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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