Bad Info Spoils Again

Sometimes it’s just wrong. And it happens a lot. Things being said, or written, about people, things and places that are based on bad information. And it goes around, repeated, and becomes a distorted truth, kind of like the joke that gets passed around from one person to the next until there is nothing left of the starting joke.

I recently received a newsletter from a studying-to-be dermatologist, hmm, well, I guess, I should say a future-derm, since that’s what her newsletter is titled. The writer is pretty traditionally set in the mainstream of science. Not a bad place to be, but, it has its limits. In the last  newsletter she mentions a study performed in 1999 that concludes that vitamin E is not useful, in fact may cause more harm, to the healing of wounds and scars. And so, her recommendation is to avoid Vitamin E for scars and wounds.

So what’s wrong with that? My conclusion would be very different and here’s why. When you read the study you’ll find that the vitamin E used was d-∂-tocopheryl from an unknown source, where it could be a synthetic version of the vitamin (though generally synthetics are dl- racemic compounds) of unknown quality and contamination, and the carrier was Aquaphor. Aquaphor contains petrolatum, glycerin, panthenol and bisabolol. There must be some other ingredients that aren’t listed on the Aquaphor website. Petrolatum, the petroleum jelly we are all familiar with, is a petro-chemical that forms an occlusive layer to the skin. It blocks absorption, or supposedly holds in moisture to the skin. The questions in regards to this study; does the petrolatum block the function of the vitamin E; what are the qualities, potential contamination, of the other ingredients; and how do they interact with the vitamin E?

My conclusion to this study would require more accurate information regarding the source of the vitamin E compound (d-∂-tocopheryl). I would also conclude that the vitamin E, when used in a base containing petrolatum, glycerin (synthetic? it’s unknown) and other ingredients in a formula called Aquaphor is not effective and may cause harm when used on wounds and scars. The study does not effectively find that vitamin E in an alternate base is harmful or useless. I have seen great successes on wound healing using a natural sourced d-∂-tocopherol or a tocotrienol mix (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-) in a base using an organic olive oil.

This is bad information getting passed around and around. The conclusion that future-derm comes to, echoing the study conclusion, is not accurate and may contribute to the fear and nonsense that eventually lands on the minds of the consumer. This type of information is too often used by consumer advocate groups who leave out important specifics, such as the unknown source, synthetic or natural, of the vitamin E or the carrier used, making it difficult for the consumer to make intelligent decisions.

Bad studies and conclusions go both ways. This is true of my beloved botanicals. There are positive studies that are weak and should not be used in support without other studies, including the historic use and empirical studies, to support it. There are also some out right ridiculous studies used to degrade the benefits of botanicals. This nonsense also includes the fear surrounding synthetics and lab created cosmetic chemicals. Many have poor studies with inconclusive hazards placed on them. I don’t care if cosmetic chemicals get the bad rub because I don’t use lab chemicals and suggest only the use of botanicals in skin care. But, you knew that about me – didn’t you?

PSSST: don’t tell anyone, but that last statement was “bad information” and not a whole truth. I have to use some chemically altered botanicals to get a good emulsion and stability of a cosmetic formula.



  1. Toby Swanger says:

    I love the way you think! Thank you for the clarity you bring to forefront of things that would lay in the dust, undiscovered by others who would’ve just taken her word for it. Makes me know I’m under the right tutelage at Bastyr!!
    Looking forward to Feb. class!