We know how important it is to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun as ultraviolet, or UV rays, are one of the most common free radicals that we are exposed to. Prolonged UV exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. Further, UV exposure creates and increases wrinkles, as well as sunspots (liver spots) on the skin. How can we protect our skin from UV damage? Science has been trying to harness the powerful antioxidant effect of vitamin E to see if it can assist in protecting our skin from the sun.
What the Sun Does to Our Skin?
Most of us know the uncomfortable feeling of a sunburn, which is when the sun has penetrated the outer layer of our skin to the deeper layers where it can damage and kill cells. There are two types of UV rays that affect our skin. UVB is what provides your skin with the energy to make vitamin D and is also responsible for giving you a tan, which acts as a first layer of defense against cell damage. When the damage is too great however, that’s when you get a sunburn. UVA rays are capable of hitting deeper layers of our skin and can stimulate the production of free radicals causing oxidative stress. These types of UV rays can cause different types of cancers based on the cells they damage.
When the UV index is at 8 or higher, it’s possible to develop a sunburn in as little as 15 minutes, especially for those who have low melanin in their skin. In general, UV rays are their highest between 10 am and 2 pm.
Why Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is an important nutrient and antioxidant that we require to keep our body healthy. It works to fight off free radicals, such as pollution, radiation and UV rays from the sun, which can cause early cellular senescence. This process can lead to the development of diseases like cancer. Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin E is essential to your immune system and wellbeing.
Vitamin E Protects
A variety of studies have linked vitamin E with increased protection from the sun.
In one study, researchers had two groups of fair-skinned (low melanin levels, which means they’re likely to sunburn faster) one of which was given oral supplementation of vitamin E and beta carotene, with the control group only taking beta carotene. After exposing each group to a controlled amount of UV rays, the group that was taking both the vitamin E and beta carotene supplements was found to have burned less than the control group as well as having sunburns that healed and dissipated faster. It was determined that vitamin E can increase sunscreen factors by two or three, meaning that it helps to withstand UV exposure two or three times more without damaging the skin.
Other studies have also seen results when vitamin E is combined with vitamin C as it saw lower amounts of DNA damage caused by UVB rays.
Topical vitamin E also seems to be effective in protecting from UVB rays as well as additional UV anti-inflammatory effects that can cause skin damage. Meaning that when used with your sunscreen it can add additional protection or it can also help reduce the healing time and damage caused by sunburn from excess sun exposure.
How to Further Protect Yourself from UV Rays
•Avoid going out during peak times between 10 am and 2 pm.
•Wear sunscreen daily.
•Cover up exposed areas, including your eyes.
•Ask your doctor about vitamin E supplementation to increase your protection.
•Try a topical vitamin E product or a sunscreen with added vitamins to increase protection.