Vitamin E – what does it do for your skin?

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Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) can be found in lots of foods (vegetables, nuts, oils (e.g. sunflower), seeds, wholegrains)… and lots of lotions! What’s it doing there?

Well, vitamin E is actually one of THE most important antioxidants in our bodies! Oxygen is essential for life, but it’s also very reactive and, when it reacts with things it shouldn’t (DNA, proteins, cell membranes), it can cause a lot of damage. Luckily, antioxidants exist to keep reactive oxygen species at the right level!

Sun protection

The most important thing vitamin E does when applied topically to the skin is protect you from sun damage. When UV rays hit the skin, many reactive radical species are formed which damage the skin. The things that vitamin E helps reduce include:

– sunburnt cells
– redness

– swelling
– skin pigmentation
– long-term UV damage
– skin cancer formation

There’s a synergistic effect when it’s applied together with vitamin C, with even greater skin protection benefits. However, it doesn’t actually block UV rays from reaching the skin, it only limits the damage caused.

Vitamin E works best when applied before or immediately after sun exposure, but a study found that it still had significant effects 8 hours after the damage occurred.
 
Possible anti-inflammatory action

Vitamin E may also have some anti-inflammatory effects, which has led to it being recommended for wound healing and scar reuction. However, its effectiveness here is controversial as most studies found mixed results, and one study even found that vitamin E worsened the appearance of scars. Vitamin E also doesn’t seem to help moisturise skin, or improve wrinkles.

Further reading

K L Keller and N A Fenske. Uses of vitamins A, C, and E and related compounds in dermatology: A review. J Am Acad Dermatol 1998, 39, 611.

Skincare Guide


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6 thoughts on “Vitamin E – what does it do for your skin?”

  1. So useful, thanks heaps Michelle.

    I used to apply Vitamin E oil directly onto my acne scars, but when i saw a beautician she told me that was really bad as it “blocks” the skin and actually works against your skin!? Is this true?

    Reply
    • I think she could have been referring to the fact that you are applying oil to your face, not that it was vitamin e that was bad. I think you should assess whether you are actually experiencing any negative effects that could be linked to using the oil (such as blocked pores or increased acne) before you stop using it.

      Reply
    • It depends on what Vit E oil you used, and what exactly she meant by “blocking”. Vit E and A used together can actually help correct keratinisation and prevent plugs forming in the skin, but some oils high in vit E can be comedogenic/pore-blocking (wheat germ oil is very comedogenic, vit E by itself is a little bit, and sunflower oil is not). So in a way, by using oil to treat your acne scars, you may have been causing more acne to form, which I’m guessing might have been what she meant.

      Reply
  2. When I had a blood test (in the middle of spring), I found out that my vitamin D was at the very bottom of the normal range! I haven’t gotten around to getting supplements though. Oral supplements generally don’t do much if you’re not deficient though, so you should check that first.

    Reply

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