Is Vitamin E Effective for Treating Scars?
and skin repair
represent great concerns for dermatologists and plastic surgeons around the world, and patients are always seeking the best methods for achieving healthy skin. People often resort to topical solutions for treating scars and other skin ailments when cortisone injections and surgical procedures are not an option.
Lotions, skin creams, and bio-oils flood the market, with companies claiming ingredients like onion extract and apple cider vinegar as being the cure-all for scars. The most controversial ingredient is vitamin E, and it’s easy to be fooled by online advertisements that proclaim it as an effective sar treatment solution.
Read on to learn why vitamin E is not the glamorous skin care solution many companies purport it to be.
What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 in Berkeley, California when scientists noticed a vital ingredient was missing in the semipurified diet of lab rats. The missing ingredient was responsible for reproductive complications in the control group. When the rats were fed lettuce, their conditions improved. This led researchers to predict the existence of an unknown organic compound, later known as vitamin E.
Vitamin E is a group of compounds consisting of tocopherols and tocotrienols—two classes of organic chemical molecules. Four tocopherol and four tocotrienol molecules make up the entire vitamin E compound and contribute to the vitamin’s nutritional activity in mammals. Gamma-Tocopherol is the most abundant class of vitamin E found in American diets. Almonds, spinach, and wheat germ oil are just some of the foods that contain vitamin E.
What vitamin E is and isn’t good for
Vitamin E compounds consist of fat-soluble antioxidants that support various metabolic functions in the body. There is some evidence that supports its ability to help with aging, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and skin health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a daily dosage of 15mg for adults to obtain these benefits and many more.
Consuming and metabolizing vitamin E is what allows people to obtain its health-related benefits. When consumed, vitamin E is broken down as a fat-soluble and absorbed by our cell membranes. Our cells then use this vitamin as a protective barrier against oxidative (stress-related) damage. Cell oxidation occurs when our immune system fights off an infection, or when our cells metabolize glucose to make energy.
We know consuming vitamin E has many health benefits for the human body, but what about applying it to the skin? It’s easy to conflate vitamin E’s confirmed nutritional value with the many online claims made regarding its ability to reduce the appearance of scars. The short answer: there are no proven benefits for using vitamin E topically, and it may even make your scar worse.
One study, spearheaded by Bauman and Spencer, compared the effects of using topical Aquaphor (a common emollient) versus Aquaphor mixed with vitamin E on patients with post-surgical scarring. The study consisted of fifteen patients who had each undergone skin cancer removal surgery. Each patient was asked to apply the regular emollient to side A of their scar and the vitamin E emollient to side B of their scar. The researchers evaluated the cosmetic appearance of the scars after 1, 4, and 12 weeks. Conclusively, 90% of the patients saw no change in the appearance of their scars. In 33% of the cases, the patients contracted contact dermatitis from the vitamin E, and the appearance of their scars worsened.
What are my options for scar treatment?
Silicone scar technology
has been on the market for over 30 years, and numerous clinical studies prove its effectiveness in flattening keloid and hypertrophic scars
, and reducing their overall appearance. Silicone for scar therapy comes in many unique forms, including gel sheets
, ointments, and sticks. Silicone is effective for treating all scar types, from acne and burn scars
, to scars attained from surgeries and injuries. And unlike vitamin E, silicone is hypoallergenic and safe for all skin types.