Vitamin E Oil For Lips: 5 Benefits For A Thirsty Pout & How To Use It
Quick! What are the all-time best ingredients for dry, thirsty lips? Perhaps you immediately call on players like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, or glycerin to usher in hydration, soften microcracks, and fortify the skin barrier—but if you don't include vitamin E oil in the rotation, believe us, you're doing your pout a disservice.
No worries, though: This beloved vitamin is easy to incorporate into your routine (you can find it in a host of lip balms, lip masks, and such). Below, find out exactly what makes vitamin E oil so stellar for chapped lips.
What is vitamin E oil?
First, let's review this star ingredient: Vitamin E is a fat-soluble, or lipid-soluble, nutrient that's mainly involved in metabolic processes like cell signaling, hormone balance, and gene expression. It's also the most prevalent fat-soluble vitamin in the skin1, so it earns high praise in dermatology as well—that's why experts recommend applying it topically and finding skin-care-focused supplements containing vitamin E. And because it's fat-soluble, it's the perfect addition to oil-based balms and salves (you'll likely see it listed as "tocopherol").
Typically, manufacturers will extract vitamin E and dilute it with a carrier oil (jojoba, argan, and the like), but you can also find straight vitamin E oils on the market—pure options are quite thick in consistency, almost gel-like. Some people even cut open a vitamin E capsule and apply the goop directly to their skin, an age-old antidote for chapped lips and hyperpigmentation.
Benefits for lips.
Here's how the beloved vitamin can help your pout:
"Vitamin E oil has humectant properties, which means it helps to hydrate, and emollient properties, which means it helps to support the skin barrier," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. "Emollients are saturated and unsaturated variable-length hydrocarbons, which help in skin barrier function, membrane fluidity, and cell signaling, leading to overall improvement in skin texture and appearance," she reminds us about the ingredient category.
There's also something to be said about vitamin E's fat-soluble nature: The theory is that the nutrient builds up in the lipid matrix in the outer layer of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum. It's also likely that the vitamin accumulates in the sebaceous glands when it's applied to the skin—but the exact mechanism behind vitamin E's moisturizing reputation is still unknown. Anecdotally, though, we can't ignore how many people find success using vitamin E oil as their moisturizer.
And let's not forget: The skin on your lips is especially delicate and is pretty susceptible to drying out. See, your lips do not contain oil glands, which means they do not have natural moisturizing capabilities. That's where oils like vitamin E come in handy, as they coat the area and supply the fragile skin with the moisture it needs.
Has antioxidant properties.
"As an antioxidant, vitamin E fights against oxidative stress by [stabilizing] free radicals," Amy Gonzalez, R.D., FNTP, CLT, of The Holistic Dietitian, tells mbg about the ingredient. Thanks to these antioxidant properties, vitamin E oil also acts as a stabilizer for many oil- and wax-based formulas, says King. Plus, vitamin E also supports and stabilizes other antioxidants to help them perform better—most notably, it can "recharge" water-soluble vitamin C.
As if that weren't enough: These antioxidant properties can also provide soothing, anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, vitamin E can calm irritated skin "by decreasing production of inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandins2 and interleukins," says dual board-certified dermatologist Brendan Camp, M.D.
"Moisturizing the skin helps it to look plumper and more hydrated," notes King. Because vitamin E oil acts as a humectant and emollient, it helps parched lips instantly rise with moisture (think of how you might run a dry sponge under water and watch it fill up with hydration), and it conditions lips and keeps them plush.
Aids wound healing.
Anecdotally, applying vitamin E topically can speed up wound healing—that's why many swear by popping open a capsule and rubbing it on areas of scarring or hyperpigmentation. For lips, this means it can help heal chapped areas and soothe uncomfortable lip cracks.
Has photoprotective properties.
Yes, your lips can experience sun damage, resulting in flakes and dryness. Thanks to vitamin E's antioxidant properties, the ingredient can provide photoprotection3 and, because of its soothing effects, help calm the skin post-sun. When paired with vitamin C, it makes one stellar duo: "Topically applied combinations of vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to be more effective in preventing photodamage than either vitamin alone4," says King.
Who should use it?
While those with oil- or acne-prone skin might want to stick to non-oil vitamin E products (as the oil is incredibly thick and can be comedogenic for some), applying it on the lips is a safe bet for most. Unlike the rest of your skin, your lips do not have any oil glands, so the thick oil won't "clog" any pores on your pout. In fact, the gel-like consistency is important for conditioning your lips and preventing chapping.
That being said, if you do have acne-prone skin, you might want to keep the oil within the lip border, so you don't clog any pores around the area. It's very uncommon, but topical vitamin E can also cause contact dermatitis for those with sensitive skin, so make sure to patch-test vitamin E oil before applying it directly to your face. Of course, these warnings only apply if you're using pure vitamin E oil on your lips. Lip balms that contain vitamin E likely include it at lower concentrations and add other soothing ingredients to the mix.
Vitamin E oil is a star player for lips: It moisturizes, soothes irritation, protects from sun damage, and even has subtle plumping properties. Truly an ingredient that can do it all.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.