If you're looking for natural ways to support healthy skin, vitamins are important to help maintain skin's appearance and health. The best source of vitamins is from nutrient-rich foods, but vitamin supplements and topical products containing vitamins can also be beneficial. In addition to helping skin look its best, vitamins can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and the aging effects from sun exposure on your skin. This article looks more closely at vitamin E and what it does for your skin.
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble, essential nutrient with anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin E helps support the immune system, cell function, and skin health. It's an antioxidant, making it effective at combating the effects of free radicals produced by the metabolism of food and toxins in the environment.
Vitamin E may be beneficial at reducing UV damage to skin. It may also be effective at reducing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and fatty liver disease, and for slowing the progression of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin E is even used to widen blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots.
UV light and sun exposure reduce vitamin E levels in skin. Vitamin E levels also decrease with age. However, vitamin E is available in many foods, in supplement form, and as an ingredient in products applied topically.
What to know about vitamin E in foods
Vitamin E can be found in many foods, including:
- certain commercially processed foods, such as cereal, juice, and margarine
- abalone, salmon, and other seafood
- broccoli, spinach, and other green vegetables
- nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts
- vegetable oils, including sunflower, wheat germ, and safflower oil
Natural vitamin E in food is often listed as d-alpha-tocopherol on food labels. Vitamin E is also produced synthetically. The synthetic form of vitamin E is often referred to as dl-alpha-tocopherol. Natural vitamin E is more potent than its synthetic version.
Vitamin E can be absorbed even better when combined with vitamin C.
Recommended vitamin E allowance
The amount of vitamin E you need daily is based on your age.
Teens, adults, and pregnant women should consume around 15 milligrams (mg) each day, according to the National Institutes of Health. Breastfeeding women need around 19 milligrams. Infants, babies, and children require less vitamin E in their daily diet.
Most people who live in areas where healthy food is available get enough vitamin E from food.
People with conditions that affect their ability to digest or absorb fat may need more vitamin E. These conditions include cystic fibrosis and Crohn's disease. For these people and others concerned about vitamin E intake, supplements may help. Vitamin E is an ingredient in many multivitamin and mineral supplements.
Vitamin E products
Vitamin E supplements
Most people in the United States don't need to supplement their diet with additional vitamin E. Eating foods rich in this nutrient is typically enough to support skin health. When taken orally, through food or supplements, vitamin E is delivered to the skin by sebum, the oily secretions produced by sebaceous glands. People with oily skin may have higher concentrations of vitamin E in their dermis and epidermis. Oily areas of the skin, such as the face and shoulders, may also have higher concentrations of vitamin E than dry areas.
Topical vitamin E
Vitamin E is available in cream form and as an oil for topical use. It's added to many cosmetic products, including anti-aging creams, eye serums, sunscreens, and makeup. Vitamin E easily absorbs into skin. Topical use via creams or other products may increase the amount of vitamin E stored within the sebaceous glands. Products that contain both vitamin E and vitamin C may be less likely to dissipate quickly if exposed to UV light. An animal study reported in Nutrition and Cancer indicated that topical use of vitamin E reduced acute and chronic skin damage caused by UV irradiation.
While vitamin E oil is very thick and hard to spread on skin, it can make an excellent moisturizer for dry, patchy areas of skin. Products containing vitamin E as an ingredient may be easier to apply for overall use on skin. Problem areas that are very dry, such as the cuticles and elbows, might benefit from topical application of vitamin E oil.
Many vitamin E supplements come in the form of capsules that can be broken open and used directly on dry areas.
Vitamin E supplements safety
There is no reason to limit the intake of foods containing vitamin E. These aren't harmful, even in abundant quantities. Taking supplements can be risky, however, as large doses of vitamin E can inhibit the ability of blood to clot when needed, causing serious bleeding to occur. Bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) may also result. A clinical trial study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that vitamin E dietary supplements significantly increased the risk of developing prostate cancer in otherwise healthy men.
Taking vitamin E supplements may interfere with some cholesterol-lowering medications. It may also reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. Vitamin E supplements can also interact with warfarin (Coumadin), a drug prescribed for preventing blood clotting. Talk to your doctor about your use of vitamin E supplements prior to taking them, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
Other vitamins and minerals for skin
Many other vitamins, such as D, C, K, and B, are also beneficial for optimum skin health. The best way to ensure that your skin gets the complete nourishment it needs is to eat a wide range of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein sources.
Vitamin D is typically absorbed via sun exposure. Protecting your skin from the sun is important, but most people are able to tolerate small amounts of sun exposure without negative repercussions. Talk to your dermatologist to determine how much sun you should get each day.
Products containing vitamins and minerals can also help to nourish skin. For example, topically applied zinc can help to treat acne and accelerate wound healing. Niacin (vitamin B-3) can help keep skin moisturized and supple when applied topically.
Vitamin E, skin care, and you
Vitamin E is readily available in many healthy foods. Most people in the United States don't need to supplement their diets with vitamin E in order to gain its benefits. And vitamin E supplements may be dangerous to take in large amounts.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may be effective at reducing UV damage in skin. And vitamin E applied topically may help nourish and protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals.
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