You've probably heard your doctor discuss the health benefits of taking vitamin E, which include boosting your immune system, preventing stroke-induced brain damage and protecting against certain cancers. But vitamin E oil can also work wonders when it comes to your hair, skin and nails. (Just take a look at this girl's smooth alabaster complexion). However, it isn't as simple as buying a face cream labeled with the powerful ingredient.
Skincare specialists praise vitamin E oil for its beauty benefits, but they do so with caution. "Vitamin E is always a tricky ingredient to use," says celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. "It's an awesome antioxidant, but it's heavy, so if you are prone to break outs, it could make you break out more. Vitamin E has always been used in skincare, but I think the purity of it has changed."
Dr. Stafford R. Broumand, a New York City-based cosmetic and plastic surgeon, echoes the evolution of the super vitamin, explaining, "Vitamin E exists in eight chemical forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta- tocopherol and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta –tocotrienol). Tocopherol is the only form that is recognized to meet human requirements. However, most Vitamin E oils do not contain all eight forms and some have soy."
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, our society's growing obsession with oils is rooted in the belief that a "natural" product is the cure-all for dry skin, eczema, etc. "The fact is that the oil may be moisturizing to help the condition, but the vitamin E part of it is unnecessary... and can sometimes cause an allergy," she says.
So how can we get the most out of vitamin E oil without causing more harm than good to our bodies?
Apply it at night. "The oil can be thick and greasy, so it's best used before bedtime, possibly in place of a night cream or moisturizer," says Dr. Broumand.
Combine it with vitamin C. "It has been shown that when combining vitamin E with vitamin C, it can act as a natural form of sun protection," explains Dr. Broumand. "Vitamin E oil works to block free radicals from the body, which play a large part in the aging process. If we can fight off free radicals, then we can reduce wrinkles and keep the skin youthful-looking."
Vargas adds, "It has basic antioxidant properties that everyone needs. It is unavoidable that we are all suffering from environmental stress. [Vitamin E oil] protects the skin against cell mutation in the sun and pollution. It's also an anti-inflammatory, so it calms and hydrates sensitive skin."
Swap it in place of skin-brightening creams. "Free radicals can also prevent the healing of scars, so applying vitamin E oil will help to repair and improve the appearance of the damaged tissue," says Dr. Broumand.
Use it to target excessive dryness. "There have been some studies to show that vitamin E oil may increase circulation to the scalp," says Dr. Broumand. "This temporarily increased blood flow to the area could help to enhance the health and strength of the hair follicles. Vitamin E oil can also work to hydrate and moisturize dry, brittle hair."
Vargas also recommends massaging vitamin E oil on your cuticles and lips to prevent and soothe chapped skin.
Is vitamin E oil a part of your daily beauty regimen?
The supplement -- which comes in both pill and powder form -- is used after workouts to help build muscles. But, "it can also result in kidney damage, result in significant dehydration and has been purported to worsen asthma," Dr. Mickey Barber, president of Cenegenics Carolinas, explains. "I recommend that patients and people over 50 should only take it under a doctor's supervisions."
Curcumin is a substance found in turmeric and Indian dishes that can be taken in supplement form, which is a good thing for post 50s. "It's a powerful anti-inflammatory," Barber says. "There are some studies that show it can reduce [brain] plaques in those with Alzheimer's disease."
Though women over 50 have been told to take this supplement for years, "calcium has recently come under fire in the medical literature," says Dr. Barber. And for good reason. The mineral has a hard time being absorbed in older bodies, leading to it being absorbed in artery walls instead of bones, leading to the hardening of the arteries, heart disease and stroke, Barber says. "If you need to be taking calcium, you should not take calcium carbonate because it's not well absorbed in the bone. [Instead] take a very well absorbed form of calcium, like calcium citrate," she warns. "You shouldn't take it if you're not taking the proper magenesium to help with absorption and Vitamin D."
B12 is a supplement more post 50s should take. "It's very important for neurologic function, cognition and memory," Barber explains. Often times people who suffer from dementia or peripheral neuropathy -- numbness in the hands and feet caused by nerve damage -- are found to have a B12 deficiency.
"Everyone over 50 should be taking magnesium to help with their heart, blood pressure and bones," Barber advises. But some may be taking the wrong variation of the mineral. While magnesium oxide isn't well absorbed by the body, magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are.
"It's surprising to me how many Americans have poor GI health, especially people over 45 and 50," Dr. Barber says. "Some signs of it are constipation, bloating, gas [and] just a general feeling that you're bloated in your gut." There are a number of things -- chlorinated water and antibiotics for starters -- that kill off the good gut bacteria bodies need to absorb the vitamins we need, Barber explains. That's why post 50s should take probiotics -- live bacteria to replace the good bacteria the body can lose. Once your gut recolonizes, you can lower your dose.
Bark from yohimbe trees contain a substance known as yohimbine, which can appear in supplements to treat erectile dysfunction. But it does more than that, Barber warns. "It can result in significant heart arrhythmia problems and high blood pressure," she says. "What they should do is get their hormones balanced and get themselves in better physical shape," to treat their erectile dysfunction, she continues."I think everyone over 50 should take DHEA as a supplement [instead]; it can help increase your hormones and increase your sexual function."
Vitamin D3 can help to boost your immune system against viruses. "I tell my patients if they know they're going to be exposed to more viruses than usual -- traveling, visiting their grandchildren -- to take more vitamin D3 than usual. It can be a very helpful immune booster," Dr. Barber says.
Found in capsules and protein bars and shakes, Dr. Barber advises most post 50s to watch how much soy isolate they take. Why? "It can have a real estrogen effect in men," she explains. "As men age, one of their challenges is balancing between testosterone and estrogen. If they're taking in something with an estrogen effect [it can cause] gynecomastia -- breast formation in men. Boomers should instead get their soy in its pure form (i.e. edamame) instead of in what Barber calls "convenience food."
Though the benefits of omega 3 supplements related to cognition have come into question recently, it is undisputed that fatty acids are good for your health -- lowering trigyclerides and vascular inflammation, to be exact, according to Dr. Barber. This also helps with joint inflammation.
Want more HuffPost Style beauty content? Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram at @HuffPostBeauty. (For everything else check out our main HuffPost Style Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram @HuffPostStyle.)
Do you have a beauty story idea or tip? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (PR pitches sent to this address will be ignored.)