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Article: Vitamin E | What Is It and Why Does It Matter

Vitamin E | What Is It and Why Does It Matter
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Vitamin E | What Is It and Why Does It Matter


What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient created naturally by plants. There are 2 classes of Vitamin E molecules: tocopherols and tocotrienols. Tocopherols are found in abundant forms throughout the body, while tocotrienols are found at a lower concentration. Both forms of Vitamin E are readily obtained from the diet.

What are sources of Vitamin E?

Vitamin E can be found in a variety of foods and oils. Some of the plant-based oils that contain Vitamin E are from wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil. Foods rich in Vitamin E consist of almonds, kiwi, squash, spinach, broccoli, avocado, and sunflower seeds. Although each source has its own amount of Vitamin E, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults is 15 mg (22 IU) per day. Pregnant women require a higher amount at 19 mg (28 IU) per daily.

What does Vitamin E do for the body?

It has the ability to protect the body’s cell membranes and fat-soluble tissues. Vitamin E can be utilized to defend against hazardous free radicals, and boost our immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses. Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant to protect us from conditions such as heart disease and eye disorders.

  • Studies have shown a correlation between patients with higher intake of Vitamin E supplements and lower chances of coronary heart disease development. In addition, patients with higher ingestion of Vitamin E in their diets have been linked with a lower risk of atherosclerosis. 
  • Vision loss and formation of cataracts are one of the most common conditions in the elderly. Research has shown that large doses of Vitamin E when used in combination with other antioxidants (copper and zinc) have halted the progression of vision loss

Can Vitamin E help with skin?

Vitamin E’s strong antioxidant properties are one of the most popular and researched topics. Not only does Vitamin E protect the body’s cells, but it defends the skin against hazardous pollution, and interferes with the amount of UVB radiation absorbed into the skin. Based on findings from recent studies, Vitamin E has been shown to have photoprotective and skin barrier stabilizing properties, making it an ideal addition to any skincare formulation. Aside from cosmetic uses, it is also beneficial in patients who seek temporary relief with skin disorders such as eczema or psoriasis due to its ability to moisturize dry and irritated skin. 

Although Vitamin E must be obtained through our diet, our bodies can accumulate, and therefore provide Vitamin E to the skin through sebaceous glands. Vitamin E is actually the most abundant lipophilic antioxidant that can be found in our skin. Unfortunately, those with dry skin may not have standard levels of Vitamin E. As we age, the sebaceous glands’ ability to secrete Vitamin E will also decrease, which may then lead to skin damage or irritation. Research shows that topical application of products containing Vitamin E can replenish those sebaceous gland reserves and allow our skin to function at its normal peak. Topical use of Vitamin E can permeate through the epidermis and dermis to supply additional antioxidants to the cells of the skin. It is important to note that heavy sun exposure after topical applications of Vitamin E may cause skin reactions. With that said, remember to always apply sunscreen!

Can Vitamin E be dangerous?

As part of natural foods, Vitamin E cannot be harmful to your health. However, keep in mind that overconsumption or overutilization of any product can lead to unwanted results. When using Vitamin E as an oral supplement, be cautious of the adult recommended daily dose of 15 mg per day. For patients also taking anticoagulation medications, make sure to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before starting additional Vitamin E supplementation-- especially supplements that provide over 300 mg of Vitamin E. For those who wish to utilize Vitamin E within a skincare regimen, make sure to follow guided directions from a trusted clinician! Overall, Vitamin E is generally safe, and very well tolerated for all skin types. 


  1. Evans JR, Lawrenson JG. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;7(7):CD000254.
  2. Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation Study Investigators, Yusuf S, Dagenais G, Pogue J, Bosch J, Sleight P. Vitamin E supplementation and cardiovascular events in high-risk patients. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(3):154-160.
  3. Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):311-315.
  4. Lee GY, Han SN. The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1614.
  5. Rizvi S, Raza ST, Ahmed F, Ahmad A, Abbas S, Mahdi F. The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014;14(2):e157-e165.
  6. Thiele JJ, Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage S. Vitamin E in human skin: organ-specific physiology and considerations for its use in dermatology. Mol Aspects Med. 2007;28(5-6):646-667.


This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Thy Pham. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at West Coast University School of Pharmacy in Los Angeles, California.

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