Vitamin E and Scar Prevention or Removal

Can It Help?

Vitamin e oil

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

There are a number of creams, oils, and home remedies on the market that claim to prevent the formation of scars and minimize the appearance of old scars.

The kind of scars that people are often interested in preventing or minimizing are hypertrophic scars, also referred to as keloids. They are red and raised and can be painful or cause limited movement in the affected area (called a contracture). Hypertrophic scars usually diminish somewhat over time.

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can remove scars is lacking. Here's a closer look at one of the most popular remedies, vitamin E.

What Is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant. It's found in capsule or liquid form at drugstores, grocery stores, health food stores, and online. The oil is typically applied to the affected area.

Vitamin E may penetrate the skin and reduce the formation of free radicals (which interfere with healing). Vitamin E also influences the production of collagen, a structural protein partially responsible for the strength and elasticity of skin.


Although many people apply vitamin E oil to their skin to minimize or prevent scars, and even though it's sometimes recommended by physicians after skin surgery, there's very little evidence to show that it helps reduce wound scarring.

A study published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery in 2011 reported that twice-daily application of 5% vitamin E had no significant effect on the appearance of scars compared to a placebo. Study participants started applying the vitamin E two weeks after surgery and continued twice a day for six weeks.

Another study, published in the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation in 1986, examined the use of topical vitamin E during the postoperative period after reconstructive surgery for people with burns. Study participants used either a topical steroid, topical vitamin E, or an inert cream. There was no beneficial effect of either vitamin E or topical steroid on range of motion, scar thickness, change in graft size, or cosmetic appearance.

A small study published in Dermatologic Surgery in 1999 compared participants who had undergone skin cancer removal surgery. After the surgery (and when all wounds were primarily closed in two layers), participants applied vitamin E mixed into a cream to one part of their scar twice daily for four weeks and the cream alone to another part of their scar, also twice daily for four weeks. At the study's end, the vitamin-E-enriched cream had no effect on, or actually worsened, the cosmetic appearance of scars. Of the study participants studied, 33% developed contact dermatitis to the vitamin E. The study authors concluded that topical vitamin E use should be discouraged.

One criticism of the study is that too little vitamin E was used (one crushed capsule containing 320 IU of vitamin E was added to 1 gram of cream). Also, applying any substance to a wound too soon after injury can keep it from healing properly.

In addition to the risk of contact dermatitis, topical vitamin E has also resulted in a skin reaction called generalized erythema multiforme reaction in a case report involving two patients. Patch tests with vitamin E oil showed positive local reactions in both people.

Other Remedies 

Onion Extract

Onion, or Allium cepa, is an ingredient in sometimes found in scar gels and creams.

Onion extract has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and to regulate the formation of collagen.

There have been three major clinical studies in the United States, however, and none have found that it can improve hypertrophic scars. One study found that there was no difference in redness and itchiness after one month of onion extract gel applied three times a day. Another study evaluated 97 people with new or old scars who used either an onion gel or a placebo gel. After two months, there was no difference in scar size, overall improvement, noticeable appearance, elevation, redness, or softness when assessed by physicians.

Topical Honey

Honey has been used as a dressing for burns and wounds for centuries. A 2015 review of studies of using honey for acute and chronic wounds concluded that it appears to heal partial-thickness burns more quickly than conventional treatment and heals infected post-operative wounds more quickly than antiseptics and gauze. But the evidence wasn't robust enough for suggesting changes to clinical practices. In addition, these studies did not provide evidence that honey can help with hypertrophic scars.

Using Natural Remedies for Scars

Other home remedies often used for scars, but again without reliable supporting evidence, are aloe vera, gotu kola, vitamin C, and zinc.

If you're considering the use of any type of alternative medicine for scars, make sure to consult your physician first. 

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