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An eczema treatment plan may have many facets, from medication to stress reduction. Some research indicates that vitamin E may also help relieve symptoms.

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory condition that causes dry, itchy skin. Although many cases improve or resolve with time, eczema can sometimes persist for years, beginning in childhood and lasting into adulthood.

There is no cure for eczema, and the symptoms can sometimes be difficult to control with moisturizers and topical therapies. For this reason, many people turn to alternative treatment options to help control their symptoms.

Some people might try using vitamin E, but the body of research supporting its safety and effectiveness as an eczema treatment is still limited.

Read on to learn more about the rationale behind using vitamin E to help control eczema symptoms, as well as important considerations for its use in children and adults.

Experts believe that eczema results from a combination of skin barrier dysfunction and underlying inflammation.

Defects in the connections between skin cells allow microbes, chemicals, and other irritants to get deep into the skin. A heightened immune system overreacts to these invaders and releases signals that cause more inflammation in a misguided attempt to protect the body.

This inflammation causes the characteristic discoloration, swelling, and irritation associated with eczema.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that possesses a variety of anti-inflammatory processes.

Antioxidants are substances that help clear reactive oxygen molecules that the body releases as part of the inflammatory response. Although these molecules are usually protective against microbial invaders, they can cause tissue damage if they go unchecked.

Vitamin E works by limiting the formation of reactive oxygen molecules, thereby decreasing inflammation and injury to the skin.

Several studies that researchers have carried out since the early 1990s have examined the use of vitamin E in eczema treatment, and most have seen positive results.

In an older study involving 96 people with eczema, those who took 268 milligrams (mg) of oral natural vitamin E had lower levels of certain markers of inflammation after 8 months, and many saw improvements in the condition of their skin.

In a more recent clinical trial with 70 participants, people with eczema who took 400 international units of oral vitamin E for 3 months experienced significant improvements in their eczema symptoms, including itchiness, compared with people who received a placebo treatment.

There has also been interest in using topical forms of vitamin E to treat eczema.

In a small 2016 study involving 44 people with eczema, those who used a topical skin cream that included vitamin E and other antioxidants had a faster improvement in eczema symptoms than those who used a placebo cream.

It is important to note that the majority of the studies investigating vitamin E supplementation — either oral or topical — in people with eczema have involved mostly adults. The efficacy and safety of vitamin E as a treatment for eczema in children are not yet clear.

According to the average daily recommended amounts, most adults and children 14 years of age or older should aim for 15 mg of vitamin E per day. Most people can reach these levels through dietary sources.

Some of the best sources of vitamin E in foods include:

  • seeds, particularly sunflower seeds
  • nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts
  • soybean, canola, corn, and vegetable oils
  • leafy greens
  • fortified cereals

However, people with eczema should be cautious when adjusting their diet, as certain foods may trigger eczema symptoms.

Vitamin E may provide a variety of health benefits, but there are certain risks to consider.

Animal models and human studies have shown that high dosages of vitamin E can cause bleeding and disrupt blood clotting. These effects may increase a person’s likelihood of developing certain bleeding disorders.

For example, in a 10-year study involving nearly 15,000 adult males, vitamin E supplementation — with 180 mg of synthetic vitamin E every other day — increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke by 74%.

Based on available safety data, the Office of Dietary Supplements recommends an upper limit of 1,000 mg of vitamin E per day for most adults to avoid adverse health risks.

Upper limits are lower for children, ranging from 200 mg daily for children aged 1–3 years to 800 mg for those aged 14–18 years.

High doses of vitamin E, such as those in supplements, may also interfere with certain medications, including:

  • anticoagulants and antiplatelet medications
  • certain medications for treating high cholesterol
  • chemotherapeutics and radiation therapy

Before taking vitamin E supplements, people using these medications should talk with a healthcare professional to determine a safe dosage of vitamin E that will not affect how well their other treatments work.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that provides a variety of anti-inflammatory benefits. Clinical studies suggest that oral or topical supplementation may help reduce inflammation in people with eczema and provide relief from some of the most bothersome symptoms.

Seeds, nuts, and leafy greens are excellent sources of dietary vitamin E. Before beginning oral supplements, people with eczema should talk with a healthcare professional about the potential risks and benefits. They should also seek the professional’s advice on what constitutes a safe and effective dosage.