Is vitamin E good for the skin?

A woman reads the label of a skin cream.

Vitamin E is found in many care products – but it is not clear whether it is beneficial to the skin in this form. (Source: Jacob Wackerhausen/Getty Images)

Cosmetic companies tout vitamin E as a miracle cure that is said to help against a wide variety of skin problems. Is the vitamin actually that good for the skin?

Scars, sun damage, dryness, wrinkles, inflammatory diseases: the list of skin problems that vitamin E can supposedly prevent or alleviate is long. It’s no wonder that the vitamin has been used as an ingredient in care and cosmetic products for decades.

On the other hand: Given the sparse scientific knowledge about the effect of vitamin E on the skin, it seems quite surprising how much manufacturers rely on this ingredient. There is little research into whether, to what extent and in what dosage form vitamin E benefits the skin.

Vitamin E is good for the skin

Vitamin E makes a crucial contribution to maintaining the health of the entire organism. Among other things, it plays a significant role in the immune system and the cardiovascular system. However, it owes its good reputation primarily to its effect as a so-called antioxidant: Vitamin E protects certain fatty acids against attacks by free radicals. These are aggressive oxygen particles that arise during metabolism, increasingly under harmful influences such as cigarette smoke or UV radiation.

The fatty acids that vitamin E protects from destruction are, among other things, an important building block of human cell membranes, so they are found in the shells of cells, including skin cells.

Good to know: Vitamin E is a collective term for various fat-soluble substances that are chemically similar to one another. The best-known and best-researched of them is the so-called alpha-tocopherol.

There is no denying that vitamin E is good for the skin and offers a certain level of protection. It is also clear that the body cannot produce vitamin E itself, but must be supplied through food. (You can find an overview of healthy sources of vitamin E in the article Vitamin E – these foods are good suppliers .) However, it is still unclear whether the skin benefits from additional vitamin E in the form of creams or dietary supplements.

There are already studies on this question. However, this can only be relied upon to a limited extent, for several reasons:

  • The vast majority of studies involve experiments on animals or cell cultures, the findings of which cannot easily be transferred to humans.
  • In addition to vitamin E, the products tested usually contained other substances, so it is not clear which (or which) of the ingredients the observed effect can be attributed to.
  • The few studies with human participants that have been carried out to date lack meaningfulness due to methodological weaknesses and very small numbers of subjects.

Based on previous research results, it is very likely that at least some of the vitamin E contained in creams gets into the skin. The same applies to vitamin E in the form of dietary supplements. It is plausible that the additional dose contributes to skin protection – but it has not been proven.

There is also no sufficient scientific basis for the alleged healing effect against scars or skin diseases.

Vitamin E for the skin – just try it out?

There’s nothing wrong with trying out a care product with vitamin E – as long as you tolerate it well, don’t spend too much money on it and, above all, don’t have excessive hopes for it.

However, it is better to avoid dietary supplements with vitamin E: taking too high doses of vitamin E poses health risks. You can find out which ones in the article Vitamin E – from this amount onwards an overdose is possible .The need for vitamin E can easily be met through your normal diet. According to the German Nutrition Society, women should consume around 12 milligrams of vitamin E every day and men around 15 milligrams. Just one tablespoon of wheat germ oil is enough.


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