Aloe vera and vitamin E feature prominently in beauty products designed to moisturize and soothe the skin. Research shows that both vitamin E and aloe vera may have several dermatological uses when applied topically; however, aloe can be toxic when ingested.
Aloe vera and vitamin E can protect the skin, soothe burns, promote wound healing and potentially aid several other dermatologic conditions.
Antioxidant Vitamin E Oil
Dietary vitamin E makes its way to the skin via sebum, a waxy substance produced in the oil glands that covers the skin's surface. According to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, topical application of vitamin E may offer specific forms of the nutrient that aren't provided by diet. Dietary sources primarily provide tocopherols, while topical vitamin E provides tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Vitamin E's most important role in health is as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals that may promote disease. This makes it an especially important nutrient for skin health, since exposure to UV rays from the sun can create free radical damage. Because vitamin E can absorb UV light, it has photoprotective properties, which can prevent some of this damage.
Vitamin E also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping to reduce inflammation in the skin from sun exposure. As such, vitamin E oil may be used to treat many inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne and psoriasis; however there is little evidence to support its effectiveness, according to a research review in the July-August 2016 issue of the Indian Dermatology Online Journal.
The Linus Pauling Institute explains that it's difficult to identify whether vitamin E's anti-inflammatory effects are a result of an antioxidant effect that prevents inflammation in the first place.
Skin-Soothing Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species that has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The aloe plant produces two substances: a clear gel and a yellow-colored latex. The clear gel is widely used topically on its own or in creams and ointments to treat burns, acne and a skin condition called psoriasis — and there is some research to support its efficacy.
In a study published in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association in February 2013, burn patients were divided into two groups, one of which was treated with silver sulfadiazine cream and the other with aloe vera gel. After approximately six months, results showed that the group treated with aloe healed significantly sooner than the silver sulfadiazine group. They also experienced faster pain relief.
When used in combination with other natural ingredients, aloe vera may be an effective treatment for acne. In a study published in December 2018 in Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications, researchers found that a combination of propolis, tea tree oil and aloe vera cleared acne lesions better than a placebo or the prescription antibiotic cream erythromycin.
Aloe vera may also increase the efficacy of the prescription treatment tretinoin. Results of an eight-week study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment in May 2013 showed that a combination therapy with aloe and tretinoin was significantly more effective at reducing acne lesions than a placebo and tretinoin alone.
Some people also drink aloe juice to clear acne; however, a study published in the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 revealed no significant difference between participants who ingested aloe and those who received a placebo.
Additionally, people may drink aloe for such conditions as osteoarthritis, bowel diseases and fever; there are also claims that oral ingestion of aloe can detoxify the liver and alkalize the blood, however there is no evidence to support any of these internal uses.
Side Effects and Dangers
There is little risk of side effects from topical vitamin E oil. Although rare, it may cause contact dermatitis or other skin reactions in people who are sensitive to it. The same is true for topical aloe.
However, greater concern should be taken with ingesting aloe. According to Mayo Clinic, aloe gel may be safe in small doses for a short period of time. At the very least, taking aloe gel orally may cause gastrointestinal upset, nausea, vomiting and rash.
Latex or whole-leaf aloe is potentially unsafe, especially at high doses. Ingesting 1 gram of aloe latex for several days can lead to kidney failure and death. According to Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, excess aloe consumption can lead to seizures, severely low blood potassium levels and electrolyte abnormalities.
Aloe Vera and Vitamin E
As long as you don't have a sensitivity to either product, you can use topical vitamin E oil and aloe liberally. There are many ways to include vitamin E oil in your skin-care regimen, including:
- Cuticle softener: Put a drop on each cuticle, then massage in with your fingers or a cotton ball.
- Lip balm: Using your fingers or a cotton ball, smear on vitamin E oil to keep lips moist and protected from the elements.
- Scalp massage: Treat a dry, itchy scalp by massaging a few drops of vitamin E oil into your scalp with your fingertips. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way.
- Softening rough spots: Rub into knees, elbows, heels and other areas that tend to develop thickened, rough skin.
- Aromatherapy: Mix the oil with a few drops of essential oils and rub into body skin or scalp.
- Soak: Add some vitamin E oil to a warm bath.
If you happen to have an aloe vera plant in your home or garden, you can harvest your own aloe vera gel. If not, it's widely available in drug stores and health food stores. Aloe vera can be used in almost any topical application you can think of. For example, you can apply it to minor skin irritations, burns, rashes, bug bites and wounds to relieve pain and promote healing.
Apply it all over after being out in the sun (although it is not a replacement for sunscreen). Spread a thin layer over your face after a shower, or use it as an ingredient in a homemade facial mask. For a cool treat for your skin on a hot day, keep a bottle of aloe in the fridge.
- NIH: "Vitamin E"
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin E and Skin Health"
- Indian Dermatology Online Journal: "Vitamin E in Dermatology"
- Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association: "Effectiveness of Aloe Vera Gel Compared With 1% Silver Sulphadiazine Cream as Burn Wound Dressing in Second Degree Burns"
- Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications: "Treatment of Acne With a Combination of Propolis, Tea Tree Oil, and Aloe Vera Compared to Erythromycin Cream: Two Double-Blind Investigations"
- Journal of Dermatological Treatment: "Effect of Aloe Vera Topical Gel Combined With Tretinoin in Treatment of Mild and Moderate Acne Vulgaris: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Prospective Trial"
- Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Aloe vera Juice and Acne Vulgaris: A Placebo-Controlled Study"
- NIH: "Aloe Vera"
- Mayo Clinic: "Aloe"
- Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center: "Aloe Vera"