According to the Global Healing Center, vitamin E is partially absorbed through the skin when topical applications such as ointments or oils are used. Oregon State University states that vitamin E has proven generally effective in improving photoprotection of the skin.
Oregon State University notes that rats given a topical application of vitamin E show reduced tumor formation in response to UV exposure. Topical vitamin E also protects against sunburned cells, DNA damage and erythema caused by lupus. Once exposed to UV light, however, a significant portion of a topical dose of vitamin E is destroyed. The stability and efficacy of topical preparations is higher when vitamin C and vitamin E are combined.