How does vitamin E benefit skin?

Avocado, nuts, and vegetable oil; all naturally high sources of vitamin E.
Avocado, nuts, and vegetable oil are natural sources of vitamin E.
Š Caldwell

It's common knowledge that vitamin E is good for your skin, but not many people could tell you exactly what this nutrient does -- vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs your skin.

Antioxidants are agents that neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals, which are molecules that damage collagen and cause skin dryness, fine lines and wrinkles [source: Bouchez]. A simple chemistry lesson can explain how vitamin E does this. The atoms that comprise your body try to maintain an even number of electrons -- that's what makes them stable. If an atom has an uneven number of electrons, it will steal an electron from another atom to become stable. When your skin takes a beating from outside factors, such as the sun's ultraviolet rays, your body can produce free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an uneven number of electrons, and when they form inside your body, they steal electrons from healthy cells like the ones that make up your skin. This can cause a damaging chain reaction, and that's where antioxidants like vitamin E come in [source: Rice].


Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent cellular damage from occurring. Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants, but your body can't produce it, which means you have to make sure you're getting enough of this valuable nutrient in your diet. Eating foods high in vitamin E and taking vitamin E supplements if you can't get enough through your food intake can can help prevent premature aging of your skin and damage to your DNA [source: Phillips]. Studies show that taking vitamin E long term can even reduce sunburns from exposure to UVB radiation. This doesn't mean that taking vitamins or applying topical vitamin E will allow you to safely bake in the sun, but you can help your skin stay healthier and more supple by ensuring you get enough of this antioxidant vitamin [source: Bouchez].

Keep reading to learn what foods are high in vitamin E and how to incorporate them into your diet.


Vitamin E Foods

You're probably aware of how many supplements are out there these days -- there are entire stores dedicated to them. But you can typically get all the vitamins you need by simply eating the right foods.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found in many nuts, fruits and vegetables. According to the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance, an adult needs 15 milligrams of vitamin E every day, and vegetable oils -- such as corn oil, olive oil, sunflower oil and wheat germ oil -- are a good place to start. In fact, one tablespoon of wheat germ oil will give you more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin E allowance [source: Mosure].


Snacking on nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts, can also help you get your daily dose of vitamin E. Almonds will give you the most bang for your buck -- an ounce of almonds gives you 40 percent of your daily vitamin E intake, while an ounce of peanuts gives you only 11 percent [source: Office of Dietary Supplements].

Aside from oils and nuts, certain fruits and vegetables can also provide you with vitamin E. One sweet potato, for example, can give you 40 percent of your daily allowance, and a mango or an avocado can give you at least 15 percent. Apples, asparagus, turnip greens, spinach and tomatoes can help you get there as well, but you'll need more than one serving -- they each account for less than 10 percent of your daily allowance [source: Mosure].

The key to getting enough vitamin E is eating a balanced diet that includes a mixture of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Check out the links on the following page for more information on how vitamin E benefits your skin and how you can incorporate it into your diet.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Bouchez, Colette. "Nutrients for Healthy Skin: Inside and Out." (Accessed 10/19/09)
  • Mosure, Jackie. "Vitamin E." Ohio State University. November 2004. (Accessed 10/05/2009)
  • O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: Vitamin E Helps Remove Scars." The New York Times. March 13, 2007. (Accessed 10/05/2009)
  • Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin E Fact Sheet." National Institutes of Health. May 4, 2009. (Accessed 10/05/2009)
  • Phillips, Mariana M.D. "Review of retinioid biology." American Academy of Dermatology. 2007. (10/05/2009)