Skincare products are often packed with a slew of ingredients, formulated for specific purposes. Acne control, wrinkle reduction, complexion balancing—there’s a product for everything, and a person’s skincare regimen may include several products to achieve the results they want. Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve or what brand of product you use to do it, one ingredient stands apart from the rest: Vitamin E.
Vitamin E belongs in virtually any skincare product for one simple reason: it’s a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E’s role in reducing oxidative stress makes it a valuable ingredient for treating a variety of skincare conditions, from inflammation to signs of aging. Here’s why you’re bound to see Vitamin E (or tocopherol) in most high-end skincare products.
Recognizing Vitamin E in skincare products
First things first—if you pick up a skincare product and “Vitamin E” isn’t listed among the ingredients, that doesn’t mean it’s not part of the formulation. Vitamin E is, in fact, a group of antioxidant compounds. More than likely, you’ll find the specific compounds listed—namely, tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate.
The reason tocopherol is listed on skincare ingredients instead of “Vitamin E” is because there are a variety of studies that prove its effectiveness in fighting free radicals and the oxidative stress they cause. As a result, tocopherol is the only Vitamin E group compound recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for use in skincare products.
Why is Vitamin E such a powerful ingredient?
Thanks to its status as a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E is highly effective in dealing with free radicals and the oxidative stress they cause. If you’re concerned with skin care, you’ll recognize oxidative stress in the many different forms it takes, including:
- Premature aging of the skin, including wrinkles
- Blotchy or patchy skin tone or spots
- Loss of skin elasticity and suppleness
- Rougher skin texture and more pronounced pores
- Dehydration of the skin
Notice anything consistent with the above symptoms of free radical damage and the assortment of skincare products available? There are products for each of them—all designed to reverse the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It’s why almost every skincare product uses Vitamin E: to help prevent this free radical damage to begin with. Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties are able to neutralize free radicals before they cause damage, while other ingredients in the formulation go to work to repair damage and restore skin health.
Who benefits most from Vitamin E in skincare products?
Vitamin E is most beneficial for dry skin, and is best-used as a cream or serum. It’s an oil- and fat-soluble compound, which means it’s easily absorbed through the permeable skin membrane. As a result, people who need it get the antioxidant benefits of Vitamin E right at the source: their skin.
There’s also scientific evidence that individuals with atopic dermatitis (AD) and affiliated conditions like eczema may benefit from Vitamin E as part of their skincare regimen. The study, published in 2015, concludes that, “Vitamin E can improve the symptoms and the quality of life in patients with AD. As vitamin E has no side effects with a dosage of 400 IU/day, it can be recommended for the treatment of AD.”
For most people, Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties are a beneficial part of their skincare regimen, whether they’re turning back the clock on wrinkles or soothing a skin condition caused by inflammation.
Who should avoid using Vitamin E on their skin?
A small percentage of people have an allergy to topical Vitamin E. This usually results in redness or a rash following application, accompanied by itching. The reaction is usually minor to mild, and subsides after the offending skincare product is removed. Individuals who have a Vitamin E allergy (or who suspect one) should refrain from using skincare products with tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate.
Vitamin E products also aren’t advised for anyone with oily skin or severe acne sufferers. In these cases, similar results can occur, causing irritation of the skin. For these individuals, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist to understand which products may cause reactions vs. which are gentle enough for their skin.
Vitamin E as a skincare powerhouse
Vitamin E has been widely studied as an antioxidant, and with so much of the body’s oxidative stress manifesting in the skin, it’s no wonder so many products now include it as part of their formulations. Whether you’re managing a chronic condition like AD or trying to reduce those wrinkles around your eyes, Vitamin E is a powerful ingredient that helps specialized skincare formulations do what they’re intended to do: help you look your best.