Does Vitamin E Help – or Hurt – a Scar?

I love JASON Vitamin E Oil after a bath or shower. Yet I do not recommend it - or any other vitamin E product - to prevent scarring.

Today’s question, submitted via the FutureDerm.com Facebook page:

Dear Nicki,

I was wondering if applying vitamin E to a scar really helps it heal or not.

-Jamie

Dear Jamie,

I’m glad that you asked.

For years, doctors have been recommending vitamin E, a known blood thinner, to patients to prevent scarring.   Unfortunately, research from the journal Dermatologic Surgery shows vitamin E may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar. The study notes that 90% of patients’ scars were not improved and some actually worsened with use of topical vitamin E oil.

Why the worsening in some patients?  This is mostly due to an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis in some patients, which may exacerbate scarring.

Otherwise, for non-scarred skin, I still love vitamin E, because it has been shown to have higher antioxidant activity than ubiquinone, vitamin C, or lipoic acid.  Vitamin E also aids in sun protection when used under a sunscreen:  according to a 2001 study in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, “topical vitamin E prevents oxidative stress and [...] immunosuppression elicited by UV [rays].”  Amazing!

Bottom Line

Silicone sheeting

Vitamin E may not be scientifically proven to prevent scarring, but silicone sheeting is!

Save your vitamin E creams, oils, and capsules for non-injured regions!  Use silicone gel sheeting with other ointments for your scars:  according to a 2007 review in the Aesthetic Surgery Journalsilicone gel sheeting is the only form of treatment effective against raised scars.

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4 thoughts on “Does Vitamin E Help – or Hurt – a Scar?

  1. Jacquelyn says:

    Nicki! I’m hoping you could help answer this question? I suppose it’s considered an old wives’ tale (or something of the like), but does lemon juice really lighten scars? For the past two days I’ve picked a lemon from my backyard, squeezed the juice, applied it with a cotton pad on my acne scars, and washed it off after an hour. My scars look a little lighter, but I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been sleeping more or if it’s the lemon juice…

  2. Amy says:

    Regarding the Vit E oil for scars, I am wondering if the experiment used natural or synthetic Vit E. I would think there could be a big difference since there is anecdotal evidence that people have had success with Vit E. I have had it help my scars, but I have always used natural not synthetic. I have very sensitive skin and have never gotten dermatitis from it. Hmmmmm….
    Regarding lemon juice, the citric acid probably sloughs off a layer of skin, making that area look fresh, but I haven’t had personal experience with it.

  3. Nicki says:

    @Amy – Great comment. Whether natural or synthetic, vitamin E is the same chemical compound, tocopherol. In the experiment, the most likely cause of scarring is that vitamin E thins the blood, so clotting/healing factors did not travel to the region as well as they did when vitamin E was not used.

    Lemon juice probably does do that. Citrus oils are a common cause of irritation, though, so I’m not a fan of regular use.
    All the best,
    Nicki

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