Skincare Ingredient Focus: Vitamin E

Written by Christopher Edens, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on October 10, 2023 No Comments

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Looking for a way simultaneously to boost hydration, improve texture, and protect the skin from UV and free radical damage? Look no further than Vitamin E, an often-overlooked skin care ingredient some truly unique properties! The micronutrient can provide numerous benefits to the health and appearance of the skin making it an excellent addition to any skin care regimen.

What is Vitamin E?

As a fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that protect cells throughout your body, including your skin. Your skin’s natural oils contain Vitamin E to enhance hydration and protect skin cells. People with oily skin tend to have higher levels of Vitamin E while people with dry skin tend to have less Vitamin E. As with other vital substances, Vitamin E levels decrease as you get older, resulting in drier skin and an increased risk of damage. In addition to the natural aging process, Vitamin E levels in your skin are diminished due to sun exposure, certain types of lights, and tanning beds.

How Does Vitamin E Help the Body and Our Overall Health?

Research shows many benefits of Vitamin E to our overall health. It is recognized as a micronutrient that prevents and reverses certain types of damage. Specifically, Vitamin E reduces inflammation, boosts your immune system, protects against blood clots (platelet aggregation), and serves as an antioxidant.

The Skin Care Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin E enhances the effects of moisturizers to reduce signs of aging and increase hydration. Vitamin E is included in skincare products to:

  • Improve skin texture
  • Prevent moisture loss
  • Protect against cell damage

Studies also indicate that Vitamin E may also prevent ultraviolet damage by absorbing UVB light. Using Vitamin E in conjunction with a high-quality sunscreen, may increase the skin’s level of protection against UV rays.

Antioxidant Powerhouse: Protection Against Free Radicals

Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause oxidative damage in your cells. Oxidative damage describes a chemical process in which the DNA and proteins in your cells are changed, and the result is damaged cells that contribute to signs of aging. The extra electrons in free radicals are absorbed by Vitamin E which protects your cells from damage which may delay the onset of skin aging.

Nourishing and Hydrating Properties

Vitamin E penetrates the skin to provide long-term hydration. Some studies demonstrate that Vitamin E strengthens the skin barrier. Using skincare products that contain Vitamin E helps your skin retain moisture that may be lost through a damaged skin barrier and other circumstances.

Promotes Skin Healing and Repair

Your body naturally releases antioxidants to support skin healing and repair. Early research has shown that Vitamin E, which is a natural antioxidant, may enhance wound healing and repair because of its antioxidant properties. The cells regenerate faster and more efficiently, and this may accelerate skin healing. Vitamin E has also been shown to minimize scarring and enhance skin tone.

Sun Protection and UV Damage Prevention

Sun damage is related to the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays from the sun, as well as other sources, such as tanning beds. UVB rays are why you develop sunburns and are known to cause skin cancers. Research has shown that Vitamin E absorbs UVB rays, which may reduce skin cell damage. For best results, use sunscreen in conjunction with Vitamin E for the utmost protection. Vitamin E cannot replace sunscreen.

Combating Skin Inflammation and Irritation

Research shows that people who experience chronic inflammatory skin conditions tend to have lower levels of Vitamin E. Increasing Vitamin E levels is known to reduce redness, irritation, and inflammation, including symptoms related to psoriasis and eczema. Vitamin E is also recommended to calm and soothe sensitive skin. The micronutrient helps skin retain moisture and creates a barrier to protect against irritants that trigger inflammation.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Other Skincare Ingredients

Vitamin E offers many protective and healing properties when used alone, and it is even more powerful when used in conjunction with other substances. The combination of Vitamin E and Vitamin C is a formidable antioxidant duo. Retinol and hyaluronic acid work well with vitamin E to increase hydration and reverse signs of aging. You may see greater improvements in your skin when you use products that contain these types of combinations.

How and When to Add Vitamin E to Your Skincare Regimen

For skin care, Vitamin E can be added to any regimen through dietary consumption or topically.

Vitamin E Consumption

Vitamin E is found in many foods, such as:

  • Greens and spinach
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Some oils, such as soybean and safflower oil
  • Peanuts and almonds
  • Pumpkin
  • Fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, avocados, and red bell peppers

Vitamin E is also available as a dietary supplement and is often found in many daily multivitamins.


Vitamin E can also be topically applied to the skin to provide benefits. There are four types of Vitamin E found in skincare products – alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Each type provides specific benefits. You can find serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, and balms that contain Vitamin E. As always, it may be wise to discuss the use or any new skin care products with a skin care professional.

Who Can Benefit from Adding Vitamin E to Their Skin Care Routine?

Vitamin E can provide benefits to individuals with all skin types. It is also beneficial for people at higher risk for certain medical conditions. As with all vitamins and minerals, limit your intake to the recommended dosage and speak with your physician before adding it to your daily routine.

Can You Use Too Much Vitamin E? What are the Side Effects?

Unwanted side effects from using topical Vitamin E are rare. In terms of consumption, the recommended daily allowance for adults of 22 IU per day. While supplements may contain 400 to 1,000 IU, typically consumption in that range will generally not cause any issues. However, the ingestion of more than 1,000 IU has been linked to excess bleeding.  This may also occur if you take the recommended daily dosage while taking blood thinning medications.  High oral supplementation doses should also be avoided due to other potential health risks.

In terms of topical application, the side effects of Vitamin E are also minor. Individuals who are allergic to Vitamin E may experience itching, burning, swelling, or hives along the skin in the application area. Patients should perform a patch test prior when adding Vitamin E products to their regimen. Should any reaction occur, a consultation with a dermatologist to discuss possible allergic reactions and arrange for skin testing is always a good idea.

Christopher Edens, MD

Christopher M. Edens, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist. As a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, he has been diagnosing and treating a wide variety of skin conditions since 2013. Dr. Edens has a strong interest in the use of dermoscopy for the early detection of skin cancer, complex medical dermatology, and in the use of functional and lifestyle medicine interventions to address the broader aspects of health. He is committed to helping patients look and feel their very best!

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