Photoprotective actions of topically applied vitamin E

Drug Metab Rev. 2000 Aug-Nov;32(3-4):413-20. doi: 10.1081/dmr-100102343.


Topical application of vitamin E has been shown to decrease the incidence of ultraviolet (UV)-induced skin cancer in mice. Vitamin E provides protection against UV-induced skin photodamage through a combination of antioxidant and UV absorptive properties. Topical application of alpha-tocopherol on mouse skin inhibits the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine photoproducts. However, topically applied alpha-tocopherol is rapidly depleted by UVB radiation in a dose-dependent manner. The photooxidative fate of the alpha-tocopherol depends on the local environment of the vitamin E. alpha-Tocopherol quinone and alpha-tocopherol quinone epoxides are principal photoproducts of vitamin E that has penetrated into the epidermal layer of the skin, whereas tocopherol dimers and trimers are formed from alpha-tocopherol in a bulk phase at the skin surface. Dimer and trimer products may participate in prevention of UV-induced photodamage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Photochemistry
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / chemistry
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / radiation effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / chemistry
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Vitamin E / chemistry
  • Vitamin E / metabolism
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin E / radiation effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Vitamin E