Vitamin E
The Essential Antiaging Nutrient

By Shelley Burns, N.D.

Originally published in Skin Deep. Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

A good skin care regimen is comprised of an antioxidant-rich diet and vitamin/mineral supplementation that includes vitamin E -- an essential key to a healthy complexion. Vitamin E is unique in that it's not one vitamin, but a family of eight fat-soluble antioxidants, including four types of tocopherols and four types of tocotrienols -- alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Alpha-tocopherol is the most common and most potent form of vitamin E.

This important nutrient works to prevent aging by prolonging the useful life of cells in the body. By protecting and strengthening the cell membrane, vitamin E wards off free radical attacks caused by sun exposure and also helps combat disease. This protection is further intensified when combined with vitamin C. Vitamin E also helps in the formation of red blood cells, protecting them from destructive toxins and cell damage, which also helps prevent skin cancer.

Vitamin E-rich foods include wheat germ, almonds, peanuts, safflower, corn, soybean oils, green leafy vegetables, and walnuts. For supplementation, the recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 400 IU. Be aware that high doses of vitamin E (1,200 IU daily or more) can be toxic and cause oxidative damage.

It is imperative that when taking the supplement orally, it is in the natural form, designated with a "d," and not synthetic, designated as "dl." Mixed tocopherols -- meaning a combination of alpha, beta, gamma, and delta -- are easily absorbed and are a good choice, especially when used in skin care products.

Topical creams and oils containing vitamin E promote healing, protect cells from free-radical damage, and reduce itchiness -- very helpful in treating conditions such as sunburn and eczema.

In addition to contributing to healthy skin, vitamin E has many other beneficial properties, including slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease, decreasing oxidative stress associated with asthma, alleviating arthritic conditions, decreasing PMS symptoms, and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Shelley Burns, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, completed studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has certification in Complementary and Integrative Medicine from Harvard University. She can be reached at the Scienta Health Centre at or 905/270-8318.

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