Vitamin C, E Protects Against Sunburn


MALAGA, Spain—Researchers and scientists are continually seeking new ways to fight UV radiation; however the role of antioxidants in damaging pathologies such as actinic erythema—formerly described as a consequence of UV direct effect on DNA and indirectly by local immune reactions—and the degree of participation of oxidative stress are still not fully understood.

 So in order to evaluate the possible palliative role of a topical combination of vitamins C and E in human cutaneous erythema was studied in 20 volunteers (J Dermatol Sci. 2012;66(3):216-20). Two months prior to the study, volunteers of phototypes II, II–III and III had no solar exposure. The volunteers were then submitted to a photo test consisting on the analysis of the minimal erythemal dose (MED) under different treatments:

  1. Untreated irradiated skin;
  2. Irradiated skin previously treated with vehicle;
  3. Irradiated skin previously treated with a combination of vitamins (2.5 percent vitamin E–5 percent vitamin C); and
  4. Skin treated with the antioxidant combination after irradiation.

Cutaneous erythema was evaluated 24 hours after exposure and the MED was calculated for each treatment.

The application of vehicle did not significantly affect the MED compared to untreated irradiated skin. Application of the antioxidant combination, prior to irradiation, increased the MED in all phototypes compared with untreated irradiated skin with an average increase of 36.9 percent. Antioxidants applied after exposure promoted an average increase of the MED by 19.8 percent.

The researchers concluded a combination of topical antioxidants (vitamins C and E) showed photo-protection activity against erythema, mainly owing to their high absorption properties. Moreover, their antioxidant activity could be considered as additive, and independent of their optical properties.