5 Benefits of Vitamin E for Dry Skin

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Vitamin E has many benefits for your skin.

When applied topically, vitamin E is a skin conditioning agent, a powerful antioxidant and it can protect your skin against photodamage from the sun.

Vitamin E isomers also have shown anti-inflammatory activity and anti-melanogenesis activity in preliminary experiments.

Vitamin E also has a reputation of healing scars and wounds.

This article will discuss:

    • What is vitamin E?
    • What is topical vitamin E?
    • Benefits of topical vitamin E
      • Vitamin E can soften your skin 
      • Vitamin E can protect your skin 
      • Vitamin E may calm your skin
      • Vitamin E may brighten your skin 
      • Vitamin E may heal your skin
    • How much topical vitamin E?
    • Should you avoid tocopheryl acetate?
    • Summary
    • References 

Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds that are important for skin health.

There are 8 types of natural vitamin E.

There are four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).

As an essential vitamin, vitamin E cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained from your diet, supplements and/or skincare.

Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

What is topical vitamin E?

Topical vitamin E refers to the application of vitamin E directly onto the skin in the form of creams, lotions, oils, or serums.

Topical application allows the vitamin E to be absorbed directly into your skin, where it can exert its potential benefits.

Topical vitamin E products are formulated to deliver vitamin E to the outermost layers of the skin. They are often used in skincare routines to provide antioxidant protection, moisturization, and potential therapeutic effects. The concentration and formulation of topical vitamin E can vary depending on the specific product and intended use.

Learn more: Topical Vitamin E for Skin - What Is It?

 Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

Benefits of topical vitamin E

Topical vitamin E has many benefits for your skin.

When applied topically, vitamin E is a skin conditioning agent, a powerful antioxidant and it can protect your skin against photodamage from the sun.

Benefits of topical vitamin E:
    • Vitamin E can soften your skin - emollient and skin conditioning
    • Vitamin E can protect your skin - antioxidant and photoprotection
    • Vitamin E may calm your skin - anti-inflammatory 
    • Vitamin E may brighten your skin - anti-melanogenesis
    • Vitamin E may heal your skin - scars and wound healing

Benefits of vitamin E for skin

Vitamin E can soften your skin

Vitamin E is a skin conditioning agent and acts as an emollient. 

Skin conditioning agents are substances used in skincare products to improve the overall appearance, texture, and feel of the skin.

The function of emollients in skincare is to soften the skin, help the skin retain its moisture and to support the skin’s barrier function.

Skin that does not have sufficient lipid content on its surface can appear dull, dry and rough. Emollients "fill in the gaps" in the skin barrier and soften it along with giving it a healthier look

Learn more: What are emollients?

The role of emollients in the treatment of dry skin conditions is often underestimated. Emollients promote optimal skin health and prevent skin breakdown, and their use can improve quality of life.

Emollients are skin conditioning – the give skin a soft and smooth appearance, restoring suppleness and improving elasticity.

When applied topically, vitamin E can help to improve the skin's moisture retention, enhance its natural barrier function, and support the overall health and appearance of the skin.

Emollients such as vitamin E can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and emollients can give your skin a plump, youthful appearance.

Benefits of vitamin E for skin

Vitamin E can protect your skin

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can protect your skin from stress, UV damage and premature aging. It can also keep your skincare fresh longer, as vitamin E prevents oxidation and rancidity in oil-based formulas.

There are several studies supporting the multifunctional antioxidant, inflammatory  and photoprotection efficacy of vitamin E (reviewed by Jesus et al, 2023).

All 8 types of vitamin E, including the tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) have antioxidant activity (Yoshida et al, 2007; Jiang et al, 2014).

The alpha-isomers of both tocopherol and tocotrienol are the most effective antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect your skin

Antioxidants protect your skin by preventing free radical damage. 

Free radicals are unstable molecules or atoms that can damage skin cells.

Free radicals are generated from normal aging, and by daily environmental damage - such as UV radiation from the sun and air pollution. Free radicals cause destruction to your cells and tissues, and accelerate skin aging (Masaki et al, 2010).

Antioxidants protect your skin by neutralizing unstable free radicals.

What is oxidative stress?

Your skin is susceptible to oxidative stress due to UV radiation from the sun and air pollution.

Oxidative stress occurs when the number of pro-oxidant species exceeds the number of antioxidant species.

For the skin, the consequences of this imbalance include inflammation, phototoxicity and accelerated aging (Trouba et al, 2002; Pinnell et al, 2003).

