When it comes to beauty-boosting vitamins, you might first think of vitamin C or vitamin A. But venture a little further down the alphabet, and you'll find a whole new world of benefits. It’s found in everything from lip balms to lotions to avocados (!), but how, exactly, does vitamin E lead to healthy skin? We spoke to Y. Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, to learn all things vitamin E: where it comes from, how it works, and why you need it (or even why you should avoid it) in your skincare routine.
About the Expert:
“Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that comes in eight forms,” explains Dr. Chang. In beauty products, look for the words “tocopherol” or “tocopheryl acetate” on ingredient lists, as those are the two forms commonly used topically. Meanwhile, alpha-tocopherol is the most active form of vitamin E in the human body, and gamma-tocopherol is the most present in the foods we eat. In the body, vitamin E works to strengthen our immune systems, help us fight off bacteria and viruses, and protect us against free radicals in the environment. Clinical trials have linked vitamin E with the prevention of heart disease, cancers, and declining mental functioning; however, there isn't a ton of conclusive research out there yet.
Pure vitamin E oil has a relatively thick consistency and a pale golden hue—which you might recognize if you’ve taken vitamin E supplements or spotted the oval-shaped capsules at the pharmacy. When it comes to getting your fill of vitamin E from your diet, look no further than your go-to salad mix-ins. Rich sources include nuts, spinach, whole grains, olive oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ, as well as everyone’s favorite: avocado.
“Free radicals are increased by UV [ultraviolet] exposure, cigarette smoking, and air pollution, all of which wreak havoc and accelerate skin aging.” In other words, vitamin E is like a protective cushion for skin, helping to minimize effects like wrinkles and fine lines. And although it does help protect against sun damage to some degree, using vitamin E alone won’t prevent a sunburn. “Vitamin E should not be used in place of sunscreen but can be used in addition to sunscreen to provide extra protection to the skin,” advises Dr. Chang.
Because it’s oil-soluble, vitamin E is most effective when delivered via—you guessed it—oil-based formulations (think: face creams, body lotions, face oils, and serums). Those properties also make it ideal for those areas that are known for getting particularly dry, like lips and cuticles. Some studies have shown that vitamin E may have anti-inflammatory properties and relieve the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. The results are varied, but the bottom line is: Vitamin E effectively moisturizes your skin.
Specifically, fading the appearance of scars. According to Dr. Chang, “It has also been praised as a treatment for burns, surgical scars, wounds, and stretch marks.” But before you get too excited, she warns the praise may be more anecdotal than scientific. “Clinical studies for the use of vitamin E on the treatment of scars and stretch marks have been disappointing,” says Dr. Chang.
To further maximize skincare benefits, vitamin E is often combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Together, the two can help “brighten and protect the skin,” according to Dr. Chang.
Thanks to its intrinsic moisturizing and healing properties, “vitamin E is typically safe and well-tolerated in all skin types,” says Dr. Chang. Still, those with sensitive skin may want to do a patch test on the inside of the wrist before trying out a new product in case of side effects. “Some patients with sensitive skin may develop an irritant contact reaction to vitamin E. Patients who have itching, burning, or redness with use of topical vitamin E should discontinue it and notify their healthcare provider,” advises Dr. Chang. And while vitamin E is generally safe for oily and acne-prone skin types, it may be best to avoid using pure vitamin E oil as it tends to be on the thick side, and could lead to breakouts. Instead, opt for a more lightweight moisturizer containing vitamin E to reap the benefits without clogging pores.
The combination of vitamin E, astor seed oil, and sunflower wax soothes dry lips for hours, while the pleasing, barely there rose tint adds just a hint of color on no-makeup and full-face days alike.
With vitamins C and E, this face cream helps protect skin against free-radical damage as it brightens. Best of all, it can be used day and night, for all you product minimalists.
Facial oils are not only a quick solution for glowing skin, but they also help seal in hydration. “Makes my skin feel soft and plump!” raves one Ipster of this vitamin-E-infused formula, which also contains skin-loving rosehip oil.
This formula has just about everything one could want for healthy skin: colloidal oatmeal, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to hydrate, plus anti-aging collagen, peptides, and ceramides to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. No wonder Ipsters call it “a total game changer!”
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