What do vitamins C and E do for the skin?

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Vitamins C and E are antioxidant vitamins, which help protect the skin from the damaging rays of the sun. They work as antioxidants both in the diet -- when you eat foods or take supplements rich in vitamins C and E -- and when you apply them to the skin.

Vitamin C also helps the skin make collagen, a protein that helps wounds heal. When applied to the skin -- as in some sunscreens -- vitamins C and E don't stop the sun’s UV rays from penetrating the skin, but they do help the skin repair damage caused by sun exposure.

You always need a high-SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen when you go out into the sun, but if it contains vitamins C and E, your skin might have some additional protection from the sun's damaging rays.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is important to the production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels and gives skin its firmness and strength, helps create scar tissue and ligaments, and aids in skin repair. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and slows the rate of free-radical damage to collagen that can contribute to dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs your skin and can help prevent premature aging of your skin and damage to your DNA. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology reported in February 2005 that people who take vitamins C and E in the long term reduced their sunburns from exposure to UVB radiation. Further, researchers saw a reduction of factors linked to DNA damage within skin cells.
Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
These are anti-oxidants that help with skin repair. There is also some data that they help sunscreens work more effectively to protect against damaging ultraviolet rays. Vitamin C has also been shown to help even out skin tone.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
These antioxidant vitamins fight oxidation damage in skin cells' DNA. Because they are key elements in the structural proteins in the body, they are important to the integrity of the blood vessels and hair follicles. They're required for the formation of collagen, and medical studies have found that they decrease wrinkling of the skin. Vitamin E reduces inflammation and helps wound healing. Vitamin C enhances the immune response. 
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.