Vitamin E has antioxidant activity

Vitamin E acts as a direct antioxidant against singlet oxygen and superoxide anions. Additionally, when lipid peroxidation occurs in cell membranes, tocopherols function as a “chain breaker” and prevent lipid peroxidation by scavenging peroxyl radicals (Niki et al, 2021; Miazek et al, 2022).

Tocopherols have antioxidant activity

Alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active and commonly studied form of vitamin E. It is the form of vitamin E most often found in the human body and has the highest antioxidant activity (Yoshida et al, 2007).

Researchers have shown that rinse off products containing vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol in concentrations as low as 0.2% leads to significantly increased levels of vitamin E in the skin barrier and protects against lipid peroxidation (Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage et al, 2005).

In a small clinical trial, 5% alpha-tocopherol was applied topically on the upper back of 11 patients for 7 days and subsequently induced skin barrier damage by applying 10% benzoyl peroxide to the defined area. It was shown that alpha-tocopherol could prevent benzoyl peroxide induced lipid peroxidation in the skin (Weber et al, 2003).

Research has shown that mixed tocopherols, containing gamma-, delta-, and alpha-tocopherol (5:2:1) have better antioxidant activity than alpha-tocopherol alone (Saldeen et al, 2005).

Tocotrienols have antioxidant activity

The vitamin E tocotrienols also have strong antioxidant activity. 

Alpha-tocotrienol is the most studied and biologically active form of tocotrienols. It exhibits potent antioxidant properties (Yoshida et al, 2007).

Beta-tocotrienol, gamma-tocotrienol and delta-tocotrienol also have antioxidant activity (Mukai et al, 2014; Jiang et al, 2014).

Interestingly, the tocotrienols are more readily incorporated into liposomal membranes, which suggests that this group of molecules would be most effective in protecting against cell damage by reactive species, compared to the tocopherols (Yoshida et al, 2007).

Vitamin E protects against sun damage

Vitamin E protects against sun damage

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can protect your skin from sun damage.

The best evidence for a beneficial role of topical vitamin E exists for photoprotection. Many studies have shown that applying vitamin E prior to ultraviolet exposure significantly reduces acute skin responses, such as erythema and edema, sunburn cell formation and lipid peroxidation (Thiele et al, 2007).

Chronic skin reactions due to prolonged sun exposure, such as skin wrinkling were also diminished by vitamin E skincare (Thiele et al, 2007). 

What is photodamage?

Photodamage is damage to skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation from sunlight (Jenkins et al, 2002). 

Photodamage causes premature aging of the skin.

Photodamage is characterized by morphological changes that include deep wrinkles and loss of elasticity, as well as histological changes such as connective-tissue alterations. These alterations are considered the result of collagen destruction by UV-induced matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) secreted from epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts (Fisher et al, 2002).

Photodamage causes numerous histologic, physiologic, and clinical changes to skin; it also increases the risk for skin cancer.

It's important to note that photodamage is cumulative, meaning that the damage builds up over time with repeated sun exposure. 

Photodamage can be prevented through the use of sunscreens, protective clothing, and avoidance of the sun during peak intensity time (Bergfeld et al, 1999). 

Vitamin E in skin declines with UV exposure

Vitamin E concentrations in the skin have been shown to decline with UV exposure.

Irradiation of human skin with solar simulated ultraviolet-light at low doses has been shown to deplete human stratum corneum alpha-tocopherol by almost 50%, detected directly after exposure (Thiele et al, 1998).

Therefore, alpha-tocopherol depletion in the stratum corneum is considered a very early and sensitive event of photooxidative damage in skin (Thiele et al, 1998). 

Vitamin E protects against photodamage

A single-center, open, placebo-controlled intra-individual study carried out on 30 patients showed that pre-treatment of skin with a topical vitamin E formulation significantly reduced photosensitivity (Pedrelli et al, 2012).

Thirty patients with photosensitivity were treated with a topical vitamin E agent containing 10% tocopherols and 0.3% tocotrienols.

Patients applied the vitamin E blend to their skin and then were exposed to UVB irradiation to induce damage.

The pre-treatment with the vitamin E protected against photosensitivity, and all reactions to irradiation were significantly lower in the areas treated with the topical vitamin E formulation compared to those treated with the simple vehicle (Pedrelli et al, 2012).

Skin treated with topical vitamin E has less photodamage when exposed to UVB irradiation, including less redness (erythema), less swelling (edema) and less itching (Pedrelli et al, 2012).

Furthermore, in human skin cells (keratinocytes) exposed to UVA radiation, the application of tocopherol also provided photoprotection by increasing glutathione production and reducing lipid peroxidation and ROS and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels (Wu et al, 2014; Delinasios et al, 2018). 

