Vitamin E helps to prevent skin damage from free radicals and the sun's ultraviolet rays.

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You might have noticed that vitamin E is a common ingredient in many skin care products, such as body lotions, anti-aging serums, moisturizers and lip balms. This nutrient clearly has a good reputation when it comes to skin care, but you might wonder what exactly it does for your lips.

One of the reasons vitamin E is included in so many skin care products is that it acts as an antioxidant, which means it fights against the skin cell damage believed to be caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in the body that may harm cellular processes, and their presence in the skin is most often a result of exposure to pollution and ultraviolet rays from the sun. Because they work against free radicals -- which many scientists believe contribute to signs of aging -- antioxidants are often found in products advertised as anti-aging [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Beyond its effects as an antioxidant, vitamin E also is believed to protect skin from damage directly caused by ultraviolet rays. Your lips are often exposed to the sun and don't contain the protective pigment melanin, so choosing a lip care product with vitamin E can help protect your lips during the day and possibly repair damage after the day is done [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. So, as an ingredient in lip balms, vitamin E may help you maintain the soft, youthful texture of your lips by reducing the signs of aging.

If your lips are dry or chapped, however, vitamin E alone probably won't be able to provide much relief. So if you want to soothe your ailing lips, look instead for lip care products that include moisturizing ingredients, such as petrolatum, olive oil, glycerin or beeswax.

For more information about the benefits of vitamin E, visit the links on the next page.