When I was a kid and I’d cut my finger or skin my knee, my grandmother popped open a bottle of Vitamin E capsules. She’d prick one with a pin, squeeze out the golden liquid and spread it onto my wound. Did it work? To this day I’m not sure, so we investigated it and here’s what we found…
Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant that has been used for the treatment of a variety of cosmetic skin conditions. This vitamin is commonly known for its photoprotective, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory effects. Most controversial is the claim that Vitamin E can speed up wound healing and prevent the formation of scars.
How Vitamin E Works
Vitamin E’s primary role is to protect our skin against free-radical damage and reactive oxygen species. Vitamin E primarily exists in the epidermis, accumulating in the sebaceous glands. With age and UV exposure, the amount of vitamin E stored in the skin begins to decline. When taken orally, it takes at least seven days for the compound to be found in the sebum. Topical application allows the vitamin to penetrate the skin more rapidly.
What Is a Scab?
Scabs occur when exposed cells at the surface of a wound dry out. If you have a scab over the wound, refrain from aggravating the area; the scab forms to create a damp, protective environment that stimulates healing. Using the scar-prevention techniques described below will also help to prevent scabs and speed up the healing process.
What Is a Scar?
After an injury to the skin, the body responds by producing fibrous proteins and scar tissue. Scar tissue differs from typical skin in that it significantly lacks elasticity. This causes it to appear raised and firm in comparison to surrounding skin. Hypertrophic and keloid scars occur when there is an overproduction of collagen. Generally, if a wound heals quickly (within two weeks) no scar will form. However, if a wound takes longer than three to four weeks to heal, a scar will form.
How Can I Minimize the Formation of Scars?
In general, scar formation can be minimized or prevented with good wound care techniques. This includes keeping the area clean and free of debris, keeping the area moist with Cherry Life Saver or similar ointment, and applying sunscreen to the area until the wound has completely healed. Topical ointments create a moisture-rich environment that is similar to a scab, but better.
Vitamin E and Wound Healing
In studies performed on mice, rats, and people with diabetes, Vitamin E has been shown to improve wound healing; however, researchers have been unable to replicate these results in healthy human skin. Studies in human subjects on wound healing and scar formation have shown mixed results because a high number of people involved in these studies had skin reactions to the topical Vitamin E preparations. It is possible that these studies used unstable formulations of Vitamin E, which affected their outcomes.
Can Vitamin E Reduce Scars?
It is possible that positive effects on reduced scar formation in some people are due to Vitamin E’s texture and photoprotective effects. When taken directly from a gel capsule, the thick oil may act to keep the skin moist, improving overall healing. Reducing photodamage may allow for further improvement.
As you can see, the results are a mixed bag. What I can say is that as long as you don’t have an allergic reaction to the Vitamin E oil, then it can’t hurt to try it…and it may help!
- Thiele, J. J., Hsieh, S. N. and Ekanayake-Mudiyanselage, S. (2005), Vitamin E: Critical Review of Its Current Use in Cosmetic and Clinical Dermatology. Dermatologic Surgery, 31: 805–813. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.2005.31724