Vitamin E benefits for skin

Vitamin E may calm your skin 

Topical vitamin E may calm your skin and reduce inflammation and irritation.

Skin treated with topical vitamin E has less photodamage when exposed to UVB irradiation, including less redness (erythema), less swelling (edema) and less itching (Pedrelli et al, 2012).

Vitamin E has been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in preliminary experiments, however clinical trials are lacking. 

Vitamin E tocopherols including alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity (Reiter et al, 2007; Jiang et al, 2014; Jiang et al, 2022).

Vitamin E tocotrienol gamma-tocotrienol also has anti-inflammatory properties (Jiang et al, 2014).

Interestingly, research has shown that mixed tocopherols, containing gamma-, delta- and alpha-tocopherol (5:2:1) have better anti-inflammatory actions than alpha-tocopherol alone (Saldeen et al, 2005).

In preliminary experiments, vitamin E ointment at 20-40% suppressed allergic and irritant contact dermatitis in rats, exerting a comparable effect to that of 0.5% prednisolone ointment (Kuriyama et al, 2002).

Sun spots from sun damage

Vitamin E may brighten your skin 

Vitamin E may reduce sun spots.

Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of our skin, and melanin is synthesized in skin cells called melanocytes.

During exposure to sunlight, your skin makes melanin to protect your skin.

UV radiation from the sun can lead to an overproduction of melanin in certain areas of the skin, such as our face and hands, resulting in dark spots called "sun spots" or "age spots."

Vitamin E has been shown to have anti-melanogenic activity and may reduce sun spots on your skin.

Anti-melanogenic activity refers to the ability of certain substances or treatments to inhibit or reduce the production of melanin in the skin.

Tyrosinase is an enzyme that plays a key role in the synthesis of melanin.

Inhibiting or blocking tyrosinase can reduce the amount of melanin formed, and reduce age spots and sun spots.

Vitamin E alpha-tocopherol has been shown to have anti-melanogenic activity in cell-culture experiments by inactivating tyrosinase (Funasaka et al, 1999; Funasaka et al, 2000; Hachinohe et al, 2005; Yamamura et al, 2002). 

Furthermore, vitamin E beta-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol have both been shown to inhibit tyrosinase activity and melanin synthesis in preliminary experiments (Kamei et al, 2009).

In the field of dermatology and cosmetics, there is significant interest in developing products that can modulate tyrosinase activity. Some aim to inhibit tyrosinase to reduce pigmentation, such as in the treatment of skin conditions like melasma or age spots.

Oral intake of vitamin E has been reported to be effective for treatment of facial hyperpigmentation, especially in combination with vitamin C (Hayakawa et al, 1981).

Vitamin E has been shown to inhibits tyrosinase activity and acts as a melanogenesis inhibitor in preliminary cell culture experiments.

More research is required in clinical trials.

Benefits of Vitamin E for Scars

Vitamin E may heal your skin

Vitamin E has a reputation of healing scars and wounds, however more research is required.

Vitamin E is used cosmeceutically to accelerate wound healing, to prevent hypertrophic scarring, and to decrease pruritis (Nachbar et al, 1995).

A systemic review of six clinical studies found that only three studies reported a significant improvement in the cosmetic appearance of scars when using vitamin E - one study used topical vitamin E in children as monotherapy, and two studies used vitamin E in an adult population as combination therapy (reviewed by Tanaydin et al, 2016).

However, the other three selected studies showed no significant improvement in scar appearance when using topical vitamin E as monotherapy. Two of the six included studies reported adverse events of vitamin E application, including contact dermatitis and increased incidence of itching and rash.

For instance, in a clinical study with 15 patients, 320 IU of d-alpha tocopherol/gram of Aquaphor (approximately 21.44% alpha tocopherol) did not improve the cosmetic outcome of surgical scars. Furthermore, 5 patients developed contact dermatitis in response to the topical vitamin E therapy (Baumann et al, 1999). 

When vitamin E is used in combination therapy, there seems to be a positive effect on scar healing.

For example, eighty adult patients who developed hypertrophic scars and keloids after surgery (70 patients) or burns (10 patients), were treated with silicone gel sheets with 3% alpha tocopherol. Interestingly, vitamin E added to a silicon plate produced a scar remodeling effect after 4 weeks that was better than the use of a silicon plate without vitamin E (Palmieri et al, 1995).

More research is required before vitamin E can be recommended for wound healing.

Is Luxury Skincare Worth the Money? 7 things to look for

How much topical vitamin E?

