Vitamin E for Your Skincare Routine: Does This Common Skincare Ingredient Work?

A common ingredient in a plethora of moisturizers and other skincare products, Vitamin E has long been a staple for most formulations. If you look closely in your medicine cabinet, I will venture to bet that you’ll find some form of Vitamin E in at least one of the products. Primarily known for its anti-oxidant properties, Vitamin E has proven to defend against external pollutants and UV rays effectively. 

So should you be adding Vitamin E into your skincare routine? 

The History of Vitamin E

Discovered in 1922 by Hervert Evans and Katharine Bishop, Vitamin E was first researched as alpha-tocopherol. Interest in Vitamin E mostly came from a discovery in the 1940s of its ability to protect unsaturated fatty tissue against oxidation. This research provided key findings in infant nutrition and helped make Vitamin E an essential ingredient to baby food. Technically, Vitamin E is a group of oil-soluble anti-oxidant compounds that come in about eight different forms. Within skincare, d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol, and dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate are the most common forms found in products. Forms of Vitamin E starting with the “d” prefix are naturally derived, while those with a “dl” prefix are synthetically derived. In skincare, the notion that natural ingredients are better than synthetic is largely a false claim. However, the only exception to this rule may be Vitamin E. Natural alpha-tocopherol derived from vegetable oils is slightly more effective in acting as an antioxidant than synthetic alpha-tocopherol due to differences in its isomers, molecules with identical molecular formulas. Unfortunately for consumers, the prefix is not usually not stated within the ingredient list for skincare products. If you’re interested, try contacting the skincare company for more information. 

How does Vitamin E for your Skincare Work

Similar to Vitamin C, the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E are highly sought after in the skincare world. Acting as a stabilizer, Vitamin E counteracts the harmful free radicals expelled by both the sun and external pollutants and gives away electrons to stabilize the compounds. This stabilization prevents free radicals from damaging your skin, leading to aging, wrinkles, and even skin cancer. What’s wondrous about topical solutions of Vitamin E is that paper published in the Molecular Aspects of Medicine journal showed that topical applications had a significant effect in increasing the levels of Vitamin E within your dermis, the thickest layer of your skin. The dermis is found underneath the epidermis, which is where UV-B rays tend to attack your skin. 

This finding is critical because it shows the efficacy of Vitamin E, especially when matched with another powerhouse antioxidant ingredient, Vitamin C. As Vitamin C has a hard time penetrating deeper levels of the skin, both ingredients form a strong relationship in fighting UV rays for your skin overall. A study posted on the American Academy of Dermatology found that Vitamin C and E together had significantly better results than either ingredient used by itself or a placebo. This gives credence to why so many people swear by serums that combine both Vitamin C and E.

Considerations on Vitamin E

Another well-known claim about Vitamin E is that it helps reduce scars. However, this claim has been debunked numerous times over the years. One of the most extensive studies done on Vitamin E was conducted in 1986 by the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation. It found that Vitamin E had no significant effect on the scar’s appearance, thickness, or size. The University of Miami did a similar study in 1999, which found no effect. Troublingly, some patients had a slight allergic reaction to the Vitamin E ointment. 

Regardless, Vitamin E has been proven to significantly help your skin in other ways, but be on the lookout to see if your skin has an adverse reaction to Vitamin E, especially when using higher concentrations in the form of a serum. One other thing to note is that Vitamin E is oil-soluble rather than water-soluble, which isn’t too big of a deal for topical solutions. It just means that excess Vitamin E doesn’t pass through your system like water-soluble vitamins do when there is an excess amount in your body.

Overall, Vitamin E is an excellent ingredient for your skin. It’s not our first choice for oily skin but does work well for combination and dry skin. Especially for people who are out in the sun often, Vitamin E and C, paired with a nice sunscreen can do wonders in protecting your skin.

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