Vitamin E oil as a preservative?

One of the things that makes me crazy is when information provided or advertised to the general consumer is simply not true.  This usually is not intentional, but because the business or person providing the information is uneducated.

Now, I love vitamin E oil!  It is has an incredible array of beneficial qualities.  Internally, Vitamin E supports cardiovascular health and healthy blood vessels, promotes circulatory and metabolic function, helps to maintain a healthy immune system, and supports prostate health, among the many benefits.  The research on this amazing oil is extensive.  Vitamin E is found in leafy greens, wheat germ oil, and almonds among a few.

Topically, Vitamin E oil is used to improve the outcome of scars, after surgery to promote wound healing, stretch marks, wrinkles, and is generally good for the skin.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of reactive oxygen species formed when fat (or oil) undergoes oxidation (wikipedia).  Since Vitamin E oil is an antioxidant that promotes cell growth and is also a natural anti-inflammatory, some people claim that topical Vitamin E oil also improves the appearance of skin.

So with all of these amazing qualities of Vitamin E oil, some people believe that since Vitamin E is an antioxidant, it would act as a natural preservative.  This is simply not true.  With the use of Vitamin E oil as a sole preservative in formulations, products will absolutely grow all of those nasties that are much worse than the use of a simple, safe, paraben-free preservative that is used correctly.  Now I know you are saying, I want all-natural products with no nasty chemicals.  Thus, Vitamin E oil as a preservative would be a great alternative.  Unfortunately, Vitamin E oil is actually NOT a preservative.

Now, Vitamin E oil IS an antioxidant.  This means that when it is added to oils, it will HELP to prolong the shelf life of an oil otherwise exposed to oxygen and thus, oxidation.  This is very true with oils.  As soon as any sort of water base is added to a compound, that compound will develop mold, bacteria, and other nasty organisms in very short order unless a preservative is used.  This will happen eventually even if that compound is refrigerated.

In summary, Vitamin E oil IS an antioxidant and WILL help to prolonge the shelf life of oil-based products because of its anti-oxidation properties.  However, Vitamin E oil is NOT a preservative, and should never be used solely as a preservative in a water-based product.

So, with all of that said, I hope I am able to clear up some false information and educate you, as a consumer, on facts, leaving you to make an educated decision on the products you use and purchase.


  • Optiphen is a paraben free preservative

    Tootie on
  • Can you please advise what you would recommend using instead of vitamin e as a preservative.
    I am looking for something to add to lip balms and eye shadows. Thank you so much.

    jj briggs on
  • Beautifully helpful. Thank you SO much for the information.

    Carrie on
  • This was great and very helpful! I’ve seen vitamin E oil suggested as a preservative so many times and I’ve usually taken it at face value, but the way you’ve explained it here totally makes sense! Thanks!

    Sarah UmmYousef on
  • Thanks for the info, it was very helpful. I almost bought a bottle (which I still will do) to use to preserve EVERYTHING! My water-based products: no bueno. What is best used as a natural preservative? I’ve read that tea tree oil has preserving properties.

    KJ on

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