Vitamin E in Skincare, Explained

Vitamin E in Skincare, Explained

For some reason, we’re drawn to problematic skincare ingredients and ignore the nice ones. We love vitamin C even though it has a track record for being irritating and sensitizing for the skin. We skip vitamin E even though it’s the nice guy of the skincare family.

Well, I’d like to draw your attention to this refreshingly gentle skincare ingredient. Because vitamin E has more to offer, especially if you have dry, sun-damaged skin. And don’t worry, it’s actually as edgy as vitamin C! Keep reading to learn more about the use of vitamin E in skincare, its benefits, and how to properly use it.

What Is Vitamin E in Skincare?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant used in skincare to protect the skin against free radicals. It can be produced synthetically, but it’s commonly derived from natural sources like sunflower oil and olive oil 1.

Vitamin E is an umbrella term used to describe the many forms or esters of vitamin E 2. Some popular names you’re probably familiar with are alpha-tocopherol, tocopherol, and tocopherol acetate.

Vitamin E is already present in the skin and found in the sebum (oil) your skin produces. But, external stressors like sun exposure cause a decrease in vitamin E in the skin. That’s why we have topical vitamin E products like serums, creams, and oils.

Benefits of Vitamin E for Skin

1. Vitamin E is an Antioxidant

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the lipid barrier. Free radicals form when outside sources like sun exposure and pollution damage your skin. That damage can lead to the formation of premature signs of aging like wrinkles or dark spots. That’s why vitamin E has major anti-aging benefits for the skin and why it’s commonly formulated into anti-pollution skincare products.

2. It’s Anti-Inflammatory

Vitamin E also possesses anti-inflammatory properties 3. It means that vitamin E has soothing and calming effects on the skin, which can help reduce redness and irritation on sensitive skin.

3. It’s Moisturizing

By nature, vitamin E is an oily substance. And because of that, it has moisturizing effects on the skin when applied topically. So if you have dry skin, vitamin E can be of great use to keep the skin replenished and soft and to prevent moisture loss.

Drawbacks of Vitamin E for Skin

Irritation, though not very common, is a drawback of vitamin E. So your skin may be irritated, and get itchy after you use a vitamin E product. Because of that, it’s best to patch-test your products. This is something to keep in mind if you already have sensitive skin too.

Who Should Use Vitamin E?

Generally speaking and assuming your skin doesn’t react to it, people with dry skin and people who are dealing with wrinkles should use vitamin E.

It will help dry skin by increasing the lipid content, which results in better moisture, improved skin barrier, and reduced moisture loss.

It will help aging skin by keeping free radicals at bay. As a result of increased protection, your skin becomes more resilient to wrinkle-causing elements.

Additionally, and this is something I personally benefit from, you can use vitamin E to help your skin bounce back from irritation due to over-exfoliation.

Because vitamin E is moisturizing and soothing for the skin, I’ve seen it to be helpful in accelerating skin repair. But, the overall formulation of the product has to be sensitive-skin-friendly.

Does Vitamin E Cause Acne?

We mentioned that vitamin E is present in sebum, which is something oily skin types produce abundantly. So using vitamin E when you have oily skin is not the most sensible thing or the most pleasing feeling.

Additionally, vitamin E usually comes in oil-based products. And oil-based products are usually bad for oily skin as they can clog pores and cause breakouts.

If you want the antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamin E, you can collect those benefits from other sources like vitamin C, which is less likely to cause congestion.

How to Use Vitamin E in Skincare

As an oily substance, vitamin E usually comes in oil-based or emollient products. Think face oils, thicker moisturizers, and creams. Though serums are generally water-based, there are some oil-based serums that are light enough and don’t feel greasy.

If you’re worried about wrinkles or aging, you can consider using vitamin E serums that also contain other antioxidants like vitamin C. These two work in a synergy that results in enhanced antioxidant benefits.

Additionally, if you have sensitive skin and can’t tolerate vitamin C, you can incorporate a daily cream into your routine made with vitamin E and other gentle antioxidants.

If you have dry skin or a damaged barrier, you can incorporate a vitamin E serum or cream into your routine to prevent water loss and repair the skin barrier.

So this is how vitamin E works in skincare, its benefits, its drawbacks, and the proper way to use it. And I think it’s ‘edgy’ enough to make us go for it! If you’re ready to try it, start from our round-up of the best vitamin E skincare products.


  1. Fiume, M. M., Bergfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Hill, R. A., Klaassen, C. D., Liebler, D. C., Marks, J. G., Shank, R. C., Slaga, T. J., Snyder, P. W., Andersen, F. A., & Heldreth, B. (2018). Safety Assessment of Tocopherols and Tocotrienols as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology, 37(2_suppl), 61S-94S. ↩︎
  2. Michalak, M., Pierzak, M., Kręcisz, B., & Suliga, E. (2021). Bioactive Compounds for Skin Health: A Review. Nutrients13(1), 203. ↩︎
  3. Baran, R., & Maibach, H. I. (2017). Antioxidants [E-book]. In Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology (p. 80). Taylor & Francis. ↩︎
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