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Vitamin E and Acne
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and effective acne supplement. It is best combined with vitamin A.
Vitamin E refers to a group of eight fat-soluble tocotrienols and tocopherols. Of these two groups, the tocopherols are the most studied. Among the tocopherols, alpha tocopherol is the most biologically active form of vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a very potent antioxidant. Since it is fat-soluble, it is the antioxidant responsible for neutralizing the reactive oxygen species produced from the oxidation of fats.
It is also the chief antioxidant in cell membranes where it protects cells from oxidative damage.
The antioxidant effects of vitamin E also make it a very active peroxoyl scavenger capable of removing highly reactive free radicals produced from both organic and inorganic peroxides.
Other functions of vitamin E include its influence in gene expression especially when turning on the gene responsible for regeneration of extracellular tissues for the repair of wounds; vitamin E also regulates the activities of certain enzymes as well as contributes to neurological functions and platelet aggregation in the body.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin E in adolescents and adults is 15 mg per day.
Food sources of vitamin E include sunflower oil, safflower oil and wheat germ oil which are excellent sources of alpha tocopherol. Other food sources of the vitamin are green leafy vegetables, almonds, hazelnut, palm oil, broccoli, tomato and mango.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency affect very important organ-systems such the brain and nervous system.
Some of these symptoms are impaired immune function, damage to skeletal muscle, loss of sensation at the extremities, and damage to the retina of the eye. All of these arise when the cover of antioxidant protection of vitamin E is removed due to deficiency in the vitamin.
While there are few studies that directly investigate the link between acne and vitamin E, a review of studies about the benefits of the vitamin to skin health shows that vitamin E may contribute strongly to the resolution of acne symptoms.
The major contribution of vitamin E to acne treatment is its antioxidant properties. It can be combined with other natural antioxidants too to help prevent oxidative damage to the skin.
There are different suggested mechanisms by which the antioxidant effect of vitamin E is useful in acne treatment.
One of these is that vitamin E helps prevent the oil produced by the skin from going bad.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E can protect sebum secreted by the sebaceous gland and stabilize it. This is especially useful when excess sebum is being produced.
Hormonal imbalance, especially the increased production of male sex hormones, causes the enlargement of and increased secretion from the sebaceous gland. The excess sebum serves as a nutrient source for acne-causing bacteria which colonizes the skin soon after.
The excess sebum also hardens when it quickly goes rancid and, together with dead skin cells and bacteria, form plugs that clog the skin pores. Clogged skin pores directly results in acne comedones such as whiteheads and blackheads.
Therefore, vitamin E can prevent the excess sebum from going bad. It is not an ideal solution (a better solution is to reduce the production of excess sebum) but it is effective for inhibiting the formation of acne lesions.
It is worth noting that this effect is only possible with oral vitamin E supplementation and not with the application of topical vitamin E preparations.
In fact, most of the benefits of vitamin E in acne treatment are derived from oral forms of the supplement. About the only usefulness of topical vitamin E in acne treatment is to help fade away acne scars.
The antioxidant effect of vitamin E has also been shown to provide anticarcinogenic and photoprotective benefits. This means that the vitamin protects the skin from direct damage from toxins, free radicals and ultraviolet rays of sunlight.
Vitamin E is also known to stabilize the skin barrier. When the skin barrier is breached, acne-causing bacteria grow rapidly on it.
When the immune systems sends it helper cells mend the damage caused by acne lesion, these cells produce an unfortunate side effect that complicates or even triggers acne: they cause local inflammation.
Local inflammation on the skin is responsible for the formation of inflammatory acne lesions such as papules, pimples, nodules and cysts. Vitamin E can prevent this inflammatory response from the immune system by protecting the skin from the damage that triggers it.
The vitamin is also known to contribute to the immune system in other ways but it is not clear if its influence is strong enough as to prevent the inflammatory response of immune cells.
Vitamin E can also repair damaged skin cells. It is involved in a specific gene expression process that helps repair wounds. Specifically, vitamin E stimulates the production of connective tissue growth factor or CTGF.
CTGF has been shown to regenerate extracellular tissue damaged by atherosclerosis.
It is quite possible that some of this effect can be carried over to the connective tissues of the skin formed by collagen.
When vitamin E and vitamin A are combined, they produced a positive synergistic effect (the observed effect exceeds what the sum of effects should be) in acne treatment.
Vitamin E regulates the retinol form of vitamin A in the body. Therefore, when the level of vitamin A falls in the body, fat metabolism proceeds unchecked and there is an increased oxidation of fatty acids in the cells. Vitamin E restores the level of vitamin A so that the free radicals and excessive fat metabolism that can damage the skin are properly controlled.
This link between the two vitamins was first reported in 1979 in a study published in Cutis: Cutaneous Medicine for the Practitioner by Stanley R. Ames et al. In that study, serum vitamin A was found to remain low despite continuous vitamin A supplementation in the absence of vitamin E.
When vitamin E was added, the level of vitamin A quickly returned to normal values and three different dermatological conditions improved soon after.
Another study published in 2006 in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology by Z. El-akawi et al. approached the link from a different perspective to arrive at the same conclusions.
In this study, plasma concentrations of vitamins A and E in 100 newly treated acne patients and 100 controls of the same ages were compared.
The results showed that levels of both vitamins were lower in the acne group than in the controls. In addition, there was a strong link between decreasing plasma levels of vitamin A and the severity of acne. The patients with the most severe acne showed the lowest plasma levels of both vitamins A and E.
A similar result was obtained with selenium. In a study published in 1984 in Acta Dermato-Venereologica, men and women suffering from acne were shown to have low levels of glutathione peroxidase.
Glutathione peroxidase is the enzyme responsible for the antioxidant effects of selenium.
When these patients were given 0.2 mg selenium and 10 mg vitamin E twice daily for 6 – 12 weeks, there was an increase in glutathione peroxidase activity and marked improvements in the appearances of their pustular acne.
As mentioned above, oral vitamin E presents the most benefits in acne treatments.
Topical vitamin E may only be used not to treat acne but to treat acne scars.
Vitamin E should not be used alone for treating acne. It is a supplement and not an acne medication. The best of this vitamin is obtained by combining it with other acne supplements.
Actimine is one such acne supplement that contains vitamin E. Each capsule contains 200 IU of vitamin E to give a daily dose of 600 IU. This is well above the minimum dose of vitamin E recommended to provide optimal antioxidant effects.
Actimine also contains vitamin A and selenium in amounts high enough to achieve an overall synergistic effect in acne treatment.
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