Life Extension Magazine August 2012
Skin Protection Effects Of Vitamin E
By Robert Goldfaden And Gary Goldfaden, MD
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.
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
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.
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.
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.