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Understanding Vitamin E Cream for Your Face

When it comes to beauty benefits, vitamin E is the star of the nutrient world. It can be found in a slew of look-pretty products, from face creams to hair and nail beautifiers. In terms of skin care, its main promise is a smoother, younger-looking complexion. But before you buy into the hype, it's important to understand the nutrient itself. Read on to learn more about vitamin E and find out if it can really work wonders on your skin.

What is vitamin E?

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"Also know as tocopherol, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of oxygen free radical damage from the sun's harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Naturally found in some foods (such as nuts, seeds, and, leafy greens), it is also available as a dietary supplement [Source: NIH].

The term "vitamin E" actually refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds that have different antioxidant abilities [source: NIH]. While vitamin E exists in many forms, tocopherol is the only form that is known to be useful to humans [Source: NIH]. The chemical group of vitamin E all-stars includes tocopherol acetate, tocopheryl linoleate or tocopheryl nicotinate, according to Zeichner.

Because vitamin E helps ward off sun damage, it can reduce the signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots. Vitamin E is also known as a wound healer. But according to Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai School in New York City, you should use caution before slathering it on. "Some people may experience an allergic reaction from pure vitamin E so talk to your doctor before using it," she warns.

If a product is labeled as a "vitamin E Cream," that means vitamin E has been added to the formula, says Fusco. But the amount of vitamin E present can vary from cream to cream. "Since over-the-counter creams are not strictly regulated the way that drugs are, it's hard to say how much vitamin E is actually in a particular cream," explains Zeichner.

Most vitamin E creams are targeted towards anti-aging since "the nutrient can help smooth the skin and reduce the amount of damage to collagen, elastin, and skin cells from UV radiation," says Zeichner.

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Since some data suggests that vitamin E also helps heal burns and other wounds, it is sometimes used in ointments. However, Fusco advises against using pure vitamin E on wounds because of the risk of allergic reaction. "However, if a cream is formulated with several ingredients in addition to vitamin E and it is labeled for facial use, it's most likely safer than just using pure vitamin E," she says.

Should you try vitamin E cream?

With so many face creams available in drugstores, it can feel impossible to choose the one that's right for you. When it comes to vitamin E creams, Zeichner only recommends them to patients with dry skin. "Vitamin E is a great antioxidant, but because it's oil-soluble, it's typically a heavier product than water-soluble antioxidants like vitamin C," he explains. "For this reason, I usually recommend that patients with oily and acne prone skin avoid vitamin E creams."

If you have normal, oily, or combination skin and your goal is younger-looking skin, you'd be better off seeking out a product with vitamin C, which has been associated with a reduced risk of wrinkles and dry skin (which makes fine lines more apparent) [Source: Web MD]. Otherwise, folks suffering from dry skin will benefit greatly from a vitamin E cream, which moisturizes and protects against the effects of free radical damage from the sun.

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Sources

  • Zeichner, Joshua, M.D. Personal correspondence.
  • National Institutes of Health. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E." (June 5, 2013). http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  • Fusco, Francesca, M.D. Personal correspondence.
  • Zelman, Kathleen, MPH, RD, LD. "The Benefits of Vitamin C: What can vitamin C do for your health?" (January 7, 2010). http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c?page=2

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