Vitamin E has been dubbed “the skin, hair, and nails vitamin” and it’s easy to see why! Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing properties, vitamin E can treat a variety of health and beauty complaints.
Many people wonder if vitamin E can be absorbed through the skin. The truth is, vitamin E oil is absorbed more efficiently than many other topical vitamins. In addition, vitamin E oil may help the skin stay hydrated for longer.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to apply vitamin E oil to the scalp and hair. Whether you’re looking to cure a scalp condition, or you’re trying to grow long and healthy locks, read on to find out how vitamin E oil can revitalize your haircare regimen.
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Scalp conditions can be particularly stubborn to treat because they’re often linked to poor immune functioning or psychological factors.
Vitamin E helps support the immune system, and vitamin E oil provides the scalp with nourishing lubrication.
As such, it is considered an effective natural treatment for the following conditions:
In addition, vitamin E oil can nourish a dry scalp, strengthen brittle strands, and add shine to lackluster hair.
To understand why it is a great treatment, let’s explore six ways vitamin E can dramatically improve the health of your hair and your scalp.
Vitamin E is a chemical compound found in many plant-based oils. It can be consumed orally (in food or supplements) or applied topically (in a concentrated or diluted oil).
After we consume (or apply) vitamin E, it accumulates in the sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands secrete a substance called sebum to help transport vitamin E to the skin’s surface. This process allows the skin to feel hydrated.
Vitamin E is made up of eight different ‘tocopherols’ and ‘tocotrienols.’ The vitamin E we consume in our diet supplies the skin with ‘tocopherol.’ However, many topical forms of vitamin E supply the skin with both ‘tocopherols’ and ‘tocotrienols.’ As such, topical treatment is sometimes favored for treating skin and scalp conditions. In this article, we’ll focus on the topical application of vitamin E oil.
A serious nutritional deficiency of Vitamin E is very rare. It would usually only occur as a result of another health condition (rather than a poor diet). Nonetheless, many people have lower than optimum levels of vitamin E. A Dry, thinning scalp, and lank hair, indicate you’d probably benefit from topical vitamin E.
As mentioned, sebum transports vitamin E to the skin’s surface, which helps keeps our skin supple. According to a review on MIC, people with naturally drier skin require greater amounts of vitamin E, because their sebaceous glands produce less sebum. So, if you’re prone to dry (as opposed to oily skin) you would benefit from regular vitamin E treatments.
Aging, smoking, UVA/UVB radiation, and pollution can cause ‘oxidative stress’ to the body. As a result of this process, our hair growth slows down, the strands become gray, and the skin cells on our scalp regenerate at a much slower rate. A ‘boost’ of skin-supporting vitamins is likely to benefit people with dry, aging skin. So, if you smoke, live in a city, or regularly expose your scalp to the sun, you’ll benefit hugely from vitamin E treatments.
Vitamin E oil comes in two primary forms – a blended oil, or pure oil. Pure oil usually comes in ‘capsules.’ Though more recently, companies have started to sell pure oil in bottles too. Furthermore, it’s vital to distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ versions of vitamin E oil.
There is a lot of research to suggest that natural forms of vitamin E are more efficiently absorbed by the body.
To find a natural form of vitamin E oil, look for the prefix ‘d’ in the ingredients list. You should see ‘d alpha-tocopherol’ or ‘d-alpha tocopheryl.’ If there is a “dl” prefix – ‘dl alpha-tocopheryl’ – it is a synthetic version of vitamin E oil.
To quicken your search, look out for oils that market themselves as 100% natural or ‘pure enough to drink’ (though do check that the claims are confirmed in the ingredients list!)
Tocopherol is an active form of vitamin E and is typically extracted from wheat germ oil, soya bean oil, or other plant-based oils.
There are ‘pure’ 100% vitamin E oils on the market, though most are blended oils. Blended oils will be made up of d-alpha tocopherol (extracted from soya bean or wheat germ) and a base oil. Common ‘base’ oils include sunflower oil or jojoba oil. These oils are also naturally rich in vitamin-E but are light enough to work as a carrier oil.
Blended oils are less likely to cause a rash or skin irritation. If you do purchase a pure oil, you should mix this with a carrier oil if you intend to apply the oil to large areas of the skin or scalp.
