Vitamin E is just one of the antioxidants touted as a potential acne treatment.
Nutritionally speaking, vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory, which means it can help boost your immune system and help with cell regeneration. It’s thought that these properties may specifically help with inflammatory acne, such as:
In theory, vitamin E could help treat acne, but there’s a lot more research that needs to be done to prove whether this method is as good or better than other more standard acne treatments.
It’s also important to consider the differences between applying vitamin E topically versus taking supplements.
Learn more about what the research says below, then talk to a dermatologist before trying out vitamin E for your acne.
When it comes to treating acne, vitamin E seems to work best topically. You should still make sure to get enough of it in your diet, but taking vitamin E supplements doesn’t appear to have the same effects on acne.
One studyfound that topical vitamin E was effective in treating severe acne in adult participants within a 3-month period. However, vitamin E was also combined with zinc and lactoferrin in this case. So, it’s difficult to conclude whether it was solely the vitamin E that helped treat acne. A combination-ingredient study from 2006involved the use of both vitamins A and E. The results showed that this combination helped treat acne, but it’s unclear if vitamin E was the primary reason why.
- Zinc and vitamin E were investigated in another study, along with vitamin A.
This particular investigationlooked at corresponding serum levels in adults with severe acne, and found that some study participants had nutritional deficiencies. While nutritional support helped in these cases, it’s not clear if topical formulas of these same ingredients can treat acne.
- Dietary considerations have become a popular area of research in acne, such as the aforementioned study. While
some researchhas shown a mild to moderate role of certain foods in acne aggravation, such as dairy products, more clinical studies are needed to confirm whether certain foods help treat acne.
Topical vitamin E usually comes in the form of oils, serums, or creams. Such products may contain other ingredients to fight acne and reduce dark spots. These include vitamins A and C.
If your main concern is treating acne spots, you may consider using an anti-aging product in one of the above formulas.
Active acne breakouts may benefit more from a spot treatment. You can look for spot treatments containing vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). Another option is to combine pure vitamin E oil with a lightweight carrier oil, such as jojoba, and then applying it directly to your blemishes.
It’s important to get enough vitamin E in your diet. This can help your overall skin health by improving your complexion.
The following foods are considered high in vitamin E:
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
- corn oil
- soybean oil
- sunflower seeds
- fortified cereals
Your doctor may recommend vitamin E supplements if you don’t get enough of this nutrient in your diet alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily amount of vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams (mg). Breastfeeding women need slightly more, or 19 mg per day.
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency aren’t always easy to identify. It’s important to avoid supplementation unless your doctor has determined you need it. They’ll be able to tell you if you need vitamin E supplements based on a blood test.
Topical vitamin E won’t necessarily harm your skin. However, there can be some drawbacks to oil- and cream-based versions, especially if you have oily skin.
Using oily formulas could clog your pores. These can add too much oil to already active sebaceous glands and make your acne worse.
There’s also some risks associated with applying pure vitamin E oil to your skin without diluting it with a carrier oil first. Make sure you apply a couple of drops per tablespoon of carrier oil before using on your skin. You may want to do a patch test beforehand, too.
There are a lot of foods that are high in vitamin E, so many people get enough of this nutrient through a healthy diet. There may be a risk of vitamin E overdose if you also take vitamin E supplements.
Too much vitamin E can increase your risk of bleeding, especially if you take anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin. Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements, especially if you’re taking any other vitamins or medications.
While vitamin E may help acne lesions, it may be more worthwhile focusing on acne treatments that are proven to work.
Talk to your dermatologist about the following over-the-counter options:
- alpha-hydroxy acids, which increase skin cell turnover, and may be especially beneficial for acne scars
- benzoyl peroxide, which may reduce bacteria and inflammation in acne lesions
- salicylic acid, which gets rid of dead skin cells that clog pores
- sulfur, which may decrease skin inflammation and oil
- tea tree oil, which may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects
Other than some of the more tried-and-true acne treatments listed above, there are other antioxidants that may work for acne besides vitamin E. Vitamin A, in the form of retinoids, is perhaps the most widely studied antioxidant proven to work for acne.
Vitamin A works by increasing the skin’s natural regeneration process. These results are only seen when applied topically in the form of retinoids.
Taking vitamin A supplements — much like taking vitamin E supplements for acne — doesn’t work in the same way. Furthermore, overdosing on vitamin A supplements can have severe consequences, such as liver damage and birth defects.
Occasional acne blemishes can be troubling, but these aren’t usually a cause for concern. You may also see more acne blemishes if you have naturally oily skin and during hormone fluctuations, such as puberty and menstruation.
Severe acne can be more problematic, though. This is especially the case if you have deep cysts and nodules under the skin in numerous quantities and on a regular basis. You may need to see a doctor for a prescription treatment, such as:
You may also want to see a dermatologist if your acne fails to respond to any new treatments after several weeks. A good rule of thumb is to give any new treatment about 4 weeks to work. This allows for at least one full cycle of skin cell regeneration.
You should also see your doctor if you start seeing any side effects from your acne treatment, including:
Vitamin E has been studied as a potential acne treatment, but the results remain inconclusive.
You may want to consider trying topical formulations, especially if you have drier or more mature skin. These formulas may be too heavy if you have oily skin, though. In such cases, you may want to stick with other acne treatments.
See your dermatologist if changes to your routine don’t make a difference in your acne after a month. You also should never take supplements — even vitamins — without checking with your doctor first.