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With summer officially arriving a few weeks ago, many of us are enjoying the outdoors and will be heading off on sun-filled (hopefully) vacations over July and August. With extra time spent outdoors, and the sun’s energy at its strongest over summer months, many of us if we are not careful, can overdo it and succumb to that dreaded sunburn.

Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction on the surface of the skin after excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. In peak hours for sun exposure during summer months, the time it takes to burn (aka UV index) can be as little as 10 minutes for unprotected skin. While conventional sun protection measures like application of sunscreens, wide brimmed hats, long sleeved cotton tops, and staying out of the sun at peak times are all fine options, what if there was something you could do from an internal perspective? Enter Vitamin E.

Vitamin E is a fat (lipid) soluble vitamin in the antioxidant category. It is a group of 8 naturally occurring compounds known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Vitamin E has been studied extensively and shown to be of benefit to numerous medical conditions from heart disease, to liver disease and neurological disease and beyond. So how does vitamin E help with respect to sun exposure? Here are 3 reasons:

1. Anti-aging effect – increased time out in the sun will take its toll on your skin over time. Cumulative exposure to UV rays from sunlight can set off production of free radical chemicals in the skin and degrade its integrity over time. As vitamin E is a lipid soluble antioxidant, it easily penetrates into membranes of skin cells, protects DNA and lowers inflammation. Both tocopherols and tocotrienols can donate a hydrogen atom (to produce an antioxidant effect) which neutralizes free radicals and minimizes damaging effects.

2. Increased time in sun – there are many benefits to being out in the sun. Vitamin D production happens at the level of the skin under UV exposure which lends a host of health benefits. It is a balance however to get the health benefits of sun exposure while minimizing potential harm from too much sun. Vitamin E has been shown in combination with vitamin C orally to provide a protective effect. In a double blind trial, oral administration of 2g/day of vitamin C paired with 1000IU/day of vitamin E for 8 days, increased the minimal erythema dose (MED) (aka – time to burn) by 21%. In another study of longer duration, supplementation of 3g/day of vitamin C with 3000 IU/ day for 50 days increased the MED by 78%. It was noted that supplementation with these vitamins on their own did not provide the same effect; both vitamin E with vitamin C was required for the protective effects.

3. Decreased use of sunscreen – this may seem strange to say this but unfortunately many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals which can also cause damage to our bodies. Oxybenzone, octinoxate, retinyl palmitate, homsalate, parabens and phthalates are all chemicals with questionable track records. The more we can limit the exposure of chemicals on or into our bodies the better, in my opinion. I am not saying avoid sunscreen, but we can make smart choices by finding cleaner effective brands which limit our chemical exposure.

If you are interested in looking at vitamin E supplementation over the summer, AOR’s total E packs a good punch. It is a unique formula which provides a complete balance of the four tocopherols and four tocotrienol compounds in their natural ratios. With the addition of Coenzyme Q10 to aid in recharging vitamin E’s antioxidant capacity, you get an “energizer bunny” effect on your vitamin E.


Wang X, Quinn PJ. Vitamin E and its function in membranes. Prog Lipid Res. 1999 Jul;38(4):309-36.
Buettner GR. The pecking order of free radicals and antioxidants: lipid peroxidation, alpha-tocopherol, and ascorbate. Arch Biochem Biophys. 1993 Feb 1;300(2):535-43.
Eberlein-Koning, B et al. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J. Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:45-48.
Fuchs, J, Kern, H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:1006-1012.


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