Life Extension Blood Test Super Sale

Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine August 2012
Report

Skin Protection Effects Of Vitamin E

By Robert Goldfaden And Gary Goldfaden, MD
SKIN PROTECTION EFFECTS OF VITAMIN E

Over the course of time, healthy skin often succumbs to the cumulative effects of external factors such as ultraviolet radiation and environmental pollutants. Free radical damage caused by normal cell functioning ultimately takes its toll as well, destroying the skin's integrity from the inside.

Fortunately, there are a number of safe and natural substances that have been scientifically proven to effectively help counteract, and in some cases, even help reverse the physical signs of skin aging such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. One of these is topically applied vitamin E.

In the article that follows, you will learn about the ability of vitamin E to beautify, nurture, and protect a reason why it has become one of the most common ingredients in skin care formulations today.

The Antioxidant Tag Team

Protecting the cell membranes, active enzyme sites, and DNA from free radical damage is one of vitamin E's main functions. The lipids in the skin cell membranes are particularly susceptible to free radical attack from both internal and external factors including UV exposure, ozone, and chemical pollutants. In order to protect itself, the skin already contains 1% alpha-tocotrienol, 3% gamma-tocotrienol, 87% alpha-tocopherol, and 9% gamma-tocopherol as part of its antioxidant defense system.1

Vitamin E, because it's a lipid-soluble antioxidant, easily penetrates into the vital membranes of the skin cells and accumulates there to protect against the damaging effects of lipid peroxidation.2 Both tocotrienols and tocopherols can freely donate a hydrogen atom (a proton plus electron) from the hydroxyl group on their chromanol ring. This action completes the molecular structure of the unbalanced free radical, effectively inactivating or quenching it.3,4 Unlike most antioxidants, however, vitamin E doesn't stop there.

The Antioxidant Tag Team

Normally, when an antioxidant molecule accepts a free electron from an oxygen radical, it too becomes inactive. But vitamin E enjoys a special relationship with two other antioxidants, vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid, that allow it to continue protecting the skin.5 Both vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid have the ability to take away the extra electron from a used vitamin E molecule, effectively reactivating it.6 This capacity to recycle and restore its power makes vitamin E a prominent factor in the skin's first line of defense against free radicals.

Natural Age-Defying Benefits

The process of skin aging has been linked to the destruction caused by free radicals over time. Although there are many different factors at work, wrinkled skin is largely the result of cumulative UV exposure. UV rays from the sun make the oxygen molecules in the dermis "spin," causing them to split into two free radicals. The destructive power of these toxic molecules gradually breaks down healthy collagen and compromises the skin's integrity. Fortunately, scientists have found that the gamma tocotrienol form of vitamin E may regulate certain gene signals in the skin that help prevent the damage typically seen after UVB exposure.7

In a recent study on both hairless mice and human skin cells, researchers discovered that gamma tocotrienol reduced several of the inflammatory signals that follow UVB radiation exposure.7 Some of the dangerous inflammatory signals found to be inhibited by gamma tocotrienol were COX-2, interleukin-1beta, IL-6, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1. When applied topically, gamma tocotrienol can help defend against the adverse effects of UV radiation such as abnormal cell development and premature aging.2,7

A Safe and Effective Answer to Clearer Skin

A Safe and Effective Answer to Clearer Skin

Antioxidant activity and photoprotection are not the only benefits that vitamin E offers. Scientists have found that delta tocotrienols are quite effective at slowing the production of melanin, the skin pigment responsible for unsightly age spots.8 One recent study found that these two forms of vitamin E are very adept at suppressing the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase, a key player in melanin formation.8 Furthermore, this ability to block the biosynthesis of melanin was found to be effective even at very low doses. Compared to other popular water soluble skin lightening agents such as kojic acid, arbutin, and sodium lactate, vitamin E penetrates more deeply and delivers its active ingredients in a more controlled and constant manner, making it a very safe and effective alternative.

