Can vitamin C work magic on eczema?

Since my last email, I’ve had many positive responses from you all. Actually, quite a few of you popped into the pharmacy and told me how useful you found my weekly dose of wisdom. Some of you also sent me emails of encouragement. In the past few weeks, you all made me feel so loved and gave me a reason for me to carry on sharing my knowledge with all of you. It truly is worth it.


As much as I would like to keep this inner circle only to a selected few like yourself (I consider you all my inner circle of friends) – if you know anyone that could benefit from my emails, by all means, let me know so I could add them to this group.


Anyway, I had a long weekend with my wife celebrating her birthday across the ditch in Sydney. We got back from Sydney on Monday. While I was away, one of my regular customers emailed me after reading my last email regarding vitamin C and wondered if a high dose of it could help with her eczema skin problem that she has been suffering from for years. Particularly, she mentioned how heavy use of steroid creams have left her skin more prone to bruising and bleeding.


Now, before finding out whether vitamin C could help with eczema condition. It is important to understand what eczema is.


There are several different types of eczema. One of the most common types of eczema is called “Atopic dermatitis”. “Atopic” refers to the body’s increased sensitivity to allergens or irritants. “Dermatitis” refers to the inflamed skin.


Eczema happens when our top layer of skin is essentially sleeping on the job. Normally that layer should keep your skin hydrated by locking in moisture and warding off bacteria, irritants, allergens and other substances that can cause aggravation.


If you have eczema, your top layer of skin is not upholding this duty. As a result, you may experience inflammation of the skin because the disrupted skin layer exposes your immune system to irritants. Your immune response can overreact, causing inflammation underneath your skin, which may lead to frequent flare-ups. So those rashes on the surface, together with the symptoms of itchiness, redness, dry and scaly skin are just the signs of a deeper inflammatory disease.


One of the facts about eczema that I found most people are not aware of, is that topical steroids are only effective in reducing the severity of skin inflammation during an exacerbation. It does not prevent eczema from occurring. The long-term management of eczema that I always suggest is moisturisation. Moisturising your skin will do two things:


1) Help form a protective barrier above your skin to ward off irritants and allergens


2) It will hydrate your skin by locking in moisture.


Hence, it is crucial to find a moisturiser that can moisturise your skin and help you restore the disrupted skin layer.


I will go deeper in the next few emails about the best approach in managing eczema (so stay tuned!)


Now, going back to your question: “Would taking a large dose of vitamin C help with eczema?”


It is important to understand how our body transports and stores vitamin C. As I mentioned in my last email, our body does not have the mechanism to store vitamin C. Hence, we need to replenish it daily. Vitamin C in the skin is normally transported from the bloodstream (it can also be delivered through a topical formulation – which I’m a bit skeptical of).


Transport proteins specific for vitamin C are found on cells in all layers of the skin. Oral vitamin C effectively increases vitamin C levels in the skin. However, when vitamin C levels in the blood are saturated, skin vitamin C concentrations no longer increase. In other words, taking high dose vitamin C may not necessarily strengthen the skin barrier compared to a normal dosage. When we have reached a saturated level of vitamin C in our bloodstream, the excess amount will be excreted through the kidneys in the urine rather than being absorbed further.


In terms of whether vitamin C could improve eczema, I have done some research and could not find any journal articles suggesting clinical evidence to support its use. However, vitamin C may have a role in wound healing which could potentially indirectly assist in the healing of inflamed eczema sites. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis and the demand for it usually increases during the wound healing process. Some studies have suggested that vitamin C deficiency may result in poor wound healing, and supplementation with vitamin C in people with a deficiency may be beneficial.


If you were to give vitamin C a try, I would suggest not taking more than 2000mg daily. Any dose beyond that could potentially be excreted from the body without added benefit to our health. Too much vitamin C may also cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and nausea.


Anyway, have a great long weekend everyone!


To your health,