You don’t necessarily need to buy specialist vitamin E oils to give your skin a boost. Good quality, cooking-grade oils (sunflower, rice bran, grapeseed, and almond) contain a decent amount of vitamin E and might be more suitable for very sensitive skin. What’s more, you may already have these in your kitchen!
The capsules are manufactured for oral consumption, but many people break these capsules to apply to the skin. Capsules provide a small, concentrated amount of vitamin E (tocopherol). As we’ll explore, concentrated vitamin E can be a good ‘spot treatment’ for scalp scars, pigmentation and split ends.
It may be more cost-effective to purchase pure vitamin E oil in a bottle, rather than in capsules. Nonetheless, bottles of pure vitamin E oil can be harder to source, and some people find the capsules more convenient.
Oils have been used for centuries, particularly in the Ayurvedic tradition, to improve scalp and hair health. This is one of the reasons we’re focusing on topical (rather than dietary) forms of vitamin E. So, besides being affordable and natural, why do oils make such good hair treatments?
Given the myriad of health benefits, it makes sense to include oil in your hair regimen. With that in mind, let’s explore how to apply oil to the scalp and hair.
Broadly speaking you can apply vitamin E oil using one of the following methods:
The method you choose will depend on the scalp complaint you have. Let’s explore 5 scalp conditions in a little more detail – and discuss the best ways to treat them using vitamin E oil.
Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause a dry, red, and itchy scalp. Dandruff (white flakes falling from the scalp) is a symptom associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Sometimes dry scalp and dandruff are confused.
Dandruff is caused by the scalp’s overaction to Malassezia (a fungus) and may be aggravated by a process called ‘oxidative stress.’ So, how can vitamin E oil help an itchy and inflamed scalp caused by dermatitis?
A study published by Wiley Online found that vitamin E significantly reduced the symptoms of dermatitis, and completely cleared it in some cases. Vitamin E may have helped to improve the body’s immune response – thereby reducing inflammation in the skin. Researchers also found that wounds on the skin (caused by scratching) healed quicker than usual.
When Vitamin E is applied topically, it can penetrate both the dermis and the epidermis. Vitamin E is one of the few lipophilic vitamins (i.e., fat-soluble and can penetrate all layers of the skin).
A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found vitamin E was more moisturizing to the skin than some other topical formulations (i.e., ascorbic acid). So, vitamin E could be the perfect antidote for a dry and tight scalp.
When we suffer from dandruff, our scalp tends to overproduce oil (to try an alleviate the dehydrated skin). As such, avoid ‘leave-in’ vitamin E oil treatments because these might make the scalp too greasy.
Instead, try an intensive, ‘wash-out’ scalp treatment:
Anyone with a dry, tight or itchy scalp would benefit from this treatment – whether you have dermatitis or not.
If you feel your scalp is too greasy to try this treatment, try adding a few drops of pure vitamin E oil to your shampoo and condition instead.
Temporary hair loss or hair thinning can be caused by a variety of factors. If hair loss is triggered by a temporary hormonal shift (i.e., pregnancy) or stress, the issue should correct itself in time.
However, studies have shown that certain vitamins can help speed up hair growth and improve the strength of hair. Indeed, a critical study published on NCBI found that vitamin E significantly improved the rate of hair growth in volunteers suffering hair loss.
So, how might vitamin E help regrow your hair quicker?
Vitamin E oil can coat and smooth the cuticles, preventing tangles, split ends, and breakage.
Hair loss and follicle damage are associated with a process called oxidative stress. As already discussed, vitamin E oil is exceptionally high in antioxidants, so may be able to limit the damage caused by oxidative stress.
To increase hair growth, and support hair strength, try the following treatments.
Vitamin E Oil Hair Mist
If you want to encourage hair growth, you’ll want to apply vitamin E oil daily. To avoid hair becoming greasy, prepare a light ‘hair mist.’
Spray this mixture on freshly washed hair. Make sure you focus on the scalp, so it has a chance to penetrate the skin.
Also, spray the mist on the lengths of the hair (when wet or dry). It will work as a great detangler because vitamin E has excellent lubricating properties. Also, this mist will double-up as a natural sun protector, because vitamin E has photoprotective qualities.