Skincare containing alpha-tocopherol at concentrations ranging from 0.1% to 1% are likely to be effective skin care measures to enhance antioxidant protection of the skin barrier (reviewed by Thiele et al, 2007).

Interestingly, researchers have shown that rinse off products containing vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol in concentrations as low as 0.2% leads to significantly increased levels of vitamin E in the skin barrier and protects against lipid peroxidation (Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage et al., 2005).

Vitamin E concentrations between 0.1–1.0% are generally considered to be safe and effective for increasing vitamin E levels in the skin, but higher levels of alpha-tocopherol have been used with no apparent side effects.

Vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol or tocopherol acetate is used in over-the-counter products in concentrations ranging from 1.0 to 5.0% (reviewed by Aparecida Sales de Oliveira Pinto et al, 2021). 

Topical application of 5% and a daily dosage up to 600 IU of vitamin E can be considered safe in humans (Teo et al, 2021).

In a clinical trial with 30 patients with sun sensitivity, topical application of 10% tocopherols and 0.3% tocotrienols was shown to be safe (Pedrelli et al, 2012). 

In a clinical trial with 50 patients with actinic keratoses, topical application of 12.5% dl-alpha-tocopherol cream was shown to be safe for up to 6 months. Redness and itchiness were reported is several patients, however symptoms were reported with equal frequency among arms receiving vitamin E or placebo treatment. Presumably, reactions occurred in response to the delivery vehicle, the Vanicreme® base (Foote et al, 2009).

In a clinical study with 15 patients, 21% alpha tocopherol cream applied to surgical scars led to contact dermatitis in 5 patients (Baumann et al, 1999). 

Using high doses of vitamin E (i.e. 100% vitamin E) on your skin is not recommended, as this may increase the risk of dermatitis.

Albeit rare, the risk of contact allergy to topical vitamin E should not be disregarded. 

Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about using topical vitamin E.

Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

Should you avoid tocopheryl acetate?

Tocopheryl acetate is a synthetic form of vitamin E that is commonly used in skincare products due to its enhanced stability and longer shelf life.

Tocopheryl acetate is the ester of tocopherol and acetic acid.

Tocopheryl acetate is thought to be converted to alpha-tocopherol upon absorption into the skin.

However, in a double-blind clinical trial, it was shown that tocopheryl acetate was not metabolized to the free form of alpha-tocopherol in plasma or skin (Alberts et al, 1995).

Furthermore, in a mouse model of skin cancer, topically applied tocopheryl acetate did not prevent skin cancer and under some conditions, actually enhanced skin cancer development and growth during UVB exposure (Gensler et al, 1996). 

Benefits of vitamin E for skin


Vitamin E has many benefits for your skin.

When applied topically, vitamin E is a skin conditioning agent, a powerful antioxidant and it can protect your skin against photodamage from the sun.

Vitamin E isomers also have shown anti-inflammatory activity and anti-melanogenesis activity in preliminary experiments.

Vitamin E also has a reputation of healing scars and wounds, however more research is required.

Our Dry Skin Love Wild Orange Oil to Milk Cleanser contains a premium vitamin E blend called TocobiolⓇ. It is naturally derived from 100% non-GMO sunflower seeds.

It is naturally rich in mixed tocopherols, including 70% alpha tocopherol, 10% beta and gamma-tocopherol, and 18% delta-tocopherol. It also contains moisturizing phytosterols and squalene. 

Our upcoming Dry Skin Love Apple Elixir 5% Vitamin E Face Oil contains 8 types of vitamin E - including tocopherols and tocotrienols.

We source our vitamin E from a blend of 7 natural plants and extracts including apple seed oil, soybean oil, sunflower seed extract, jojoba oil, oat oil, rice bran oil and annatto seed extract.

Dry Skin Love Apple Elixir 5% Vitamin E Face Oil is launching soon!

Sign up for our Waitlist below to stay updated.

     Benefits of vitamin E for skin


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    Author Information

    Dr. Natasha Ryz, Scientist and Founder of Dry Skin Love Skincare

    Dr. Natasha Ryz is a scientist, skin care expert and an entrepreneur. She is the founder of Dry Skin Love Skincare, and she creates skincare products for beauty, dry skin and pain relief.

    Dr. Ryz has a PhD in Experimental Medicine from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and she is a Vanier scholar. She also holds a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

    Natasha is the former Chief Science Officer of Zenabis Global, and she oversaw extraction, analytics, and product development. Her team brought 20 products to market including oils, sprays, vapes and softgels.

    Why I Started A Skincare Company

    Email: natasha.ryz@dryskinlove.com
    Twitter: @tashryz
    Instagram: @tash.ryz
    LinkedIn: @natasharyz

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