Your Skin and Vitamin E: Does Vitamin E Heal Scars?
One of the most touted home scar removal remedies and acne scar treatments is vitamin E, with recommendations from slathering the oil on a healing wound, popping open a supplement capsule and coating an existing scar, or slathering traumatized skin--i.e., acne prone cheeks--with the cream.
These claims make sense. Vitamin E is a lipid (fat)-soluble vitamin that is the main antioxidant in the skin. When applied topically as an oil or cream, it is able to penetrate deeply into the skin’s tissue. Because it is an antioxidant, it can help stabilize cell membranes and, after trauma or injury to the dermal tissue, can ease inflammation by reducing the amount of chemicals released by the cells of the inflammatory process.
Discovered in 1922, researchers were hopeful that vitamin E would be an effective treatment of skin wounds, trauma, and scars. While anecdotal evidence remains positive, scientific studies have shown that topical vitamin E has little effect on wound healing and scars and can even be detrimental!
Vitamin E Capsules
In one study, published in the Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation, vitamin E was used to treat post-surgical wounds in 159 patients for 4 months and patients were followed for one year. At the end of the study, there was no change in scar thickness or cosmetic appearance in the patients who were treated with vitamin E when compared with their counterparts receiving placebo. However, more patients receiving topical vitamin E cream had bad skin reactions than those receiving placebo.
In another study, published in Dermatologic Surgery, in post-surgical wounds in 15 patients compared topical vitamin E to placebo over 4 weeks. There was no benefit with topical vitamin E--in fact, the study concluded vitamin E had been cosmetically detrimental to the scar. Further, nearly a third of the patients using topical vitamin E reported developing contact dermatitis in response to the cream.
Critics of these studies insist that the concentration of vitamin E used in these studies was too low, and that was why it didn't work in these trials. They cite large bodies of anecdotal evidence as proof that vitamin E applied directly to a healing wound helps reduce scarring.
Vitamin E Supplements
While further study is needed, the current evidence is that topical vitamin E does not heal scarring, and can even be detrimental to the healing process and ultimate cosmetic outcome of scars.
However, researchers have shown that low levels of antioxidants in the body can delay wound healing, so increasing vitamin E levels internally could help speed healing and help prevent scarring. If you have acne or other skin trauma, add vitamin E rich foods into your diet, such as almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts. You can also take a supplement, but look for one labeled "D" instead of "D,L"--this indicates that the supplement contains the vitamin in its natural form rather than its synthetic form, and studies have found that the natural form is far more active than the synthetic.
The daily recommended intake of vitamin E is 22 IU, but when taken internally for scarring or other treatment, it's a good idea to take 400-800 IU each day. Toxicity generally occurs when vitamin E is taken in excess of 1500 IU.