Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin–or, rather, it’s a family of eight different compounds. Of these eight compounds, the most biologically significant is alpha-tocopherol. Note that sources may be listed as d-alpha-tocopherol or dl-alpha-topopherol. In this case d indicates a naturally derived source of vitamin E rather than a synthetic dl source and natural sources have been shown to be more powerful and are retained more by the body. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and is especially associated with stable membranes because it stops the oxidation of lipids [1, 3].
Vitamin E has been shown to help with immune function–even decreasing chances of getting the common cold. It’s been correlated with better scores on cognitive tests in those without dementia and in slowing dementia’s progress in some patients. Symptomatic vitamin E deficiency has been linked to damage to the retina, implicating vitamin E in maintaining healthy eyes .
However, vitamin E is especially known for its effects on skin. Vitamin E is reported to have photo-protective effects, and in combination with vitamin C, it is even more effective, further decreasing DNA damage after sun exposure. In fact, vitamin E by itself (or with vitamin C) applied after sun exposure is still shown to help decrease inflammation and the extent of the burn .
There are some risks associated with getting too much vitamin E and the most prevalent are its anti-coagulant effects. However, most Americans do not even reach the threshold for the minimum recommended intake for vitamin E, so these worries apply only to those taking supplements with a high dosage. Good sources of vitamin E include olive oil, nuts, and leafy greens .
1. Vitamin E. Micronutrient Information Center. Linus Pauling Institute.
2. Vitamin E and Skin Health. Micronutrient Information Center. Linus Pauling Institute.
3. Vitamin E. Beautypedia Cosmetics Ingredient Dictionary.