What Does Vitamin E Do for the Skin?

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Vitamin E is a vital nutrient that we must obtain from our diets or from supplements. Vitamin E provides benefits to many body tissues and systems, including protecting and helping to repair the skin.

Function

  • Orally, vitamin E increases immune system function, which helps to destroy damaged skin cells and thereby helps prevent the developing of skin cancer. As an antioxidant, both internally and topically, vitamin E can protect against UV radiation and other free radicals from pollution, stress, and smoking. The stratum corneum (top layer) of the skin is comprised partly of fatty acids and vitamin E plays a particularly important role in protecting these fatty acids from free radical damage. This helps to ease inflammation, keeping the skin smooth and soft, while also protecting skin tone, which can turn yellowish if fatty acids are allowed to oxidize. Topically, vitamin E can soothe inflammation, easing the effects of sunburn and facilitating healing. Vitamin E also supports the function of sunscreens to absorb UV radiation.

Significance

  • Ninety percent of age-related skin problems are believed to result from sun exposure over time. UV radiation damages cellular DNA, which increases the risk of skin cancer, and reduces immune function -- impairing the ability to repair damaged tissues. UV radiation also damages collagen and elastin fibers, thereby contributing to the development of wrinkles, thinning and other age-related changes in the skin. As a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating ability, both oral and topical vitamin E can protect against UV-induced skin changes and damage, enhance appearance and repair damaged skin.

Types

  • Vitamin E is actually a combination of several different forms -- 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. Many dietary supplements offer the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E, but gamma tocopherol is now recognized as providing often greater benefit. Gamma tocopherol is the main form of vitamin E in foods, fights different free radicals in the body than alpha tocopherol and has greater anti-inflammatory effects. The tocotrienol forms of vitamin E accumulate in the top layer of the skin, and are part of the first layer of protection against UV radiation. Tocotrienols also are better absorbed by the skin than tocopherols. It is therefore important to take a combination of the different forms of vitamin E, including high levels of both gamma and alpha tocopherol.

Prevention/Solution

  • Take an oral supplement of 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E daily. Make sure that your vitamin E supplement provides all 8 forms of vitamin E, including 250 to 500 mg of gamma-tocopherol and all four tocotrienol forms. Use moisturizers that contain both tocopherols and tocotrienols for topical antioxidant benefits. Be aware of any fragrance used in topical vitamin E products, since these may cause skin irritation and redness

Warning

  • Excessive doses of vitamin E can interact with blood thinning medications like warfarin, causing an increase in bleeding. Speak with your doctor if you are taking warfarin or any other anticoagulants before taking vitamin E supplements.

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