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Quick, let’s play a little word association game: “Vitamin E”, go. For me, it’ll be golden capsules, mushy avocado masks … and angry acne all over my cheeks.

True horror story: In a foolish display of derring-do, I decided to run with what I thought was a tried-and-tested beauty hack – breaking vitamin E capsules into regular moisturiser. The result? Spots sprouting literally overnight, which took more than plain luck and quite a few days to clear.

Here’s the thing. Ingestible vitamin E – as opposed to “topical” application, of which more later – has a hallowed history of being an awesome antioxidant: Tons of research have demonstrated its potency when it comes to counteracting certain cancers and improving immunity.

So far, so fabulous. It’s when you introduce vitamin E into your facial lotions that things get a little iffy. For one, all vitamin E supplements come suspended in oil; the “active” tocopherol component of the vitamin is fat-soluble, meaning it dissolves only in a greasy base.

Said oils are heavy-duty stuff; indeed, vitamin E rates surprisingly high on the comedogenic scale. Translation: Vitamin E can clog pores, and we’re all obsessed with keeping our pores clear, right?

Most damningly, researchers writing in the Dermatologic Surgery journal have concluded that “the application of topical vitamin E (such as what you may squeeze from a vitamin E pill) may actually be detrimental to the cosmetic appearance of a scar. In ninety percent of the cases in this study, topical vitamin E either had no effect on, or actually worsened the cosmetic appearance of scars.” Wow, talk about pouring oil on troubled waters.

Here’s another reason why introducing vitamin E into your face “diet” may have dire consequences: You’re applying it the “wrong” way. Take it from an expert: “Vitamin E is a great ingredient but it might throw off the balance of the skin if it isn’t used correctly – and one of the ways your skin reacts to imbalance is to produce more sebum,” warns Nicolas Travis, Singapore skincare entrepreneur and founder of upcoming grooming label Allies of Skin. “Traditional forms of vitamin E may also be too greasy for those with acne-prone complexions.”


If old-school capsules are off the mark, what can one do to get the most out of what is, after all, an established and excellent antioxidant? The solution is simple: Pair your superhero ingredient with an equally accomplished sidekick, vitamin C.

Here’s why. “Combining vitamin E with vitamin C can act as a natural form of sun protection,” notes Dr Stafford R. Broumand, an NYC-based cosmetic surgeon. “Vitamin E oil works to block free radicals from the body, which play a large part in the aging process. If we can fight off free radicals [with the addition of vitamin C], then we can reduce wrinkles and keep the skin youthful-looking.”

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How to combine vitamin E and C without resorting to the risky DIY route? Easy enough: Try SkinCeuticals’ cult CE Ferulic essence, an exquisite anti-aging agent rigged with a carefully curated botanical blend of vitamins E, C and ferulic acid, the latter promising to “double the photoprotective power up to 8 times the skin’s natural protection”.

Oh, one last bold claim: SkinCeuticals says this souped-up serum “remains effective for a minimum of 72 hours, making it an excellent addition to sunscreen.” Neat, yes?

So, to recap: Proceed with caution if you’re considering vitamin E oil, particularly if you’re pimple-prone. Or make sure to select a multivitamin formulation for maximum beautifying benefits.

And really, if all else fails and you’re still getting spots, do as I do and “redistribute” the wealth: Massage the leftover cream into chapped cuticles and lips. Zero chance of your nails or smackers breaking out!

You may contact Nicolas Travis at

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, $248, is available at the National Skin Centre and selected pharmacies. For more information, visit and follow Skinceuticals on Facebook.