Lipophilic derivatives of ascorbic acid may protect lipid bilayers and micelles against lipid peroxidation. In this work the binding, accessibility, and reducing capacity of ascorbate 6-palmitate (A6P) were studied in human erythrocyte membranes. In contrast to less lipophilic carbon-6-modified ascorbate derivatives, A6P bound to erythrocyte membranes in a concentration-dependent manner. This binding was preserved following centrifugation washes, but was largely reversed by extraction with bovine serum albumin. Most of the ascorbyl groups of membrane-bound A6P were readily accessible to oxidation by water-soluble oxidants. Ferricyanide quantitatively oxidized membrane-bound A6P, but the latter spared endogenous tocopherols from destruction. In EPR studies, A6P was much more effective than ascorbate in reducing nitroxide spin labels positioned at either carbon-5 or carbon-16 of membrane-bound stearic acid in both intact cells and in membranes. A6P, thus, appears to intercalate into the erythrocyte membrane with the ascorbyl group located superficially, but with access to the hydrophobic membrane interior, and with the ability to recycle endogenous alpha-tocopherol during oxidant stress.