Vitiligo is a skin disease that manifests as loss of the cells that impart color to the skin (aka melanocytes) in certain areas of the skin, causing it to be discolored. These discolored skin patches may be found anywhere on the body. The disease affects men and women equally and can occur at any stage of life.
Decades of research has attempted to unearth the factors that can help can help prevent and treat this rather unsightly skin disease. The researchers have found that vitamin C is of prime importance in the management of this skin disorder. The effects of vitamin C in the management and prevention of vitiligo are manifold. It helps recover the skin color by exerting its anti-oxidant potential as well as by avoiding the stimulation of immune system.
Anti-Oxidant Potential of Vitamin C
The destruction of the melanocytes has been attributed to the oxidative stress exerted on these cells by certain factors like free radicals, eventually causing them irreversible oxidative damage. These free radicals are generated as a result of environmental stress; such as excessive UV radiation and pollution. The levels of antioxidants (substances that help prevent the oxidative damage) in people suffering from vitiligo have been found to be abnormally low1. Ultimately, the cells are unable to cope and start deteriorating. Vitiligo ensues.
Vitamin C possesses potent anti-oxidant properties and blocks the harmful effects of oxidants on melanocytes, so that the oxidative damage can be stopped in its tracks before reaching the irreversible stage. The cells start stabilizing themselves and can even recover their main function: imparting color to the skin. No wonder, repigmentation of the skin has been observed in many clinical trials carried out to gauge the efficacy of vitamin C in the treatment of vitiligo2. Often, vitamin C is used in combination with vitamin E; as both possess anti-oxidant properties.
Immune-placating Effect of Vitamin C
Another mechanism by which melanocytes are damaged is through auto-immune destruction. The immune system marks the melanocytes as a possible threat and start destroying them3. The genetic composition of a person plays a large role in this regard.
Vitamin C acts as an immunomodulator and helps prevent the formation of inflammatory mediators which ultimately trigger the immune system, thereby protecting the pigment producing cells.
Lesser known of its functions is the role of vitamin C in the synthesis of melanin, the skin-coloring pigment. It is required for the metabolism of tyrosine, phenylalanine, and dihydroxyphenylalanine, which are crucial for the synthesis of melanin4.
Vitamin C for Vitiligo
Since the levels of vitamin C are depleted in people with vitiligo, dietary supplementation with vitamin C has been shown to play a vital role in its treatment. Of course, as with any supplement or medication, you should always consult your doctor first. Dietary sources rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, Brussels, broccoli, kale, red peppers etc. Regular intake of vitamin C can, therefore, help keep your skin safe, sound and vitiligo-free.
Written by Michael Dawson – nutritionist, health consultant, and author of Natural Vitiligo Treatment System: The Home Vitiligo Cure that Doctors Don’t Want You to Discover.
- Koca R, Armutcu F, Altinyazar HC, Gürel A. Oxidant‐antioxidant enzymes and lipid peroxidation in generalized vitiligo. Clinical and experimental dermatology. 2004 Jul 1;29(4):406-9.
- Jalel A, Soumaya GS, Hamdaoui MH. Vitiligo treatment with vitamins, minerals and polyphenol supplementation. Indian journal of dermatology. 2009 Oct;54(4):357.
- Sehgal VN, Srivastava G. Vitiligo: Auto‐immunity and immune responses. International journal of dermatology. 2006 May 1;45(5):583-90.
- Lerner AB. Metabolism of phenylalanine and tyrosine. Advances in Enzymology. 2009 Sep 10;14:73-128.