What is vitamin E and how does it work in skincare?

Vitamin E is a great skincare ingredient—here's what you need to know about its benefits and adding to your routine

smears of white moisturizer on a grey-beige surface on pale peach background with multi-colored brown Skincare 101 badge in the corner
(Image credit: Future)

Get the 101 on vitamin E in this Skincare 101—our comprehensive skincare dictionary of every ingredient that you need to know about.

If you are looking for a way to enhance your skin's natural glow, vitamin E is a good place to start.

This fat-soluble, essential nutrient has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with a wide range of skin conditions. So what are its complexion benefits, and where does it best fit into your skincare routine order? Here’s what you need to know about it.

What is vitamin E? 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it helps to stave off free radicals from the skin by preventing oxidative damage to cells—and in turn means it’s a great anti-ageing ingredient for your complexion. 

“One of the most well-known and researched ingredients for the body and for skin, vitamin E occurs naturally in human skin, where it offers significant antioxidant properties to help defend from pollution and other environmental stressors that would otherwise weaken skin, causing unwanted changes,” says Paula Begoun, founder of cult skincare brand Paula’s Choice.

“Unfortunately, with time and sun damage, skin’s vitamin E decreases, depleting our natural ability to fight the signs of aging," she continues. "But you can absolutely replenish skin with topically applied vitamin E: you’ll most commonly find it listed as tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate on the ingredient list. Tocotrienols are an excellent source, too."

It’s worth reminding you that you can’t fight off the effects of the environment using vitamin E alone: using one of the best sunscreens for face every day, all year round is an absolute must to protect your skin and prevent premature aging. 

close up of skincare formulas

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What are the benefits of vitamin E for skin? 

“Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidants for the skin,” says Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, aka Dr Fab, skin expert and ambassador for The INKEY List. “It helps to counteract the damage caused by external aggressors that triggers inflammation and blemishes."

She adds: "It helps to support the skin’s immune system and the functioning of the cells, and works nicely alongside other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and ferulic acid.”

Because of its moisturizing, soothing and protective properties, there are specific skin conditions that may benefit from using vitamin E in your routine. These include hyperpigmentation or scarring, wrinkles and fine lines and potentially even eczema.

How to use vitamin E in your skincare routine

Vitamin E is a major component in many skincare products, but most commonly serums and moisturizers. If you want to try out something with vitamin E, consider a treatment serum that’s formulated with other actives for a multi-pronged approach—you’ll benefit most from its antioxidant protection in the morning.

It’s worth remembering that new actives should always be factored into your routine gradually, so that your skin can adjust and you can monitor any sensitivity.

Alternatively, buying a fuss-free thick moisturiser is a good way to go when it comes to this soothing and moisturising ingredient. Apply it as the last step in your routine, apart from during the day when you’ll use a separate SPF.


The INKEY List Vitamin B, C and E Moisturizer

RRP: $5.99/£5.99

A vitamin-packed affordable moisturizer that's a great everyday staple, suitable for all skin types. Vitamin E is housed alongside brightening C and clarifying niacinamide. 


Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

RRP: $52/£45

As well as being a powerful vitamin C formula, Paula's Choice's famous formula also packs vitamin E and ferulic acid. 


Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum

RRP: $169/£145

One of our best vitamin C serums, this product has achieved cult status in the skincare world for its brightening and smoothing benefits.

The Skinceuticals number combines vitamin E and C with the aforementioned ferulic acid to brighten, tighten and firm.

See our full SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic review here

So vitamin E is definitely an important member of the skincare supporting cast. Add it into your daily regime alongside other actives and you're sure to see visible results over time.

Aleesha Badkar
Former Deputy Editor at My Imperfect Life

Aleesha was Deputy Editor and Beauty & Fashion Editor for My Imperfect Life, where she headed up the beauty, fashion and eCommerce pages. Previously she was Shopping Writer at woman&home and gained an AOP awards nomination after working on their news team. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. When she’s not testing all the new beauty & lifestyle products on the market, Aleesha spends her time soaking up the newest bestsellers and Netflix releases, watching everything Marvel, learning about different wines, attempting new languages and traveling as much as she can.