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Vitamin E is one of the most powerful moisturizing agents for the surface layers of the skin. Vitamin E, along with vitamins C and D, naturally occurs on the skin to reduce oxidative stress caused by the damaging rays of the sun and other harmful environmental chemicals and toxins that find their way onto the surface of the skin.
Vitamin E is especially vital to the skin because it is not synthesized by the body, and it is only delivered to the skin in limited quantities. Vitamin E is the primary agent to feed the skin microbes and maintain the natural oils on the skin that manufacture pre-vitamin D from damage and oxidation. (1)
Dietary intake is the only means of getting this fat-soluble vitamin and 27% of the population are deficient according to the FDA’s Institute of Medicine. They recently increased the recommended daily value – so gobble up your nuts, seeds and greens! (1)
The sun’s rays deplete the vitamin E from the surface of the skin quite quickly, which lead researchers to investigate the best way to restore adequate vitamin E levels.
Even more surprisingly…
It took very little sunlight to cause a major depletion in vitamin E on the skin’s surface – leaving it extremely vulnerable to sun damage. In the study, only 30 minutes of sun exposure on an August afternoon in New Jersey depleted the vitamin E levels on the stratum cornea of the skin by 65%. A follow-up study in October depleted the vitamin E by 50% after the same amount of exposure time. (1)
The study was trying to determine whether topical application of vitamin E or internal supplementation was the best vehicle to restore the skin’s vitamin E levels. They determined that topical application of vitamin E was significantly more effective compared to ingesting it.
Ancient Wisdom and Some Modern Science
According to Ayurveda, one of the fundamental daily strategies is to give yourself a daily massage with sesame oil. This is still a common practice in India today, and many elderly folks have given themselves a sesame oil massage every day of their fully functioning lives. Even infants are given sesame oil massages as part of their entry into the world.
Sesame oil is naturally rich in vitamin E – delivering more than 15% of the daily value when ingested in just 1 cup. (2)
Since the study suggested that the delivery of vitamin E to the skin was significantly more effective when applied topically, replacing the lost vitamin E from regular sun exposure with a daily massage with sesame oil is actually quite brilliant. As giving one’s self a daily sesame oil massage has been the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years, I am often left asking myself, “How did they know thousands of years ago that pressing sesame seeds into an oil and then rubbing that oil on the skin daily would offer such amazing protection?”