You may have heard anecdotes about people successfully using vitamin E (either topically or via supplements) to manage their acne breakouts. However, for those considering using it in their acne-fighting regime, it’s important to look beyond anecdotal evidence and see what the science says about using this antioxidant for blemish-prone skin.
So does vitamin E cause acne…or does vitamin E help acne? Does vitamin E help acne scars? We’ll cover everything you need to know before deciding whether you want to add vitamin E to your skincare routine.
Table of Contents
What is Vitamin E?
We often think of vitamin E as a singular nutrient. However, vitamin E is actually the collective name for a group of eight fat-soluble compounds: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol.
Internally, vitamin E has powerful antioxidant effects, helping to defend against harm from free radicals. It also plays an important role in immune function, and helps form red blood cells and widen the blood vessels to prevent clots.
Does Vitamin E Help Acne?
The short answer: it might help, but don’t think of it as a sure-fire method for clearing your acne breakouts.
Vitamin E has properties that can make it beneficial for those with acne. The fact that it is an antioxidant means it can protect the skin against the harmful effects of free radicals, which can cause skin inflammation and lead to clogged pores. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also be beneficial for reducing inflammation to both prevent blemishes and calm existing breakouts.
Small studies show that both topical solutions and vitamin E supplements may have a positive impact on breakouts. However, further research is still needed to come to a definitive answer.
As far as oral solutions go, one study found that consuming a combination of vitamin E, zinc, and lactoferrin over a three month period was helpful in treating severe adult acne. However, since this study did not look solely at the effects of vitamin E, it’s hard to say exactly how much of a role it played in reducing these breakouts. Another study found that participants with severe acne had much lower plasma concentrations of vitamins A and E compared to those without acne, but again, this study didn’t isolate vitamin E.
Topical vitamin E for acne also hasn’t been studied extensively, but early research does shed some light on its benefits. In one small preliminary study of patients with mild-to-moderate acne, researchers found that using topical vitamin E (in the form of sunflower seed oil) alongside an acne treatment using benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid led to a reduction in breakouts over an eight-week period. However, since this routine also involved both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid – two scientifically proven acne-fighting skincare ingredients – it can be hard to determine exactly how much of a role vitamin E played. It’s also worth noting the small scale of this study, which only analyzed seventeen patients.
In short, vitamin E (both in the form of a supplement and in topical formulas) may help reduce breakouts, but it shouldn’t be your only tool in your acne-fighting routine.
Does Vitamin E Help Acne Scars?
There’s even less research looking directly at the relationship between using topical or supplemental vitamin E for acne scars. As far as using topical vitamin E for treating scars in general, researchers haven’t concluded that it helps speed up the healing process. While supplemental vitamin E may help the body’s healing process by protecting it from free radicals and reducing inflammation, there hasn’t been any major research on the use of these supplements for addressing acne scars.
Using vitamin E will not worsen acne scars – but there’s not enough evidence to conclude it will cause them to disappear more quickly.
What is the Best Form of Vitamin E for Clearing Acne Breakouts?
If you decide to add vitamin E to your skincare or supplement routine, you need to make sure you’re using the right product(s). Let’s go over some product recommendations, as well as what you need to know about using topical and/or supplemental vitamin E for acne.
Topical Vitamin E for Acne
Vitamin E is used in lots of common skincare products. There’s a good chance at least one of the products you already use in your routine is infused with this antioxidant.
However, if you’d like to use a more targeted product with a potent concentration of this ingredient, you might consider adding a vitamin E oil to your routine. Of course, there’s one major question you probably have: is vitamin E oil comedogenic?
This really depends on the specific formula you’ve chosen. Vitamin E itself shouldn’t clog pores, but in some formulas, it will be mixed with other ingredients that are comedogenic. This means you’ll want to look closely at the formula before adding a product to your routine.
Best Vitamin E Oil:
Facetheory – Retin-C Vitamin Scar Treatment Oil
This facial oil from Facetheory combines vitamin E with a retinol ester and vitamin C to improve skin tone while preventing breakouts, refining pores, and addressing signs of aging.
Suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone skin.
Vegan and cruelty-free oil is made without parabens, silicones, or fragrances.
Formula uses retinyl palmitate and vitamins C and E to address acne, signs of aging, and discoloration.
Potent Antioxidant Power
Vitamins C and E work in tandem to defend the skin against damaging free radicals.
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Squalane, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Isostearate, Tocopherol.
One topical vitamin E product that I particularly recommend is the Facetheory Retin-C Vitamin Scar Treatment Oil. While it’s marketed towards fading the appearance of acne scars, the active ingredients in this formula also help decongest pores, brighten the complexion, lighten dark spots, fight signs of aging, and soothe and moisturize the skin.
In addition to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant vitamin E, this formula features vitamin C in the form of ascorbyl isostearate. The vitamin C helps fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other dark spots for a more even complexion, and at the same time stimulates collagen production for a more youthful appearance. It also works alongside vitamin E to provide antioxidant benefits, ensuring the skin is protected against free radical harm.
This formula also contains retinyl palmitate, a stabilized retinol ester that causes less sun sensitivity compared to traditional retinol. This ingredient speeds up the skin cell renewal process, helping to soften fine lines and wrinkles while refining pores and preventing blemishes.
