vitamin E

Vitamins , Antioxidants

One of the most well-known and researched antioxidants, both when taken orally and when used in skincare products. If there were an antioxidant hall of fame, vitamin E would likely be its inaugural member (though do not take that to mean it is the “best” antioxidant—there is no single best, just lots of great options). It’s fat-soluble and available in various forms; the most biologically active form is alpha-tocopherol.

There are eight basic forms of the entire vitamin E molecule, which are either synthetically or naturally derived. The most typical forms are d-alpha-tocopherol, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol, and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate. The “d” prefix in front of the “alpha” indicates that the product was derived from natural sources, such as vegetable oils or wheat germ; the “dl” prefix indicates that the vitamin was created from a synthetic base. Research has shown that natural forms of vitamin E are more potent and have a higher retention rate in skin than their synthetic counterparts, but both definitely have antioxidant activity. [1]

What about using pure vitamin E for scars? Low amounts of pure vitamin E can be a helpful addition when mixed with other skin-healing ingredients, but high amounts can be a problem. Research published in Dermatologic Surgery concluded that the “… study shows that there’s no benefit to the cosmetic outcome of scars by applying (pure) vitamin E after skin surgery and that the application of topical vitamin E (such as what you may squeeze from a vitamin E pill) may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar.” In 90% of the cases in this study, topical vitamin E either had no effect on, or actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of scars. [2] However, as many dermatologists will attest, many patients believe vitamin E prevents or reduces the appearance of scars, thus its usage and anecdotal results continue. [3]

Small amounts of vitamin E can have antioxidant effects without the risk of the contact dermatitis that high amounts present. In that sense, vitamin E can be a helpful addition to skin-healing products.

References Cited:

  1. Stone W, LeClair I, Ponder T, Baggs G, Reis B. Infants discriminate between natural and synthetic vitamin E. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(4):899-906.
  2. Baumann L, Spencer J. The effects of topical vitamin E on the cosmetic appearance of scars. Dermatol Surg. 1999;25(4):311-5.
  3. Khoosal D, Goldman R. Vitamin E for treating children’s scars. Does it help reduce scarring? Can Fam Physician. 2006;52:855-6.

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Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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