Of the many skin-care ingredients out there, vitamin E is definitely one of the most common. It's found naturally in our bodies and in certain foods. And if you look closely, you'll probably find it in many of the skin-care products already in your medicine cabinet — serums, moisturizers, eye creams, and just about everything in between. As it turns out, this workhorse ingredient shouldn’t be overlooked; it’s doing more to help protect your skin than you might realize.
Let’s explore why you should incorporate vitamin E into your daily skincare routine, shall we?
What is vitamin E?
Yes, it is a vitamin, but if you want to get technical, the term vitamin E actually refers to a group of compounds. "Vitamin E is the name given to [a] family of oil-soluble antioxidants," explains cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson. "There are about eight different types" or forms of vitamin E, and of those, "tocopheryl acetate and tocopherol are most commonly found in skin-care products."
In other words, although there are technically eight chemical forms in which vitamin E naturally occurs, when you see "vitamin E" on your skin-care or supplement packaging, it's almost always tocopherol. This is the only form of vitamin E that's recognized to meet human requirements, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). So if you see the term "tocopherol" on the ingredient list of your favorite serum or moisturizer, it's vitamin E.
Different Types of Vitamin E in Skin Care
There are eight basic forms of the vitamin E molecule, and they can be either synthetically or naturally derived. The most typical forms are d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol, and dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate.
The “d” prefix indicates that the product was derived from natural sources, such as vegetable oils or wheat germ; whereas the “dl” prefix indicates that the vitamin was created from a synthetic base.
Research has shown that natural forms of vitamin E are more effective than their synthetic counterparts, but both definitely have antioxidant activity. You’ll most commonly find vitamin E listed as tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate on the ingredient list, which doesn’t indicate whether it’s naturally or synthetically derived, but you can contact the company to find out if you’re really curious.
Is Vitamin E Good for Skin?
Vitamin E is a naturally occurring component of healthy skin. It offers significant antioxidant properties to help defend from pollution and other environmental stressors that would otherwise weaken the skin, causing unwanted changes.
Certain forms of vitamin E also help soothe skin. Unfortunately, with time and sun damage, skin’s vitamin E decreases, depleting our natural ability to fight the signs of aging.
But, this isn’t a doom and gloom story. You can absolutely replenish skin with topically applied vitamin E, and it doesn’t have to be from “special” vitamin E capsules.
Vitamin E and Vitamin C Combined
Without a doubt, using vitamin E and vitamin C together is great for skin. When combined, they can improve the appearance of uneven skin tone, brighten a dull complexion, and strengthen skin’s defenses against the impact of environmental assault. These antioxidants play well together because vitamin C works optimally on the surface level, whereas vitamin E is oil-soluble so it goes deeper—you get the best of both worlds. Besides, "When vitamin E is combined with vitamin C and used under sunscreen, it can provide four times the protection of sunscreen alone," says Rouleau.