The Benefits of Vitamin E for Your Skin—and How to Use it

These days, it seems like there are an unlimited amount of products and ingredients you should be using on your skin. The over-influx of info can feel overwhelming to say the least, especially if you’re someone who likes to know exactly what you’re putting on your face. The good news is that you don’t have to buy into all the hype involving the latest, greatest ingredients and products on the market. You can simply stick to the basics—the nutrient-rich ingredients, like vitamin E, that are not only natural, but have been used on the skin for more than 50 years. 

“Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is an important antioxidant for the skin that comes from a number of sources including almonds, peanuts, avocados, sunflower seeds, spinach, butternut squash and oils such as wheat germ oil,” explains Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology. The nutrient protects all bodily tissue from damage, which includes the skin but also extends to major organs and cells. Here are some of the ways in which vitamin E can benefit your skin.

4 Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

4 Benefits of Vitamin E for SkinFights free radicals

Free radicals are highly destructive molecules that can wreak havoc on your skin, explains Dendy Engelman, MD, Manhattan-based dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. “They are unstable compounds in search of a missing electron, so they ‘steal’ electrons from other molecules, thus leaving those molecules unstable as well.” The result of this domino effect is a weakened skin barrier, that’s left vulnerable to premature aging (e.g., fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin texture). 

As an antioxidant, vitamin E can help combat free radicals that form from everyday exposures such as UV rays and pollution, according to Jeremy A. Brauer, M.D., a New York–based dermatologist. He also explains that it may have minor, but direct benefits when it comes to protecting the skin against potential sun damage caused by harmful UV rays. 

Helps with hydration

When applied to the skin, vitamin E does have an emollient, or hydrating, effect, according to Dr. Ilyas. “By hydrating the superficial layers of skin, it can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. “It is not necessarily ‘reversing’ the signs of aging, but more likely hydrating the skin effectively to minimize the appearance of aging.” Since the nutrient itself is fat-soluble, it is most hydrating when applied topically, is it can best penetrate the skin’s top layers. 

Reduces fine lines

If you have ever had the chance to browse the shelves of your local skin care boutique or even drugstore, you have likely noticed just how expensive any product advertising the term “anti-aging” can be. While vitamin E might not be the most instant anti-wrinkle remedy, studies have found it to yield improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, skin firmness and discoloration, notes Dr. Ilyas. So instead of slathering a myriad of chemicals on your skin that promise to smooth fine lines, why not try the natural stuff first? 

Wound repair

Thanks to vitamin E’s anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, it may have the potential to aid in wound repair and skin barrier function, according to Dr. Brauer, although he says that more studies are warranted. “This all translates to vitamin E’s role in the protection and maintenance of skin integrity.” The next time you notice a cut that may turn into a scar, consider rubbing a little vitamin E on it to see if it can help the skin heal faster. 

How to use vitamin E

Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, the best way to apply it is topically, much like you would apply vitamin C (via a serum). “Topically, it is so mild with healing and hydrating properties and prevents damage from free radicals that applying it first after cleansing is helpful prior to adding in other moisturizers and sunblocks,” says Dr. Ilyas. 

Vitamin E Scar LotionIf you have a bottle of vitamin E capsules at home, break one open and add it to a hydrating face mask or eye treatment. Here are a few more DIY recipes with vitamin E to try:

Vitamin E in your diet

You can also score vitamin E from your diet. Nuts and seeds, in particular are full of nutrients including vitamins E, A, B, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats as well as minerals and antioxidants. “Due to the nutritional density of nuts and seeds you can hydrate your skin, promote its elasticity, help regenerate cells and protect against free radicals,” explains Dr. Engelman.

Olive oil is another great source of vitamin E. “In addition to vitamin E, olive oil contains monounsaturated lipids and antioxidants such as polyphenol,” says Dr. Ilyas. “Polyphenols have been shown to work well with sunscreen to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin and may prevent skin cancer.” The next time you are cooking a stir fry, use olive oil instead of canola to score some additional nutrient benefits. 

Another way to score vitamin E is to take it via supplement (by mouth). When choosing this method, it is important to know how much you need, as the recommended amount to add to your routine is based on age. For most adults, Dr. Ilyas recommends 15 mg daily or 22.5 international units (IU), which you can easily get in a daily multivitamin.

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