Vitamin E & Your Skin
By Erum ILYAS, MD
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is an important anti-oxidant for the skin. There are a number of sources for vitamin E. Almonds, peanuts, avocados, sunflower seeds, spinach, butternut squash and oils such as wheat germ oil are the most common sources.
There is some experimental evidence that suggest that Vitamin E may prevent tumors from developing and protect our skin from UV damage. By protecting our skin from redness and swelling and other effects from sunburns, it may protect against cell damage that can lead to skin cancer and wrinkles.
Vitamin E applied topically can penetrate the skin effectively since it is a fat soluble product. When it penetrates the skin it can make the superficial skin layers more hydrated to prevent dry skin that can lead to eczema. It has also been used to manage scars and burns given its ability to help soothe the skin.
Vitamin E applied to the skin does have an emollient or hydrating effect. By hydrating the superficial layers of skin, it can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is not necessarily ‘reversing’ the signs of aging. It is more likely hydrating the skin effectively to minimize the appearance of aging.
There is a study that combined vitamin E with other antioxidants in a topical product that did show an improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, skin firmness and discoloration. This study did not compare vitamin E alone to the combination product so it is difficult to say the exact role vitamin E played in the improvement of aging.
For cuticles, rough skin and dry skin, vitamin can provide a protective barrier to the skin and hydrate it effectively. It is generally safe, well tolerated, and inexpensive making it a reasonable ingredient to look for in products.
Vitamin E applied to the skin does not commonly have side effects. Irritation and itching have been noted to occur. If taken by mouth in high doses then nausea, diarrhea, headaches, bruising or bleeding, and blurred vision can occur.
Taken by mouth, the recommended amount to add to your routine is based on age. For most adults, 15 mg daily is recommended.
Topically, it is so mild with healing and hydrating properties and prevents damage from free radicals that applying it first after cleansing is helpful prior to adding in other moisturizers and sunblocks.