How often do you use this type of product?
This will help us personalize your experience.

A Beginner’s Guide to Using Vitamin E for Your Skin

Puhhha/Adobe Stock Images

When it comes to beauty-boosting vitamins, you might first think of vitamin C or vitamin A. But venture a little further down the alphabet, and you'll find a whole new world of benefits. It’s found in everything from lip balms to lotions to avocados (!), but how, exactly, does vitamin E lead to healthy skin? We spoke to Y. Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, to learn all things vitamin E: where it comes from, how it works, and why you need it (or even why you should avoid it) in your skincare routine.

About the Expert:

Y. Claire Chang, MD is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.

First: What is vitamin E?

“Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that comes in eight forms,” explains Dr. Chang. In beauty products, look for the words “tocopherol” or “tocopheryl acetate” on ingredient lists, as those are the two forms commonly used topically. Meanwhile, alpha-tocopherol is the most active form of vitamin E in the human body, and gamma-tocopherol is the most present in the foods we eat. In the body, vitamin E works to strengthen our immune systems, help us fight off bacteria and viruses, and protect us against free radicals in the environment. Clinical trials have linked vitamin E with the prevention of heart disease, cancers, and declining mental functioning; however, there isn't a ton of conclusive research out there yet.

Pure vitamin E oil has a relatively thick consistency and a pale golden hue—which you might recognize if you’ve taken vitamin E supplements or spotted the oval-shaped capsules at the pharmacy. When it comes to getting your fill of vitamin E from your diet, look no further than your go-to salad mix-ins. Rich sources include nuts, spinach, whole grains, olive oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ, as well as everyone’s favorite: avocado.

What are the benefits of vitamin E for skin?

  • It has antioxidant properties.

“Free radicals are increased by UV [ultraviolet] exposure, cigarette smoking, and air pollution, all of which wreak havoc and accelerate skin aging.” In other words, vitamin E is like a protective cushion for skin, helping to minimize effects like wrinkles and fine lines. And although it does help protect against sun damage to some degree, using vitamin E alone won’t prevent a sunburn. “Vitamin E should not be used in place of sunscreen but can be used in addition to sunscreen to provide extra protection to the skin,” advises Dr. Chang. 

  • It’s hydrating.

Because it’s oil-soluble, vitamin E is most effective when delivered via—you guessed it—oil-based formulations (think: face creams, body lotions, face oils, and serums). Those properties also make it ideal for those areas that are known for getting particularly dry, like lips and cuticles. Some studies have shown that vitamin E may have anti-inflammatory properties and relieve the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. The results are varied, but the bottom line is: Vitamin E effectively moisturizes your skin.

  • It may help with wound healing.

Specifically, fading the appearance of scars. According to Dr. Chang, “It has also been praised as a treatment for burns, surgical scars, wounds, and stretch marks.” But before you get too excited, she warns the praise may be more anecdotal than scientific. “Clinical studies for the use of vitamin E on the treatment of scars and stretch marks have been disappointing,” says Dr. Chang.

  • It plays well with others. 

To further maximize skincare benefits, vitamin E is often combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. Together, the two can help “brighten and protect the skin,” according to Dr. Chang.

What skin types is vitamin E suitable for?

Thanks to its intrinsic moisturizing and healing properties, “vitamin E is typically safe and well-tolerated in all skin types,” says Dr. Chang. Still, those with sensitive skin may want to do a patch test on the inside of the wrist before trying out a new product in case of side effects. “Some patients with sensitive skin may develop an irritant contact reaction to vitamin E. Patients who have itching, burning, or redness with use of topical vitamin E should discontinue it and notify their healthcare provider,” advises Dr. Chang. And while vitamin E is generally safe for oily and acne-prone skin types, it may be best to avoid using pure vitamin E oil as it tends to be on the thick side, and could lead to breakouts. Instead, opt for a more lightweight moisturizer containing vitamin E to reap the benefits without clogging pores.

Vitamin E products we love:

1. Best vitamin E lip balm: FEEL Vitamin E Balm

FEEL Vitamin E Balm

The combination of vitamin E, astor seed oil, and sunflower wax soothes dry lips for hours, while the pleasing, barely there rose tint adds just a hint of color on no-makeup and full-face days alike.

2. Best vitamin E brightening moisturizer: QMS ACE Vitamin Day & Night Cream

QMS ACE Vitamin Day & Night Cream

With vitamins C and E, this face cream helps protect skin against free-radical damage as it brightens. Best of all, it can be used day and night, for all you product minimalists.

3. Best vitamin E serum: CLARA'S NEW YORK Moisturizing Rosehip Facial Oil Serum

CLARA'S NEW YORK Moisturizing Rosehip Facial Oil Serum

Facial oils are not only a quick solution for glowing skin, but they also help seal in hydration. “Makes my skin feel soft and plump!” raves one Ipster of this vitamin-E-infused formula, which also contains skin-loving rosehip oil.

4. Best vitamin E moisturizer for dry skin: IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Cream

IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Cream

This formula has just about everything one could want for healthy skin: colloidal oatmeal, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to hydrate, plus anti-aging collagen, peptides, and ceramides to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. No wonder Ipsters call it “a total game changer!”

Did you know the IPSY Glam Bag delivers personalized skincare—and so much more—every month? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!

About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
Share Article
Article Last Updated March 19, 2021 12:00 AM