: 10.1002/jcb.22032. who give the structure of VC-IP as 2,3,5,6-O-tetra-2′-hexyldecanoyl-L-ascorbic acid, thus identical to THDA, with matching depiction. If we assume that that is correct, then VC-IP would in fact be identical to THDA and “ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate” is a misnomer, since the vitamin C is in fact not esterified with isopalmitic acid aka 14-Methylpentadecanoic acid (as Michelle pointed out). Although the German Wikipedia, for some reason, seems to believe that isopalmitic acid is 2-hexyldecanoic acid (, so apparently people are already confused about the acid itself…

        If that is so, then the left shape would actually be THDA and the right one ATIP, which also seems to be the message of Sytheon’s press release. It is understandable that The Ordinary continues marketing it as ATIP, though, as most studies were done under that name.

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        April 4, 2022 9:30 pm

        I really don’t know what the actual truth is around these molecules. I’m less sure about it now than I was when I first wrote this. What I am sure about is the general market sees them both as equivalent. The fact that all the early data was produced by Nikkol and this other, cheaper version was sold with little to no original data for a long time was not something most people bothered about. I did because it seemed like the latter was profiting on the formers data, possibly without merit if the structure was different. Whatever the case now, the evidence suggests people don’t care as long as they can get something cheap. I still think that’s sad from a scientific perspective and a sneaky way to do business. Its definitely still interesting though. However, it’s also a shame when people quote articles, mine or anyones without reading updates and comments (peer review) to check on the details for mistakes, oversights or corrections. 😊

      • April 5, 2022 12:43 am

        Addendum: In 2002, Nikkol filed a patent application in Japan in which they described an anti-aging cosmetic using an L-ascorbic acid tetra-branched fatty acid ester derivative (, which they specified as follows: “The L-ascorbic acid tetra-branched fatty acid ester derivative used in the present invention is not particularly limited as long as it is a branched fatty acid having 8 to 18 carbon atoms as a fatty acid residue. Among them, L-ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate is preferable, and among L-ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, L-ascorbyl tetra-2-hexyldecanoate is particularly preferable.”

        That does indeed support Michelle’s earlier hypothesis that “the Japanese scientists who originally named it messed up the naming and assumed “isopalmitic acid” just meant any isomer of palmitic acid”. Under that nomenclature, THDA would be their preferred sub-type of ATIP (and thus probably the one they used for the branded VC-IP).

        Sytheon on the other hand is for obvious reasons (i.e. their own branded THDA) pushing a narrower definition of ATIP that only includes the isopalmitic acid ester (although I realised that one is also not the structure depicted on the right side, I think that one should technically be called ascorbyl tetrapalmitate, without the iso).

        If I find the time, I might write to the author of that 2021 review paper. Although they seem to be dermatologists and therefore might not be familiar with the chemical nomenclature, they really should not blind-cite things without giving any reference, especially if what they cite might not even be updated information.

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
        April 5, 2022 10:50 pm

        I think this is a good reminder to everyone that blogs are not to be treated in the same way as journal articles. While I’m qualified in this subject, working actively in the industry and have experience with this (the original) material, it’s still possible to make mistakes, miss information or fail to make all the directions. There just aren’t the pre-publish peer review options for blogs that there are for journals. That said, focusing wholly on the structure is, with the benefit of hindsight, also missing the point. I’m grateful that people have provided educated feedback on this article and made the whole thread more useful for readers but I think it’s now time to close down the comments.

  29. Tracy permalink
    October 21, 2022 12:49 am

    I added 1%ATIP to the heated oil phase before 80degrees and final ph of cream was 6 but ph begin to drop the following day to abt 4. I Readjusted.In about a week the oil begins to separate from the cream.Do you know the reason. why is the ph dropping and acidic.any tips

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      October 21, 2022 1:59 am

      My first guess would be that a reaction is happening in the formula that produces more acidic chemistry than you started with. These vitamin C derivatives will cleave and oxidise to more acidic forms over time. Vegetable oils become more acidic over time when the triglycerides break down to free fatty acids. Then there are some preservatives that will shift pH down over time unless they are buffered. Those aren’t all the options but that’s where I’d start given the information you’ve given me. Colour and scent changes can also give us clues as to what is going on. If it is the vitamin C, try adding it in cool down rather than heating it. Prolongued heating will make it more likely to break down.


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