The lipophilic antioxidant vitamin E has been used for more than 50 years in clinical and experimental dermatology. However, although a large number of case reports were published, there is still a lack of controlled clinical studies providing a rationale for clinical indications and dosage. In contrast, advances in basic research on the physiology, mechanism of action, penetration, bioconversion, and photoprotection of vitamin E in human skin have led to the development of numerous new formulations for use in cosmetics and skin care products.
This article reviews the basic mechanisms and possible cosmetical and clinical implications of the recent advances in cutaneous vitamin E research. Experimental evidence suggests that topical and oral vitamin E has anticarcinogenic, photoprotective, and skin barrier-stabilizing properties.
Although its current use is largely limited to cosmetics, controlled clinical studies for indications such as atopic dermatitis or prevention of photocarcinogenesis are needed to evaluate the clinical benefit of vitamin E.