There is a common consensus among skincare enthusiasts that you should never google your skin concerns. If you do, it is best not to try every remedy that catches your fancy, and to consult a dermatologist on whether a certain cure or tip will work for your skin or not. An expert opinion is crucial in order to avoid DIY disasters and to use the right treatments for your skin type, before you ruin it irreversibly. This is especially true for people looking for treatments for pimples, and one of the common pieces of advice seen online is to use vitamin E for acne. We wanted to set the record straight and got our in-house skin expert Dr. Sravya Tirpineni to give her thoughts on it; here's what she had to say…
- What is vitamin E?
- What does the research say?
- Topical vitamin E for acne
- Internal/Dietary vitamin E for acne
- Precautions to know of while using vitamin E for acne
- Effective alternatives of vitamin E for acne
- FAQs about vitamin E for acne
What is vitamin E?
Before we get into the specifics, let's lay down the facts - what exactly is vitamin E? Simply put, vitamin E is an antioxidant and nutritionally speaking, it's an anti-inflammatory agent which offers multiple benefits to your body. The compound is known for boosting your immune system and takes part in your cell regeneration. But does it really help with inflammatory acne? The answer is trickier than you think!
Dr. Tirpineni revealed, "In theory, vitamin E could help, but there's a lot more research that really needs to be done whether it's better than the other standard acne treatments or not. This also takes into account the correct use of the same - is it better to apply topically or externally or do you swallow vitamin E capsules, we simply do not know".
What does the research say?
As far as the research into vitamin E for skin that’s been done so far, the main finding has been that it works best topically. In terms of consumption, it is believed you can get enough of it in your balanced diet as vitamin E supplements taken orally don’t really have effects on acne even though they might be just generally good for the skin. One study found that it was effective in a three-month period. But, it was given in combination with zinc, making the results unclear of whether it was the vitamin E or the zinc that worked.
Dr. Tirpineni revealed, "Most of the studies done around vitamin E had other ingredients in combination with it. Hence we do not know whether it's vitamin E or certain other ingredients which are helping. There is no research so far which shows that only vitamin E cleanly applied has helped any kind of acne but can help when combined with other types of formulations".
Topical vitamin E for acne
In order to better understand vitamin E, we need to look at it in detail, starting with topical formulations. Vitamin E comes in the form of oils, serums and creams. But such products usually contain other acne or blemish-fighting ingredients, like vitamin A and C. For instance, if you mainly suffer from acne spots or brown spots on your skin that have been left behind, you can use a combination of vitamins C and E. Sometimes, an additional element of ferulic acid is added to treat both the acne as well as the spots. So, for active acne breakouts, you can use spot treatments with any liquid containing vitamin E, which is called alpha-tocopherol. Another option is to combine it with essential oil and then use it.
Internal/Dietary vitamin E for acne
In addition to typical vitamin E used for skin, you also need to have it in your balanced diet to see any results. A deficiency of vitamin E is usually not identified nor is it very obvious, hence doctors usually don't check it unless it is in a certain condition. But you can make sure to consume it safely in your daily diet. Some of the major food sources rich in vitamin E are - safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, fortified cereals, corn oil, etc.
If you notice that your vitamin E consumption is still low, consult a dermatologist for the same. They will usually recommend a vitamin E supplement that can help boost the numbers without having to worry about food sources. The recommended daily amount (RDA) for vitamin E in an adult is 1mg, whereas for breastfeeding women it is 19 mg. Make sure to follow the recommended dosage as overdoing vitamin E can have side effects as well.
Precautions to know of while using vitamin E for acne
When using vitamin E for acne, Dr. Tirpineni revealed, "I get a lot of patients who self-medicate on vitamin E after reading online advice about taking or applying it as is. But these tips are usually non-medical in nature and not from certified sources. In reality, overdosing on vitamin E supplements can increase your risk of bleeding, especially if you're taking anticoagulant medications. So always talk to your dermatologist to take supplements". There are a lot of foods that are high in vitamin E and are usually enough, so you do not always have to supplement an extra capsule.
As far as topical vitamin E is concerned, there are risks involved in overdoing the application as well. Vitamin E oils can work adversely on already oily and acne-prone skin. It could clog your pores as you are adding excessive oil to already fully active oil glands and it makes your acne worse. Also, always dilute your vitamin E oil with a carrier oil first, do a patch test 48 hours prior to using it and only then try applying it to your face.
Effective alternatives of vitamin E for acne
Dr. Tirpineni recommends reaching for the more well-known and safe alternatives for treating acne, instead of self-medicating with vitamin E. Some of the expert-recommended treatments are alpha hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, adapalene gel, clindamycin, salicylic acid, and zinc. A natural alternative can be tea tree oil as it has shown results in many and is known to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Another good alternative to vitamin E is vitamin A, which works excellently with a dermatologist’s recommendation. So get your acne checked by a certified person who can evaluate you well and find out the root cause and then treat you appropriately.
FAQs about vitamin E for acne
Q. What kind of acne can be treated with vitamin E?
A. In theory, vitamin E can be used to treat inflammatory acne conditions like nodules, cysts, papules, pustules, and scars. But as seen above, there is still a lot of research left to be done to confirm the benefits of vitamin E for acne.
Q. Are there other antioxidants that can help treat acne?
A. Similar to vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant, there are more effective and potent ingredients that can help deal with acne. Vitamin A, which are popularly known and available as in the form of retinoids, has been proven highly effective for acne. Topical and medicinal retinoids can help increase your skin’s natural regeneration process, resurface it and even help with post-acne scarring. However, these products are very strong and should only be used under the guidance of a dermatologist.
Q. How to tell if vitamin E is not working for my acne?
A. If your choice of self-treating your acne is vitamin E, you know that it is not working when you see little to no results from regular use. In fact, if you notice issues like red and peeling skin, excessive oiliness, more pimple breakouts, hives or eczema, it is time to stop using vitamin E immediately and see a doctor.