Lee El began acting in 2009 with appearances in the thriller film Secret and in the MBC weekend drama Good Job. In 2011, she landed a supporting role in the well-received KBS2 sageuk The Princess’s Man. In 2015, she became part of the movie Inside Men, which was named Best Film at the 37th Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 53rd Grand Bell Awards. She also earned a nomination for the Grand Bell Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the movie. In 2016, she was nominated for a Golden Acting Award at the MBC Drama Awards for Monster. That same year, she was cast in the top-rating tvN fantasy series The Lonely Shining Goblin. In 2017, she appeared in another hit fantasy drama from tvN called Hwayugi. In 2018, she bagged her first main role in the film What a Man Wants. This was followed by another main role in the KBS2 series Matrimonial Chaos, in which she was nominated for an Excellence Award at the KBS Drama Awards.

Lee El attended Sungkyunkwan University.