Still unclear on the benefits of vitamin E for skin? So were we. I began digging around on the premise that as an antioxidant and vital nutrient for the body, vitamin E must be good for your skin. Well, turns out, there are a variety of factors and limits that make this presumption far too simplistic, and there are even cases where vitamin E can be harmful to your body and skin.

According to non-profit research institute Frost & Sullivan, vitamin E in cosmetics accounted for only  2% of the total volume in 2005, but vitamin E is on its way to further growth in the cosmetic market due to its complex protective functions. Vitamin E has also been touted as an acne scar and wound healer for years, and yet, one study claims that it can do more detriment to the healing of a scar than when the body is left to its own devices. Shocked? So was I.

Here are a number of other things I learned:

Vitamin E: The Good

A 2005 Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology article gives the application of topical vitamin E credit for reducing erythema, sunburn cells and chronic UV-B-induced skin damage. Topical vitamin E for skin was more effective than the oral dosage. Combinations of vitamins C and E together make an even better case for photoprotective effects.

Tocopheryl Acetate is the most common form of vitamin E for skin and is FDA approved and recognized as generally safe. There are eight basic forms of the vitamin E molecule total. Others include tocotrienols, which also make for a good ingredient in sunscreens. Research from the Journal of Nutrition shows that tocotrienols may be more potent in antioxidant activity than other forms of vitamin E.

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Experimental evidence suggests that topical vitamin E has antitumorigenic, photoprotective, and skin barrier stabilizing properties. Vitamin E is supposed to reduce the formation of free radicals upon skin exposure to UVA rays and other sources of skin stress, while increasing the efficacy of active sunscreen ingredients. Several studies indicate that mixed tocopherols are more effective than alpha tocopherol in quenching free radicals.

Vitamin E: The Bad

Tocopheryl Acetate does show tendencies of being a skin toxicant; several in vitro tests on mammalian cells showed positive mutation results.

While most people say rubbing vitamin E on a scar helps it heal, research hardly proves that theory. In a Dermatologic Surgery article, the study shows that there is no benefit to the cosmetic outcome of scars by applying vitamin E after skin surgery. In fact, it is detrimental to the skin’s healing process; the levels of contact dermatitis were high. A 2006 study in Canada tested vitamin E on children’s scars and stated that there were some adverse affects with the use of vitamin E. The Division of Dermatology at McGill University states that even after 44 years of research, there is scant proof of vitamin E’s effectiveness in treating dermatologic conditions.

Vitamin E: The Ugly

On top of lack of proof for vitamin E's healing properties in regards to scars and acne, vitamin E doesn’t seem to have any benefit for eyelash growth either, as Copley explored. An increasing number of cases illustrate that vitamin E is a potential contact allergen, so considering the sensitivity of the eye area, applying vitamin E oil to the eyelash bed could make things go from bad to ugly, fast.

A research group from Tel Aviv University recently published a study on vitamin E use and heart disease, and warned that indiscriminate use of high doses of vitamin E do more harm than good. In fact, subjects who did not take a vitamin E supplement enjoyed more quality-adjusted-life years.

In November 2004, the American Heart Association warned that while the small amounts of vitamin E found in multivitamins and foods were not harmful, taking 400 International Units a day or more could increase the risk of death.

Vitamin E for Skin: Our Takeaways

Look for products that use vitamin E for sun protection as opposed to simply treating and healing inflictions already on the skin. Don’t take vitamin E as a supplement in anything but very small quantities; for the most part you can get what you need from a healthy diet. Plus, anything that touts vitamin E as a catalyst for hair growth may just be consigned to the department of daft.

Do you have sensitive skin? Read our article on sensitive skin solutions

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