Vitamin E is a generic term for a group of tocol and tocotrienol derivatives. Since the discovery that vitamin E is the major lipid soluble antioxidant in skin, this substance has been tried for the treatment of almost every type of skin lesion imaginable. Anecdotal reports claim that vitamin E speeds wound healing and improves the cosmetic outcome of burns and other wounds. Many lay people use vitamin E on a regular basis to improve the outcome of scars and several physicians recommend topical vitamin E after skin surgery or resurfacingMany people think that vitamin E heals and fades scars. Even doctors often recommend vitamin E to reduce or eliminate surgical scars. While vitamin E is an essential vitamin and is necessary for the proper functioning of the body,Unfortunately, evidence that vitamin E has this effect is mostly anecdotal. There’s little clinical evidence to support any of these claims There have been a few studies on the efficacy of vitamin E to promote scar healing, but the conclusions are that topical use of vitamin E does not help with scarring.The popular belief is that rubbing vitamin E oil onto your acne scars can help them heal quickly, and reduce their visibility. Ointments and creams that contain vitamin E and claim to clear scars — from acne, wounds, and surgery — can be found on store shelves across America.
Scarring and Vitamin E
Injuries to the skin cause wounds, and when the wounds heal, scar tissue forms. All people scar differently, and some are more prone than others. Scarring is a natural way that the skin heals itself. There are a wide variety of scars, including skin discolorations, pockmarks and colloids or hypertrophy scars. Scars can be depressed or raised. With depressed scars there is too little collagen or tissue at the site of the wound. With raised scars there is too much collagen.
Collagen is the primary protein of the connective tissue that makes scar tissue. The fibers or strands of collagen give skin its structure, strength and elasticity. According to Dr. Joel Studding, a plastic surgeon, "It [vitamin E] works by reducing the strength of the three strands that form collagen, making them softer and more pliable.
We attempted to determine whether topically applied vitamin E has any effect on the cosmetic appearance of scars as suggested by multiple anectodal reports.
Technically, it reduces the strength of cross-linking of these strands." But one study done at the University of Miami concluded that vitamin E oil had no effect on scars. The study tested 15 subjects who applied vitamin E to scars twice a day for 4 weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, the researchers noted that in 90 percent of the subjects, there was no visible improvement of the scars, or the scars had become worse. Also, 33 percent of the subjects developed contact dermatitis from the vitamin E oil. This study has been criticized by other researchers for not using more subjects and for not using enough vitamins E.
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A 1999 study found that vitamin E and Aquaphor ointments had no difference on healing 90 percent of scars in people who had recently had patches of skin cancer removed. In addition, one- third of study participants who used vitamin E developed contact dermatitis, which is a red, itchy rash.
However, a 2010 study found that children with surgical scars who used vitamin E three times a day didn’t develop keloids, or extra scar tissue over the wound.
“Topical vitamin E before and after surgery improved surgical wound healing and improved cosmetic results,” researchers concluded.
Research on whether or not vitamin E can treat acne — as well as heal its scars — is also inconclusive.
However, while there’s little proof that vitamin E oil can help heal scars, it’s possible that ingesting it through food or in supplement form can help your body heal quicker.
Some research suggests vitamin E supplements can be effective for people with major skin trauma. While it won’t give you Wolverine-like regeneration abilities, vitamin E can support your body in several aspects of the healing process.
For example, vitamin E protects the body’s tissues from free radicals, which can damage cells and accelerate aging. It’s also critical for the formation of red blood cells, which distribute oxygen around the body. Both functions are vital to healing
It’s best to get all the vitamin E you need from food. It’s abundant in green leafy vegetables (as if you needed another reason to eat more of them), nuts, and seeds, as well as fortified foods like cereal. The best food sources of vitamin E are green vegetables, corn, eggs, sweet potatoes, beans and almonds. There are also vitamin E supplements available as a pill or liquid in both natural and synthetic forms. Vitamin E oil is also available in natural and synthetic forms. The National Institute of Health states that the natural form of the vitamin is twice as effective as the synthetic.
The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board recommends the following daily intakes:
Daily Intakesinfants (0-6 months) 4 milligrams (mg)
infants (7-12 months) 5 mg
children (1-3 years) 6 mg
children (4-8 years) 7 mg
children (9-13 years) 7 mg
14 and older 15 mg
breastfeeding women 19 mg
Taking too many vitamin E supplements — more than 1,000 mg daily in natural form or 670 mg in synthetic form — can be harmful. It can thin the blood, increase the risk of bleeding, and even cause bleeding in the brain.
It’s always best to discuss the use of supplements with your doctor.