What is eczema?
Eczema is an itchy, irritating condition that can be difficult to treat. While it’s not life-threatening, it can drastically alter a person’s daily activities, sleep, and even mood. Learn more about vitamins for eczema and determine your next steps for treating your skin.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is common in people who have allergies, have a family history of eczema, and live in dry areas. About 90% of people with eczema are children under the age of 5, though teens and adults can develop eczema at a later age as well. There are several different types of eczema, but the symptoms usually include a combination of the following:
- Dry, itchy, irritated patches of skin ranging from small to large
- Oozing or “weeping” areas around blisters as well as bleeding and cracking
- Leathery, hardened skin (usually only in severe cases)
While experts can’t predict whether someone will develop eczema, they do know a lot about treating it and making sure it doesn’t get worse. Most doctors can diagnose eczema by examining you and asking you questions about your life. You might need a skin biopsy to rule out other conditions.
Which vitamins and supplements can help treat eczema?
Eczema treatment is difficult to standardize because researchers have not found one underlying cause for this condition. Steroid creams and tablets are often used as first-line eczema remedies.
It’s not safe to take steroids indefinitely or use them on your skin for long periods of time. They can thin the skin, cause uncomfortable withdrawal effects, and might even alter the appearance of your skin over time. This leads to many people trying nonprescription vitamins and supplements for eczema in hopes of finding relief.
Some over-the-counter supplements, oils, and serums for this condition are touted as miraculous, but unfortunately, they don’t deliver on this claim. Here are four options that have shown promise in recent research.
High-quality fish oil is often touted as a magic pill that improves the health of the skin, hair, and heart. There is little research regarding its use for eczema, but the results of the studies that do exist are promising. Fish oil supplements that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids might help reduce eczema symptoms.
When people talk about probiotics, they might mean the live bacterial cultures found in yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut. They also might be referring to probiotic supplements. Using more than one strain of probiotics at a time, and using probiotics and prebiotics (plant fiber that “feeds” probiotic bacteria) together, has been shown in studies to help with eczema symptoms.
An interesting clinical trial in 2020 showed that applying a specific strain of probiotic (Roseomonas mucosa) to a patient’s skin may help treat eczema. This helpful bacterium is present on the surface of human skin, and it might help a person with eczema restore their microbiome.
Many vitamins don’t make a difference for eczema when taken alone — if you have a vitamin deficiency that affects your skin, your situation might be different. Vitamin B12 cream, when applied topically to eczema spots, might help some people.
Though researchers have not fully explored the role of vitamin B12 in the treatment of eczema, some studies suggest that checking B12 blood levels may benefit some people with this condition.
Many doctors recommend that their patients take vitamin D to decrease inflammation and improve their immune system overall. While there’s debate over whether vitamin D supplementation can put eczema into remission, several studies suggest that it can help certain groups of people — especially if their vitamin D levels are too low to begin with.
Vitamin D might also help eczema patients who live in places that don’t get a lot of sunlight during certain times of the year. However, there needs to be more research on this subject before doctors begin prescribing vitamin D as a treatment for eczema.
When is it important to visit the doctor about eczema?
If you’ve never had an eczema flare-up before, you should go to the doctor to be properly diagnosed. There are many other conditions like psoriasis that look like eczema and have similar symptoms.
It’s also important to make an appointment with your doctor if your eczema gets worse and nothing seems to help tame your symptoms. Don’t rely solely on vitamins and nutrition to treat an eczema flare. It’s unlikely that they will fix an immediate problem.
What else can I do at home to treat my eczema?
Eczema treatment begins with your lifestyle and daily routine. Make sure to eat a healthy diet that contains many plant-based foods — and cut out any foods that you are allergic to. Consider implementing the following changes if you have not done so already:
- Take lukewarm baths or showers to decrease irritation to your skin. Use eczema cream or lotion immediately after you dry off.
- Don’t scratch your skin or use abrasive loofahs or washcloths to cleanse your body.
- Consider allergy testing. Many children and adults with environmental allergens (like pets, pollen, and mold) and food allergies notice that exposure to these irritants causes eczema flare-ups. If you don’t know what you’re allergic to — or if you have allergies — talk to your doctor about getting a referral to a local allergist who can help you find answers.
- Inspect your body wash or soap for common irritants. Usually, soap has a more alkaline pH level (around 9 to 10) than your skin (around 4 to 5). This can make your eczema flare up. Ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, a common additive that increases soap’s foaming power, can make eczema worse. Consider fragrance-free, soap-free cleansers specifically formulated for eczema.
For many people, eczema is an annoying but mild condition that has little effect on their overall life. For others, eczema is a never-ending battle. If you’re healthy overall, try the supplements listed here to see if they help, and speak to your doctor for more personalized treatments if it gets worse. If you have any medical conditions or take medication, be sure to ask whether vitamins for eczema are appropriate for you.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Skin Care Tips for Individuals with Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)."
American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Can Oils, Probiotics, or Vitamins Heal Eczema?"
Dermatology Practical & Conceptual: "Diet and eczema: a review of dietary supplements for the treatment of atopic dermatitis."
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: "Eczema."
Journal of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12 and Atopic Dermatitis: Any Therapeutic Relevance For Oral Supplementation?"
National Eczema Association: "Education Announcement: Use of Topical Steroids for Eczema," "Get the Facts: Vitamin D."
National Institutes of Health: "Probiotic skin therapy improves eczema in children, NIH study suggests."
Summa Health: "Is it Psoriasis, Eczema, or Something Else?"
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