Vitamin E / Tocopherol

Posted by Dr Davin Lim on


By Dr Davin Lim

Best Used: AM or PM

Caution: Well tolerated by most

Best for: UV protection, moisturiser


Widely available skin vitamin

Mode of action: Antioxidant

Science score:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

Vitamin E Structure

What is the science behind vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin also known as tocopherol. It has many benefits as it supports the immune system, cell function, & skin health. Vitamin E, like C, is a powerful antioxidant, making it effective at combating the effects of free radicals produced by the UV rays & environmental pollution. It also reduces toxic molecules in the skin, protecting collagen, elastin & hyaluronic acid.

What skin conditions can be treated with Vitamin E?

This flexible fat soluble vitamin can treat dry skin, eczema, psoriasis as well as itchy skin associated with stretch marks & early scars. Hence why vitamin E is most well known for its benefits for skin and health appearance. This is because its true value is to protect your collagen from sun damage.

Can Vitamin E be applied directly on the face?

Yes, vitamin E can be applied topically to your face to reduce inflammation & protect your skin. It also works great when used with other antioxidants or combined with humectants to provide moisture to dry skin.

Vitamin E Cream on face

How long does it take for vitamin E to work on skin?

Vitamin E is amazing in that it protects your skin from UV light immediately upon application. Additionally, there are studies that have shown topical application of vitamin E can improve skin water-binding capacity after 2-4 weeks of use.

Why is vitamin E awesome for patients with sensitive skin?

Unlike retinoic acid (vitamin A) & ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin E is non-irritating. In fact, much like vitamin B (niacinamide), vitamin E is anti-inflammatory, meaning it can calm down inflamed skin. Formulations such as hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, ginkgo, as well as tocopherol & niacinamide are ideal skin care actives for patients who suffer from rosacea, eczema & seborrheic dermatitis.

Can vitamin E work for acne scars?

Some people swear by Vitamin E as a treatment for acne scarring. However, studies to understand if vitamin E works for this that indicate that it's not as effective as one might think. While vitamin E does promote circulation, it doesn’t appear to speed healing, therefor not making it a go-to solution. Vitamins A & C are better for the treatment of early scars as they promote collagen production.

What about vitamin E for stretch marks?

Vitamin E can act as a moisturiser & provide mild changes in circulation to marginally help stretch marks. The main value of vitamin E in the context of stretch marks is to reduce itchiness & hydrate the skin. A more effective stretch marks cream would include ingredients such as retinoic acid, ascorbic acid & silicone.

How often should you put vitamin E on a scar?

Vitamin E can give marginal improvement to surgical scars as it primarily functions as a moisturiser to reduce itch & provide a better environment for scar tissue remodelling. It can be used 4-8 days post surgery, 3-4 times per day for 3-6 months. Lasers including vascular & fractional ablative - non ablative give better scar results than topicals, including silicone dressings, vitamin A, C & E.

Can vitamin E be beneficial for melasma hyperpigmentation?

Since vitamin E is fat-soluble, it has the ability to neutralize free radicals formed as a result of UV exposure and maintain healthy skin. A recent medical paper showed that a combination of vitamin A, C, E along with flavonoid creams can be safe & possibly effective in the management of melasma. In saying this, other pigment inhibitors such as kojic, ascorbic & azelaic acids are much more effective in treating skin pigmentation than vitamin E.

Vitamin E Cream

Is vitamin E good for anti-aging & wrinkles?

Applied topically, vitamin E oil can block free radicals and replenish lipids which helps slow down the skin's aging process. The ingredient may also help reduce wrinkles & fine lines, and keep skin looking youthful. In the context of collagen preservation, the combination of vitamin E, C, resveratrol & ferulic acid is best applied as a serum in the AM.

Can vitamin E clog pores?

Although vitamin E oil can benefit the skin in many ways, it is not suitable for all skin types. The oil can clog pores and aggravate breakouts, hence it is advisable to stick with skin formulations & not capsules.

Does Vitamin E capsules lighten skin?

Vitamin E oil helps to regenerate new skin cells and can therefor lighten brown spots or scars found on the face. Breaking a capsule can give some benefits, including added moisture to dry skin, however skin specific formulations are infinitely better. This is due to the fact that capsule oil can lead to clogging, especially in acne prone people. In this case, it's best to stick with a cream for skin use, and capsules for oral supplementation.

What is argan oil?

Argan oil is an ancient essential oil with a high amount of vitamin E. It has been used for over 2000 year as a moisturiser as well as an antioxidant, hence its role in anti-aging medicine.

What are the side effects of vitamin E?

Good formulations of vitamin E creams are non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t clog pores that can lead to acne. The anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin E also make this an awesome ingredient for patients with sensitive skin. Unlike vitamin C, skin irritation is unlikely on Vitamin E. 

Sensible oral vitamin E supplements for a short duration are safe for most people, but taking them for over a year can cause vitamin E to accumulate inside of your body. Too much vitamin E in your bloodstream can result in a reduced platelet count and blood thinning.

How do I incorporate vitamin E in my skin care routine?

 A sensible skin care routine that involves vitamin E goes something like this;

AM: Gentle washSPF, Make up, with the option of antioxidants (Ferulic acid, Ascorbic acid, Vitamin E/Tocopherol)

PM: Cleanser, Vitamin E, Option to layer niacinamide, retinol, AHAs & or pigment correctors.

*Vitamin E can be used as an antioxidant in the AM. Alternatively it can be used in the PM as an adjunctive moisturiser, an anti-inflammatory or an agent to help increase the penetration of skin vitamins and actives such as vitamin A, B, C.

Davin’s pro tip on the use of Vitamin E

Vitamin E can be useful to treat dry skin, eczema, psoriasis in addition to reducing itch associated with new scars & stretch marks. Before using vitamin E oil, do a patch test. Apply a small dab of the oil to an area that is not highly visible, such as behind the ear. Wait 24-48 hours. If no reaction develops, it is probably safe to use. Skin reactions following vitamin E use are extremely unlikely. Begin with a low concentration of vitamin E oil, and apply a thin layer over the affected area. Over several days, gradually increase the amount until reaching the levels recommended on the package. The true value of E is in combination with other antioxidants to reduce sun damage to deeper collagen in the dermal layers of skin.

Vitamin E supplemtn

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