Nutrients involved in the pigmentation process

Scientists have been working on the connection between diet and vitiligo.  Although no one nutrient has been identified as a ‘cure’, it is evident that the following nutrients are involved in pigmentation and maintaining healthy skin:

Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid work closely together and it seems we need a balance of these nutrients.

Folic acid occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables, also yeast extract, offal and wholegrain cereals.  In the UK, it is added to many foods, such as breakfast cereals and bread.

Evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin B12 could be a factor in vitiligo for a few people because there seems to be some association between vitiligo and pernicious anaemia, a condition in which people are deficient in vitamin B12.   Vitamin B12 is found in most animal products, milk and egg yolks.  

Vitamin C is needed for the enzymes which are involved in skin pigmentation.  It is found in vegetables and fruit, especially citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit and lemons).

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant; this means that it helps to maintain the body’s immune system.  Other antioxidants include vitamins A and E, beta carotene, minerals such as selenium, copper and zinc.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for bone health and it can also help to maintain a healthy immune system.  About 90% of our requirement of vitamin D is made by the body from the effect of sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D can also be supplied by foods such as oily fish (e.g. mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines).   

Beta carotene

Beta carotene is an antioxidant which is found in all dark green, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits, including carrots.


Copper, iron and zinc all have a role in the pigmentation process.  

  • Copper is particularly found in nuts, offal, wheat, bran and shellfish.
  • Iron is found naturally in red meat (especially liver), oily fish, pulse vegetables, dark green vegetables, tomatoes and dried fruit (especially apricots). 
  • Zinc is found in seafood, meat and poultry, dairy products, nuts, peas, beans and pulse vegetables.

Vitamin and mineral supplements should not be necessary if you have a healthy, balanced diet.  Supplements may be a good idea if you have a restricted diet, or if it is found that you have a specific deficiency.  Keep to the recommended dose though…

Some vitamins, notably Vitamins A and D, are stored in the body.  If you take too much of them, they can be toxic and make you feel ill.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body and needs to be eaten daily, so there is no point having large doses of it.

Healthy skin needs to be well hydrated, so drinking plenty of water is part of a healthy diet.