We all love an old companion. Whether it is the old pair of jeans that have been broken in to give you the most comfort since the past couple of years, or your favourite copy of harry potter that you bought when you were 10. Comfort is something that comes with trust, which in turn comes with time. Vitamin E is another all-time favourite that has been around to help with our skincare needs for what seems like forever (actually, 50 years to be precise). Everyone has the green capsules of vitamin E lying around in some old drawer of our house. We use it for our skin as well as for the hair. Let’s dig a little deeper into what Vitamin E is, its uses, and its benefits.
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a fat-soluble vitamin abundantly found in food sources like nuts, spinach, whole grains, and plant-based oils (sunflower oil and olive oil). Naturally occurring Vitamin E exists in eight forms- tocopherols and tocotrienols. Of these eight forms, alpha-tocopherol is the one that is abundant in the diet, while rho-tocopherol is the one that is concentrated in the tissues and serum. Another type of tocopherol found in the skin is gamma-tocopherol, and it is the one that is probably responsible for most of the functions of Vitamin E in the skin.
Alpha-tocopherol (the one that occurs in foods) can easily penetrate the skin, thus making it the perfect choice for skin care formulations. However, on exposure to air, alpha-tocopherol undergoes rapid oxidation which renders it ineffective. On the other hand, vitamin E conjugates (esters of vitamin E) easily penetrate the skin as well as resist oxidation by air.
Role of Vitamin E in the skin
- Vitamin E is best known for its antioxidant role in the skin. It scavenges free radicals, reduces oxidative stress, and thus reduces the signs of ageing and UV-induced skin damage.
- Vitamin E hydrates the skin. Vitamin E can retain water for up to 16 hours after application on the skin!
- By reducing the environmental oxidation of sebum, vitamin E reduces the appearance of blackheads (which are essentially a product of oxidation of oil, dirt, and cellular debris in the pores of the skin).
- When used for eight months, vitamin E reduces the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an allergic reaction brought on by immunoglobulin E/ IgE. In various studies conducted across the globe, the concentration of IgE reduces by 62% after the topical application of vitamin E for 8 months.
- Vitamin E is known to protect the skin barrier and soothe the skin by healing signs of inflammation. Vitamin E also speeds up the process of wound healing by reducing oxidative stress on the skin.
- Vitamin E (specifically alpha-tocopherol acetate) reduces the occurrence of skin cancers, especially UV-induced cancers.
- Vitamin E, when used in combination with Vitamin C and Vitamin A, has the potential to reduce the formation of dark spots, including melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is because it reduces widespread lipid peroxidation, reduces the synthesis of melanin, and increases the synthesis of glutathione.
- Vitamin E also reduces the formation of acne and other comedones and reduces the activity of acne-causing bacteria.
How should you use Vitamin E?
Vitamin E can be used by all skin types. Usually, it does not cause any adverse skin reaction. You can reap the benefits of vitamin E best when it is formulated in an esterified form, in a combination with Ferulic acid and Vitamin C.