- Vitamin E has many skin benefits, such as reducing signs of aging, helping with sun damage, alleviating eczema, and managing psoriasis.
- But there are also many unfounded myths about vitamin E for your skin, and it has not been proven that it can reduce scarring and stretch marks, or prevent skin cancer.
- In addition, people with sensitive skin should avoid the overuse of topical vitamin E, since it can irritate skin for some.
- This article was medically reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in foods like avocados, sunflower oil, and red bell peppers. When consumed orally, vitamin E has many benefits, including slowing the aging process of cells, boosting the immune system, and reducing premenstrual symptoms (PMC).
But for skin, vitamin E’s main strength is its power as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that age our skin and damage cells.
While there are many proven benefits of vitamin E for skin health, there are also some myths that lack evidence. Here’s what you need to know.
Skin benefits of vitamin E
Vitamin E, in particular, is a potent antioxidant that can prevent sun damage to the skin, alleviate eczema, and more.
Reduces signs of aging
Free radicals are everywhere. They can be emitted from the sun, pollution, cigarette smoke, and a vast number of other sources. They show up naturally in our bodies, too. These unstable molecules can damage collagen and glycosaminoglycans, two substances that keep your skin smooth, firm, and moisturized.
Since vitamin E is a strong antioxidant, it can combat the effects of free radicals on your skin and protect it from visible signs of aging caused by these damaging molecules.
How to use it: You can use it topically and it is available in an cream, oil, or serum.
Helps with sun damage
Free radicals from the sun can cause collagen and elastin in the skin to breakdown, which can trigger signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. Since vitamin E has antioxidant properties, it can help fight signs of sun damage, says Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in San Francisco.
Additionally, using vitamin E in combination with vitamin C in topical formulations, like creams or serums, has been shown to prevent short term UV damage as well as chronic UV photodamage, like dark spots.
How to use it: To use vitamin E to fight sun damage, use it topically in creams, oils, or serums. Even though it may be able to prevent UV damage, it won’t replace sunscreen.
One small 2015 study found that taking vitamin E supplements of 400 IU/day for four months was more effective at treating eczema symptoms — including itching and lesions — than a placebo.
However, more thorough research is needed before healthcare professionals should consider prescribing a vitamin E supplement to treat eczema, says Kathleen C. Suozzi, MD, dermatologist and aesthetics director of Yale Medicine Dermatology.
How to use it: To use vitamin E for eczema, consider taking it orally through a supplement. However, you should check with your doctor before starting any supplements, as Vitamin E can build up in the body to dangerous amounts if you regularly take too much.
Help manage psoriasis
Studies have shown that vitamin E may be helpful for psoriasis, however, these studies have not looked at vitamin E on its own.
One 2009 study looked at the supplementation of coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, and selenium in 58 patients with severe psoriasis. The study found that oxidative stress was reduced and clinical conditions of psoriasis were improved in patients who took the supplements versus those who took a placebo.
How to use it: More research needs to be done to confirm the efficacy of using vitamin E alone, but to use vitamin E for psoriasis, you can take it in the form of supplements. Again, check with your doctor before taking supplements.
Vitamin E skin myths
There are also many unfounded claims about how vitamin E affects the skin:
Some people believe that vitamin E can help reduce scarring from wounds and acne. However, research has shown that topical application of Vitamin E to scars does not make a difference in the appearance of the scars, and may actually result in contact dermatitis.
There is anecdotal evidence that topical vitamin E can help prevent or reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Studies have not backed this up, though. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, home remedies such as vitamin E for stretch marks are not effective.
Prevents skin cancer
The antioxidant properties of vitamin E could possibly make it useful for skin cancer prevention, says the Skin Cancer Foundation. However, hard research supporting this is weak, and it is best to use proven means of preventing skin cancer, like always using sunscreen.
Risks of using vitamin E
Vitamin E isn’t for everybody. Suozzi says that patients with sensitive skin may have negative reactions to topical vitamin E.
Additionally, those with eczema-prone skin may have bad reactions to topical vitamin E, so if you plan on using the vitamin for eczema, it’s best to stick to consuming it orally.
Campbell also says that you should be cautious if you are taking vitamin E supplements. She says an excessive intake of vitamin E can cause GI side effects like:
Additionally, vitamin E reduces blood clotting, so Campbell says it can increase your risk of bleeding or bruising. She says you should definitely avoid taking it before any medical procedures.
The bottom line
Since scientific evidence is spotty for vitamin E in skincare, it may be best to consult your dermatologist before trying it out orally or topically.
A dermatologist can tell you if vitamin E is the right choice for you and whatever skin ailment you may be trying to treat, as well as how to use it safely.
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