Why Don't We Use Vitamin E in Dermatology?

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To review the possible uses of topical and systemic tocopherols as therapy for skin conditions in light of the widespread use of vitamin E by patients.

Data sources

Index Medicus was searched for articles published from 1922 (when vitamin E was discovered) to 1966 (the beginning of MEDLINE). MEDLINE was searched for articles in English and French on vitamin E or tocopherol in relation to dermatology. Additional original articles were identified from the reference lists of the review articles.

Study selection

Only well-designed controlled studies were accepted; anecdotes and open studies are cited for completeness and as direction for future research.

Data synthesis

There was some weak or conflicting evidence that vitamin E is of value in yellow nail syndrome, vibration disease, epidermolysis bullosa, cancer prevention, claudication, cutaneous ulcers, and collagen synthesis and wound healing. It was of no use in atopic dermatitis, dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, subcorneal pustular dermatosis, porphyrias and skin damage induced by ultraviolet light.


After 44 years of research there is still scant proof of vitamin E's effectiveness in treating certain dermatologic conditions. Further research in well-designed controlled trials is needed to clarify vitamin E's role.

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