Another key finding of the same study concerns the production of melanin induced by ultraviolet light (UVB). This process takes place through a different mechanism than the normal activation of tyrosinase.

What You Need to Know: Vitamin E Defies Skin Aging
  • Vitamin E is not a single entity at all, but a family unit consisting of two main branches: tocopherols and tocotrienols each containing four different kinds of molecules (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), making a grand total of 8 distinct forms of vitamin E.10,11
  • Tocotrienols are 40-60 times more effective at quenching free radicals than tocopherols.12
  • Scientists have found that the gamma tocotrienol form of vitamin E may regulate certain gene signals in the skin that help prevent the damage typically seen after UVB exposure.7
  • In a recent study on human skin cells, researchers discovered that gamma tocotrienol reduced several of the inflammatory signals that follow UVB radiation exposure.7
  • Scientists have found that delta tocotrienols are quite effective at slowing the production of melanin, the skin pigment responsible for unsightly age spots.8
  • Vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining the barrier function of the skin and appears to enhance the penetration and resorption of skin lipids.9

Keeping Your Skin Soft and Smooth

The skin has a waterproof seal that keeps moisture in and prevents evaporation and moisture loss. However, the natural aging process and environmental influences can cause this protective barrier to break down, allowing the skin to lose moisture and become dry. The good news here is that vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining the barrier function. Vitamin E appears to enhance the penetration and resorption of skin lipids.9 Taken together, these factors suggests a complex regulatory mechanism for restoring and maintaining the barrier function. Topically applied vitamin E is an excellent moisturizer that helps keep the skin healthy and soft. This valuable nutrient locks moisture into the skin and prevents dehydration.

Summary

The process of skin aging has been linked to the destruction caused by free radicals over time. Although there are many different factors at work, wrinkled skin is largely the result of cumulative UV exposure and exposure to chemical pollutants in the environment, as well as oxidative stress created by normal cellular processes in the body. The destructive power of these toxic molecules gradually breaks down healthy collagen and compromises the skin's integrity. Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant and its unique chemical structure enables it to effectively and safely quench free radicals.3,4 Research has shown that vitamin E, particularly the gamma tocotrienol form, can modulate genetic signals in skin cells to help prevent oxidative damage.7 Additionally, scientists have found that delta tocotrienols are quite effective at slowing the production of melanin, the skin pigment responsible for unsightly age spots.8 Vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining the barrier function of the skin as well. Topically applied vitamin E is an excellent moisturizer that helps keep the skin healthy and soft. This valuable nutrient locks moisture into the skin and prevents dehydration. Vitamin E is able to deeply penetrate the skin and provides broad spectrum defense against signs of skin aging from the inside out.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

UNDERSTANDING VITAMIN E

Vitamin E is not a single entity, but a family unit consisting of two main branches: tocopherols and tocotrienols.10,11 Each of these major subgroups contains four different kinds of molecules (alpha, beta, gamma, and delta), making a grand total of 8 distinct forms of vitamin E. To the untrained eye, all these molecules look alike, resembling a tadpole with a prominent head and tail. However, tiny differences in the length and composition of the tail determine whether a vitamin E molecule will belong to the tocopherol or tocotrienol family. Tocotrienols have shorter, unsaturated tails with three double bonds that make them more flexible. Tocopherols have longer, saturated tails that lack these all-important double bonds.12 It's the added flexibility of the tail that gives tocotrienols the ability to cover a much larger surface area of the cell membranes.13 This increased mobility is one reason why tocotrienols are 40-60 times more effective at quenching free radicals than tocopherols.12

However, the chromanol head structure is really the fundamental unit of vitamin E. It's the known site of all antioxidant activity.13 In addition, the size of the head determines whether it's an alpha, beta, gamma, or delta form. In general, gamma and delta (collectively called desmethyl-) heads are much smaller, enabling them to penetrate the cell membranes more effectively.13