Dietary Supplements for Atopic Dermatitis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2024

Primary treatments for atopic dermatitis (eczema) depend on the severity of the condition. They may involve avoiding triggers, applying creams, and/or taking medicine that calms the immune system. Along with these treatments, researchers have looked into whether certain dietary supplements may help with eczema symptoms.1

Results of this research have been mixed, and many studies are too small to draw clear results from. More large, high-quality studies are needed to determine the effects of supplements on eczema. But some people may find that adding certain supplements to their regular treatment plan helps reduce some symptoms.2-6

What are dietary supplements?

Dietary supplements are products that people use to add certain vitamins, minerals, or other substances to their regular diet. They can help people stay healthy, especially those who do not get enough essential nutrients from their diet. Supplements may come in pill, liquid, powder, or other form.7

Certain supplements also may help people control the symptoms or progression of some health conditions. Overall, research linking any type of supplement with eczema improvement is weak. But supplements that have shown an effect on eczema severity in some studies include:2-6

  • Probiotics
  • Vitamins D, E, and B12
  • Fish oil
  • Zemaphyte
  • Whey and kefir
  • Hempseed oil


Of all supplements, probiotics have the strongest evidence to support a possible effect on eczema. Probiotic supplements contain live organisms that may help increase healthy bacteria in the gut.8

There are lots of different probiotic supplements. Each may contain a different combination of bacteria. That means probiotic supplements could have a wide variety of effects on the body.8

In a review of studies looking at the link between probiotics and eczema, researchers found that certain probiotics seemed to reduce eczema severity. Severity was measured by the SCORAD (SCORing Atopic Dermatitis) index. This is a tool doctors use to assign a score based on intensity of symptoms and affected areas of the body.2

The review found that adults who took certain mixtures of probiotics had lower SCORAD scores within 4 weeks to 4 months. Having a lower score meant their condition had improved overall.2

Other literature reviews have shown that certain bacteria strains in probiotics may improve eczema in pregnant people and/or infants.9

Vitamins D, E, and B12

A review of 10 studies looking at adults and children with eczema found that taking certain vitamins may reduce eczema severity. Some of these studies used the SCORAD index. Others used the similar Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) to measure severity.3

Study participants who took vitamin D (as a D3 supplement) had reduced eczema severity. Those who took vitamin E supplements also had less severe eczema. And those who took a combination of vitamin D and vitamin E showed even more improvement in eczema symptoms.3

Studies involving a topical cream containing vitamin B12 also noted a decrease in symptoms. But these studies had several limitations. More high-quality studies are needed to prove that any vitamin has a positive effect on eczema.3

Fish oil

Fish oil contains a fatty acid called omega-3 that may help calm the immune system and inflammation. In 2 small studies, people who took fish oil showed some improvement in itchiness and overall quality of life.4,5

Other supplements for eczema

Researchers have looked into the effects of several other supplements on eczema as well. For example:6

  • In 2 studies, a Chinese herbal compound called Zemaphyte seemed to reduce redness and skin damage.
  • 1 clinical trial found that whey powder combined with field dodder seemed to improve itching and sleep trouble after 30 days.
  • 1 study found that those who drank kefir had lower SCORAD severity scores after 8 weeks. Kefir is a fermented drink similar to yogurt.
  • 1 study found that people given hempseed oil had slightly less dryness and itching after 20 weeks. Hempseed oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

As with all supplements for eczema, larger studies are needed to back up this data.

Take caution with supplements

Supplements can cause mild to serious side effects, and some may interact with prescription drugs. Side effects can vary depending on the specific supplement you are taking.10

Also, supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way other drugs are. This means that no outside agency confirms the ingredients or suggested dose.10

For example, a fish oil supplement may have more or less fish oil than listed on the label. A supplement may also contain ingredients that are not labeled correctly or at all. This can be dangerous. It can lead to taking too much or taking unwanted ingredients.10

The FDA created good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to help this situation. GMPs are guidelines for companies to follow when making supplements. But the FDA rarely inspects facilities making supplements in the United States. Companies outside the United States do not have these inspections at all. Many more supplements are sold than are tested.11

Your doctor can help you decide if a supplement is safe. Before beginning treatment for eczema, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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