Vitamin E Split End Treatment
To encourage healthy hair growth, you need to discourage split ends, tangles and brittle hair. Pure vitamin E oil can seal split ends and weak points in the hair. Add a very small amount of pure vitamin E oil to the ends of your hair after washing. Don’t overdo it; the hair can quickly become greasy!
Increase Vit E Intake
In the study mentioned above, the participants consumed dietary (rather than topical) vitamin E. We know from other research than topical vitamin E can penetrate the skin, though we can’t assume vitamin E applied to the scalp would improve hair growth. So, if you’re looking to speed up hair growth specifically, consider improving your dietary intake of vitamin E, too.
You could purchase vitamin E supplements or modify your diet. Dietary sources of vitamin E include:
If you try a combination of all three treatments, you should see an improvement in hair growth and quality.
Dubbed nature’s sunblock, vitamin E has photoprotective qualities. Sun damage is a type of ‘oxidative stress’ that can harm the scalp and weaken hair strands. Applying a potent antioxidant such as vitamin E will help protect against this oxidative damage. Interestingly, studies have shown that vitamin E’s antioxidant properties are amplified when they are combined with vitamin C!
If your hair is thinning in places, you may be even more susceptible to UVA/UVB damage, so you should take adequate protection to prevent scalp burn.
In addition to its photoprotective qualities, vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties. This means that it can treat the symptoms of sunburn, or skin dehydration. For example, studies have shown that topical vitamin E is an effective treatment for edema, swelling, erythema and skin peeling.
To help protect your hair and scalp from sun damage, spritz some of the vitamin E ‘hair mist’ on your hair a couple of times throughout the day. However, when you are preparing the mixture, be sure to add a liquid form of vitamin C. This can be purchased from most health food stores or online.
Vitamin-Enriched Hair Products
If you don’t want to mix your own products, look out for a vitamin-enriched hair protector spray that contains vitamin E and Vitamin C.
Vitamin E ‘Aftersun’
If you’ve managed to develop sunburn, it’s important to apply vitamin E oil as soon as possible to reduce inflammation. Do not put pure vitamin E oil on a sunburnt scalp. Instead, use a ‘blended’ oil and apply gently to avoid injuring the skin.
According to a review published on Springer, scientists believe the graying process is linked to oxidative stress. Antioxidants (such as vitamin E) may be able to stall the graying process because they dampen the effects of oxidative damage.
Gray hair tends to become wiry and lackluster. Natural lubricants such as vitamin E oil can improve softness and add multidimensional shine.
The easiest way to incorporate vitamin E into your regimen is to add a few drops of pure vitamin E oil to your shampoo and conditioner.
Also, give your scalp a warm vitamin E oil treatment (described above). Be sure to massage the oil into the lengths of the hair as well as the scalp. Gray hair tends to become dry, particularly at the ends, so this should help keep the hair looking soft and healthy.
Finally, if you are concerned about graying hair, try increasing your intake of nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Compulsive scalp picking is often a response to stress or anxiety. It can be tricky to treat because the pattern of behavior becomes habitual. Nonetheless, studies have shown that one of the best ways to intervene is to encourage the scalp-picker to massage, rather than pick, their scalp.
A vitamin E massage will be particularly useful because of the soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of this oil.
To give yourself a comforting scalp massage, follow these steps:
If you don’t have any ‘vitamin E oil’ a good quality sunflower or rice brain (cooking oil), will also work well for this massage.
Remember, if you have any open wounds on your scalp, wait until these have healed.
As with all topical treatments, there is a risk of contact dermatitis (a rash on the skin). This is more likely to occur if you apply pure or ‘neat’ vitamin E oil to the scalp.
For this reason, it’s best to reserve pure vitamin E oil for the hair (i.e., split ends) and use a blended vitamin E oil on the skin and scalp. Also, make sure you perform a ‘patch-test’ 24 hours before trying these treatments.
Although vitamin E is an effective treatment for the scalp, its ‘healing power’ is amplified when you combine it with other oils and vitamins.
Remember, for sun protection you’ll require vitamin C, for hair growth you’ll need rosemary oil, and to treat dandruff combine vitamin E with tea tree essential oil!
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