The Debate Over Vitamin E’s Effectiveness with Scarring

Scars. Nearly everyone has a couple and few of us consider them aesthetically pleasing. There are plenty of theories and methods about removing or reducing the appearance of scars, but do any of them actually work? Considering the cellular regeneration power of Vitamin E on skin cells it would seem obvious that this natural compound would do the trick. But experts are divided over the actual benefits of using Vitamin E oil for scars.

Scars comes from many sources: cuts, abrasions, acne and other skin-related conditions. The result is basically the same in all cases. Your skin is damaged and as your body rebuilds the skin cells to protect the damaged area it creates collagen fiber instead of normal skin tissue. This patch of weaker skin appears uneven and bumpy, with the extent of the scar tissue directly related to how bad the original damage was.


Natural Vitamin E is Best

A scar from stitches

Vitamin E is well-known to effectively treat skin ailments such as acne, liver spots and other common conditions. The best form of Vitamin E is D-alpha tocopherol, often made from vegetable oils. This is its natural form, as opposed to synthetic forms of Vitamin E, which is known as DL-alpha tocopherol. It seems like a minor difference in spelling, but the difference in effectiveness is quite substantial. The natural form works better on a molecular level, which is where you need it to do most of the action when dealing with deep tissue problems like scarring.

The natural form of Vitamin E is almost always more expensive than the synthetic form, but not enough that it warrants trying to cut costs by purchasing cheaper skin creams. Whichever form you prefer, it’s always suggested that you read the label on the skin care product carefully so you know exactly what you’re getting. When trying to reduce scar tissue it’s advised that you stick with the natural D-alpha tocopherol compound.

The Studies Show…

There’s little risk when using Vitamin E to treat scars, but everyone agrees topical skin creams are only really effective within the first few weeks after the scar is formed. A study conducted in 1999 called “Free radical Biology and Medicine” found that many examples of scars contain more free radicals than normal. Since one of the primary functions of Vitamin E is using antioxidants to destroy free radicals in the body, it is naturally assumed the vitamin will have some positive effect on scar tissue formation.

The antioxidant power of Vitamin E is perhaps its main contribution to reducing scar visibility. This brings us back to the value of natural D-alpha tocopherol in skin care products. A study by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2009 found that products with synthetic forms of vitamin E were less effective in terms of antioxidant function. Since synthetic vitamin E is much cheaper than its natural form, most over-the-counter skin care products contain the synthetic compounds and thus are likely not as useful for scar treatment.

However, the same study also concluded that Vitamin E had little if any impact on scar tissue formation. It is true that Vitamin E has excellent moisturizing effects on the skin, which can certainly help keep damaged skin areas pliable and moist while scar tissue is forming. But there is currently no conclusive research to prove that Vitamin E has any viable effect on scar tissue development one way or the other. In fact, some dermatologists believe Vitamin E may actually worsen the effects of scarring because approximately 33 percent of people who use Vitamin E on their skin develop some form of dermatitis, which can make matters much worse.


 Some people are in favor of Vitamin E oil to treat scars:


Some people say that it isn’t effective at treating scars:


Proper Use of Vitamin E for Scar Tissue

So what’s the best solution? Test it out and judge for yourself if it appears to be helping. If you are unsure whether your skin will react badly to pure Vitamin E oil simply apply a bit to a healthy area of skin like on the inside of your leg and wait 24 hours. If no form of dermatitis appears to develop then you are probably good to go.

Vitamin E gel caps are considered the best form for topical use on scar tissue. After cleaning the scar area with antibacterial soap and drying, apply pure Vitamin E straight from the gel cap. You must leave the gel on the skin for at least three hours to give it time to absorb into the skin before rinsing it off. So be sure and cover it with a bandage or avoid rubbing any of it off with clothing or other contact.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of Vitamin E oil to help reduce scarring, but enough people testify to its benefits to warrant giving it a try. Whenever using a product for the first time, pay close attention to any negative side affects such as rashes, discoloration or inflammation. If any skin problems occur, stop using the product immediately.

photo courtesy of: H Dragon