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Does Vitamin E Help - or Hurt - a Scar?

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
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. Other Articles You May Enjoy Other Posts You May Enjoy Follow FutureDerm.com on Facebook and Twitter!
Date: May 14 2012 at 11:51 PM
Q&A

Comments (3)

  1. Jacquelyn
    May 17 2012 at 12:08 AM

    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
    July 18 2012 at 9:39 AM

    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
    July 18 2012 at 9:47 AM

    @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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