Vitamin E 101: What Is it Doing for Your Skin?

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We know that vitamin C is the miracle ingredient that brightens skin and neutralizes free radicals, but what about its sidekick vitamin E? We often see vitamin E playing an important role alongside vitamin C, like in Skinceuticals much-beloved C E Ferulic Serum which is known to totally transform complexions. So what does it do? To find out exactly what vitamin E can do for our skin, we went straight to the experts. 

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How Vitamin E Helps Our Skin
“Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals caused by pollution and UV exposure,” explains Germantown, TN dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD. “It is usually found in oil form and is best used in a diluted or emulsified serum during the day as it is too occlusive to use as oil at night.” 

Dallas dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD adds, “There are about eight different types of vitamin E, but when you see vitamin E in your skincare, its most likely tocopherol. Topically, it is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps to remove free radicals that can be very helpful with cellular repair from sun damage to healing scars or burns. It is also moisturizing and has been shown to strengthen the skin barrier.”

Who Should Use It
“On its own, tocopherol is easily oxidized, so it is often formulated with other antioxidants such as vitamin C that can help to stabilize and restore it. This combination is great for post-laser wound healing and erythema,” says Scottsdale, AZ dermatologist Mariel Bird, MD.

“I don’t usually recommend vitamin E, but most of my patients are rubbing it on their scars,” says New York dermatologist Lilly-Rose Paraskevas, MD. “Despite this, it has not been proven as a treatment for scars as was once previously thought.”

Who Shouldn’t
The doctors we spoke to all agreed that vitamin E on its own is not for everyone. “I don't necessarily recommend vitamin E, but I do frequently ask patients if they are taking a vitamin E supplement. It can cause people to bleed more,” says Wilmington, DE dermatologist Kendall Egan, MD. “Other supplements can increase the risk of bleeding too. It is always a good idea to discuss supplements with your physician.”

Miami dermatologist Melissa Lazarus, MD says to stay away if you’re disposed to getting blemishes: “Products containing topical vitamin E can cause breakouts in acne-prone skin, so I avoid it in that patient population.” But Roanoke, VA dermatologist Dr. Aleksandra Brown points out, when mixed with vitamin C like in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, it can actually improve skin. “Some antioxidants combinations such as vitamin C with vitamin E and ferulic acid, however, are excellent for patients with dry skin who are not prone to acne break outs.”

Ontario, Canada dermatologist Dusan Sajic, MD says there are many people with vitamin E allergies who should avoid it all costs. “There are many people who are sensitive or allergic to vitamin E, especially when applied to damaged skin, it should be used cautiously in an individual case by case basis. Always consult with a board-certified dermatologist to not only get the latest data on a skin-care ingredient but to also maximize benefits and reduce risks.”