Is Vitamin E Safe for Skin?

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Topical vitamin E is safe for your skin.

Vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol or tocopherol acetate is used in over-the-counter products in concentrations ranging from 1 to 5%.

Topical application of 5% vitamin E can be considered safe in humans.

However, using high doses of vitamin E (i.e. 100% vitamin E capsules) 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. 

This article will discuss:

    • What is vitamin E?
    • What is topical vitamin E?
    • Is vitamin E safe for your skin?
    • How much topical vitamin E?
    • Can vitamin E cause contact dermatitis?
    • Who should avoid vitamin E for skin?
    • Should you avoid tocophyeryl acetate?
    • Summary
    • References 

Is vitamin E safe 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.

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

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.

Learn more: 5 Benefits of Vitamin E for Dry Skin

Is vitamin E safe for skin?

Is vitamin E safe for your skin?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel (Panel) assessed the safety of 14 vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols and concluded these ingredients are safe as used in cosmetics.

The tocopherols are reported to function in cosmetics as antioxidants or skin-conditioning agents; in contrast, tocotrienols are not reported to function as an antioxidants in cosmetics but as a light stabilizer or skin-conditioning agent. 

The Panel concluded that the following ingredients are safe as used in cosmetics:

  1. Tocopherol
  2. Tocotrienols
  3. Tocopheryl acetate
  4. Tocopheryl linoleate
  5. Tocopheryl linoleate/oleate
  6. Tocopheryl nicotinate
  7. Tocopheryl succinate
  8. Dioleyl tocopheryl methylsilanol
  9. Potassium ascorbyl tocopheryl phosphate
  10. Tocophersolan
  11. Ascorbyl tocopheryl acetate
  12. Ascorbyl tocopheryl maleate
  13. Tocopheryl phosphate
  14. Sodium tocopheryl phosphate

(Andersen et al, 2002; Fiume et al, 2018)

Is vitamin E safe for skin?

How much topical vitamin E?

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.

Vitamin E Oil

Can vitamin E cause contact dermatitis?

In a retrospective study, the North American Contact Dermatitis Group analyzed patch test data to vitamin E tocopherols (dl-α-tocopherol 100% and/or dl-α-tocopherol acetate 100%) from 2001 to 2016 (Warshaw et al, 2021).

Of the 38,699 patients patch tested to tocopherol and/or tocopherol acetate, only 349 (0.9%) had positive reactions; of these, 87.6% were clinically relevant.

Compared with tocopherol-negative patients, tocopherol-positive individuals were more likely to have a diagnosis of allergic contact dermatitis.

Overall, positive patch test reactions to tocopherols have been shown to be relatively rare given their widespread use.

The topical use of vitamin E has raised concern about allergic contact dermatitis in patients with atopic dermatitis. Contact allergy to vitamin E and its derivatives, mainly the synthetic form, has been described in a few individual case reports. A study conducted in 1991 detailed 4 cases of allergic contact dermatitis caused by tocopheryl acetate 10% petrolatum-containing cream (de Groot et al, 1991).

In another case, patch testing in a patient with erythema multiforme-like eruption indicated a positive allergic reaction to tocopheryl acetate 5% petrolatum (Ohko et al, 2012).

Although vitamin E has been described as the cause of allergic contact dermatitis in some sporadic cases, the incident rate is fairly low despite its widespread use (de Groot et al, 1991; Adams et al, 2010; Kosari et al, 2010).

Is vitamin E safe for skin?

Who should avoid vitamin E for skin?

Topical vitamin E is generally considered safe for most people when used as a skincare product, but there are some individuals who should exercise caution or avoid it altogether:

  1. Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to vitamin E or have sensitivities to it. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, such as redness, itching, swelling, or hives, discontinue use immediately.

  2. Skin Sensitivity: People with highly sensitive skin may be more prone to irritation from topical vitamin E. It's a good idea to perform a patch test on a small area of skin before applying it to your face or body.

  3. Acne-Prone Skin: While some individuals with acne-prone skin find that topical vitamin E can help with scars and healing, others may find it too heavy or comedogenic, meaning it could potentially clog pores and worsen acne. It's essential to monitor how your skin reacts to vitamin E products and consult with a dermatologist if you're concerned.

  4. Pre-existing Skin Conditions: If you have certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, the use of topical vitamin E may exacerbate symptoms for some individuals. Again, it's best to consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice.

It's essential to remember that everyone's skin is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

If you have concerns about using topical vitamin E or any other skincare product, it's always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional.

Is Vitamin E Safe 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). 

Overall, tocopheryl acetate is generally regarded as safe for skin, however it may not be as active as vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols. 

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


Topical vitamin E is safe for your skin and has 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 as alpha-tocopherol or tocopherol acetate is used in over-the-counter products in concentrations ranging from 1 to 5%.

Topical application of 5% vitamin E can be considered safe in humans.

However, using high doses of vitamin E (i.e. 100% vitamin E capsules) 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. 

Given its antioxidant and photoprotective properties, vitamin E should remain an ingredient in skin care products.

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 from natural sources - including tocopherols and tocotrienols.

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

Sign up for our Waitlist below to stay updated.

Is vitamin E safe 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

Twitter: @tashryz
Instagram: @tash.ryz
LinkedIn: @natasharyz

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