The summer protective vitamin

As the hot weather approaches, up your intake of vitamin E to shield your skin and hair for a healthy summer glow, says Ashleigh Feltham.

We all know sunshine is a great source of vitamin D, but there’s another vitamin that’s critical for summer. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin and hair from the sun’s damaging UV rays and its ageing effects. Scientific evidence suggests vitamin E can also help with the following.

1. Protect your skin from damage

UV rays (along with your metabolism and pollutants) generate free radicals, which are molecules that damage cells and contribute to ageing and even diseases such cancer. Vitamin E stabilises free radicals, preventing them from damaging your cell membranes – essentially, while sunscreen helps protect you from the outside, vitamin E defends you from the inside. Research has shown that the impact is even more powerful when vitamin E is combined with vitamin C (you’ll notice many sunscreen products carry both in their list of ingredients).

Vitamin E even prevents vitamin C from breaking down and this is important because vitamin C helps make collagen, which keeps skin looking youthful. One study found that a vitamin E deficiency increased the development of acne in adolescents and young adults.

2. Improve your hair’s vitality

Research has shown that vitamin E improves hair growth in those suffering from hair loss. It does this by reducing oxidative stress in the scalp and promoting red blood cell circulation, which transports oxygen and iron around your body. Vitamin E oil can also help retain the natural moisture in your scalp in dry, hot conditions, making your hair look shinier.

3. Promote overall health & wellbeing

Vitamin E also impacts on the most critical systems that keep us healthy. For instance, it prevents polyunsaturated fats in the outer lining of cells from breaking down. Polyunsaturated fats help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within a healthy range and also reduce your risk of diabetes by keeping your blood sugar levels in check.

How much do you need?

Men over 14 years of age need an absolute minimum of 10mg or 15 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily, while women over 19 need 7mg or 10 IU. At the very least, you need to consume a small handful (30g) of nuts, or two eggs on wholegrain toast for breakfast, a salmon fillet (100g) at lunch or dinner, or a tablespoon of sunflower oil.

Other foods that contain high levels of vitamin E:

  • Oily fish: Salmon and mackerel
  • Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts
  • Seeds: Flaxseed and sesame seeds
  • Drink: Vitamin E-fortified drink
  • Oil: Olive, sunflower, safflower and canola oil
  • Tahini: The unhulled variety of tahini is the better option
  • Margarine: This is made from the polyunsaturated fats of seeds
  • Eggs: The yolks in particular are rich in vitamin E

If you’re unable to eat any of these foods, you can take a vitamin E supplement. Clinical studies suggest that supplementing vitamin C with vitamin E can help improve blood pressure, while a Cochrane review concluded that 600 IU of vitamin E daily helped improve the symptoms of eczema, which can flare up with the change of season.

Food is the best way to boost your levels of vitamin E, although a supplement with your breakfast will also help. Whatever way you get yours, make sure you have enough to get that summer glow.