These active ingredients are mixed together in an oil base, which features jojoba, rice bran, and borage seed oils. The formula also contains squalane, which is a lightweight oil-like hydrator. All of these ingredients have low comedogenic ratings, and leave the skin feeling soft, supple, and hydrated. These ingredients can also help counteract the potential drying and irritating effects of the retinyl palmitate.
Facetheory Retin-C Vitamin Scar Treatment Oil Pros:
- Potent active ingredients that target a range of issues, including breakouts and acne scars.
- Contains moisturizing ingredients that counteract any drying effects of the retinol ester.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, and made without parabens, silicones, or fragrances.
Facetheory Retin-C Vitamin Scar Treatment Oil Cons:
- Has an oil-based formula that may feel heavy, particularly for those with oily skin.
Vitamin E Supplements for Acne
Best Vitamin E Supplement:
Naturelo – Vitamin E
This Naturelo vitamin E supplement features vitamin E derived from organic food sources. This makes it much easier for the body to absorb this vitamin.
Natural Vitamin E
Complete with plant-based sources of vitamin E, such as organic coconut, rice bran, sunflower, avocado, mango and kiwi. Natural vitamin E is up to 3 times better absorbed than the synthetic version.
A potent antioxidant and anti-aging nutrient, vitamin E benefits the whole body, supporting memory, heart, liver, & eye health. As well as healthy skin, hair, nails, and a glowing face.
Made with Premium Ingredients that are Non-GMO, Natural, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan & Vegetarian, and contain NO Coloring, Flavoring, or Preservatives of any kind.
Includes mixed tocopherol
Alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol — plus tocotrienols, so you get the benefits of all 8 isomers of vitamin E, not just one
Vitamin E (from Organic Coconut, Organic Rice Bran, and Organic Sunflower) 180 mg 1200%, Organic Avocado Extract 5 mg, Organic Mango Extract 5 mg, Organic Kiwi Extract (fruit) 5 mg, Organic Blackberry Extract 5 mg, Other ingredients: Vegetable Cellulose Capsule
If you’d like to add a vitamin E supplement to your wellness routine to help manage breakouts (and get the full health benefits of the antioxidant), I suggest checking out the Naturelo Vitamin E.
Many supplements feature synthetic forms of vitamin E (such as alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol), which are not as effective as those found naturally in food. However, this Naturelo formula is made with easily absorbed organic plant-derived sources of vitamin E, including coconut, avocado, rice brand, mango, kiwi, and sunflower. This whole food blend includes mixed tocopherols (including alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol), which means you get optimal benefits from all eight vitamin E isomers.
Naturelo Vitamin E Supplement Pros:
- Made with organic plant-derived ingredients that offer all eight vitamin E isomers.
- Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO, and made without colorings, flavorings, or preservatives.
Naturelo Vitamin E Supplement Cons:
- Not the most budget-friendly vitamin E supplement.
Foods That Contain High Amounts of Vitamin E
Beyond using a supplement, you can also add this antioxidant to your diet by eating vitamin E-rich foods. In fact, this is one of the best ways to add vitamin E to your routine. Here are some of the best foods packed with vitamin E to consider adding to your diet:
- Seeds (including sunflower seeds)
- Nuts (including almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, and hazelnuts)
- Leafy greens (including spinach, swiss chard, and collard greens)
- Sunflower seed, safflower, hazelnut, corn, soybean, and vegetable oils
- Red bell pepper
Can Vitamin E Cause Side Effects?
When used topically, there isn’t a high risk of experiencing negative side effects, but some may experience mild irritation or redness. An allergic reaction – such as itching, rashes, hives, and swelling – is also a risk when using vitamin E on the skin.
When taking the recommended daily dosage, most people don’t experience side effects when consuming vitamin E supplements. However, when consumed in high doses, it can lead to negative side effects, including stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, bruising, and bleeding. It’s best to add vitamin E supplements (or any other supplements) to your health routine under the guidance of a medical professional to ensure you are taking the correct dosage.
Is Vitamin E Good for Your Skin in General?
Both topical and dietary vitamin E can be beneficial for overall skin health. Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it helps defend against free radical damage from environmental aggressors and allergens. In the skin, free radical damage can lead to fine lines, wrinkles, dullness, sagging, and uneven skin tone. Additionally, vitamin E has anti-inflammatory benefits, making it an ideal ingredient for soothing aggravated or sensitive skin.
Vitamin E is also hydrating, as it has both humectant and emollient properties. This means it draws moisture to the skin and seals it in, leading to plump, soft, and smooth skin. At the same time, it can also improve skin barrier function.
Studies have also shown that both oral and topical vitamin E may be beneficial for those with eczema-prone skin, as the vitamin may help provide relief from some of the most common symptoms, including itchiness. This is largely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
There is one question that comes up a lot around this antioxidant and skincare: does vitamin E help collagen production? There’s little evidence to suggest it actually stimulates the production of collagen. However, it may help preserve the body’s natural collagen levels. Free radicals can break down collagen in the body, but since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it may help block those effects.