A vitamin favoured by skin specialists and nutritionists alike, vitamin E has been shown to slow free-radical damage that results in premature ageing, while offering innumerable health benefits.
From fast food diets to stressful living, the oxidation and free-radical breakdown of healthy skin is largely a consequence of unhealthy lifestyle choices and toxic environments. Yet you can turn around the signs of attack, including cell damage and collagen breakdown, with the help of antioxidant powerhouse, vitamin E.
Dosing up on one of the darlings of the beauty industry — internally and externally — can slow down, and even ward off, the side-effects of free-radical attack, which usually comes in the form of premature ageing and dull skin. Fat-soluble vitamin E not only soothes and smooths, thanks to its ability to penetrate the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, it also forms a protective barrier, which keeps free radicals at bay.
Despite its powerful anti-ageing properties, vitamin E is a relatively new find as a treatment for health and beauty concerns. In 1938, a vitamin E-rich wheatgerm oil supplement was used on 17 premature newborn infants who suffered from stunted growth. Eleven recovered and continued normal growth patterns following treatment.
It wasn’t until 1945 that two doctors published the first study on the vitamin, which showed mega doses slowed down and even reversed atherosclerosis, a condition that results in plaque build-up within the body’s arteries. Since then, further studies have been conducted on the efficacy of vitamin E to treat a wide range of health issues and accelerated ageing, most with favourable findings.
From the inside out
Organic wholefoods are a great way you can start stocking up on this skin-loving vitamin. To reap its full benefit, however, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and even spices, are best eaten in their natural state — that is, uncooked — as cooking depletes the nutritional content.
“Vitamin E can be found naturally in sunflower seeds, almonds, mango, spinach and broccoli, which are effective alkalisers, as well as asparagus, cayenne pepper and capsicum,” says James Duigan, personal trainer to supermodel Elle Macpherson and founder of the Clean and Lean Diet.
Other good food choices include avocado, sweet potato, dandelion greens, beets and collard.
Choosing the right supplements
Popping a pill that promises all the benefits vitamin E has to offer may sound enticing, but it’s important to know what you’re looking for before venturing out to your favourite healthfood store.
Synthetic vitamins not only offer false promises but can do the body more damage than good and may result in collagen degeneration and a destroyed immune system. According to a study conducted by The New England Journal of Medicine, smokers who ingested normal doses of synthetic vitamin E and beta-carotene had a higher incidence of lung cancer, more heart attacks and an 8 per cent higher overall death rate.
Natural forms of vitamin E supplements are usually made from buckwheat, wheatgerm or carrot powder, making them bioavailable to the body. This means the nutrients are easily absorbed because the body recognises the supplement as a food.
“If you do choose a supplement, make sure you go for one that is good quality and is a high gamma vitamin E, as research shows that this is a more natural form, which works better with your body,” Duigan says.
Skin specialist Brooke Venables, of Perth’s MiSkn Clinic, says vitamin E absorption via the skin is limited. She strongly recommends internal supplementation to experience the full benefits, from the inside out.
“Look for a supplement containing mixed tocopherols as this provides a broad range for maximum absorption — around 500iu daily is a good maintenance dose,” she says. “Synthetic vitamin E will often be listed as ‘dl’ so look for ‘natural’ or ‘d’ to ensure the product is natural and in an absorbable form.”
However, a quick fix, vitamin E is not. True cell and skin repair can only come with better lifestyle choices in conjunction with regular use of vitamin E-rich foods, supplementation and natural topical treatments.
When to avoid vitamin E
While vitamin E is generally considered safe for topical and internal use, there are some contraindications to keep in mind. Avoid taking the supplement in early pregnancy and be sure not to take concentrated amounts throughout the gestational period. Blood clots may become a concern for those suffering from low vitamin K levels if they take vitamin E, while surgery patients are advised to stop taking any vitamin E supplements two weeks prior.
As with any vitamin, be sure to research your individual circumstance thoroughly before adding it to your diet or Beauty routine.