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How does Vitamin E work, anyway?

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This post is part of a series in which we break down buzzy skincare ingredients. Check out the rest of the posts in this series:

We’re following up our post on Vitamin C with a deep dive into its best friend—Vitamin E. The work together to fight free radical damage and environmental stress (see our post What are environmental stressors, anyway? for more!). 

They’re so powerful that you’re likely to see Vitamin E pop up on more skincare labels as Vitamin C does, too. But Vitamin E also stands out all on its own.

In this post, we’ll explore what Vitamin E is, explain how it works, and dish about some of our favorite products for delivering your skin a helpful hit of Vitamin E.

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is actually a collection of fat-soluble vitamins with any of 8 different chemical forms.

We need 15 mg of Vitamin E in our diet every day, and naturally-occurring sources include sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, and almonds.

In addition to the Vitamin E we eat, we find it in topical formulations, too. When you see “Vitamin E” on an ingredient label, it’s usually listed in its chemical form, alpha-tocopherol.

One of Vitamin E’s most important roles (and what makes it really helpful for our skin) is as a powerful antioxidant. It also helps with healthy immune function and blood clotting.

And how does it actually work?

We find Vitamin E inside our bodies running a couple of crucial roles.

First, there’s a high concentration of Vitamin E in our sebum, the oily substance responsible for shiny foreheads. It’s also found in our skin in a superficial layer called the stratum corneum. It’s role there is to protect skin against UV-damage.

When our Vitamin E levels are too low, we’re more susceptible to visible signs of aging.  In fact, free radicals actually lower levels of Vitamin E in our skin, another example of how environmental stress sometimes affects our skin in ways we can’t even see. That means eating Vitamin E in our diets, taking a supplement, and using it in skincare can all be helpful in warding off the aging effects of the sun.

Vitamin E is especially protective when combined with Vitamin C, researchers have found, so both are often included in sunscreen (especially the natural, mineral-based ones). There’s even evidence that these two vitamins may help reduce some signs of environmental stress, like sun spots and wrinkles.

But Vitamin E can benefit our skin beyond protecting it from the sun.

As an antioxidant, Vitamin E prevents free radicals, those volatile molecules that make smog so nasty for our skin, from causing damage. Less free radical damage means brighter, happier skin.

So which one should I try?

Since Vitamin E does so much to combat free radical damage, it’s a powerful addition to your skincare routine.

To get the most out of your Vitamin E product, choose one that also has Vitamin C and ferulic acid, and combining it with SPF for added protection (see “The best SPF-rated foundations for sun protection” for more!)

Marie Veronique: Vitamin C, E & Ferulic Acid serum combines Vitamins C & E for a powerful antioxidant boost, and ferulic acid helps to stabilize the vitamins, making them even more active and effective for skin.

Sunday Rily C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturizer combines Vitamins C and E with a hydrating moisturizer. Read more about why moisturizers are an important boon to winter skin in “How hydration helps dry winter skin.”

Argan Daily Moisturizer Tinted SPF 47 Protect + Perfect offers the best of both worlds with SPF protection, the antioxidant benefits of Vitamin C and E, and a tinted moisturizer to boot.

Don’t forget to add Sundaily gummies to your daily ritual to make the most of your skincare routine. The Base Layer helps prevent environmental stress while The Back Up improves skin’s tone and texture and helps you rewind to healthier skin.

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