Vitamin D

I’ve been looking into Vitamin D lately and what I’m finding is jolting.  It turns out most of us are deficient, and achieving adequate levels is critical to our health…and perhaps to acne.

What vitamin D does in our bodies:  Vitamin D helps keep cells healthy.  Pretty much all of our cells use Vitamin D, including our skin cells, and they don’t work optimally when they don’t have enough.  When our cells don’t have enough Vitamin D, they tend to mature incorrectly.  This may result in cancers, diabetes, stunted growth, muscle weakness, arthritis, bowel disease, and skin conditions like psoriasis and perhaps acne.

We don’t get enough:  Evolution has created the human body to be a well tuned Vitamin D factory which makes just the right amount of Vitamin D for ideal health.  Over billions of years, all the way back to some of the very earliest cellular lifeforms on earth, living things were designed to soak up the sun and produce vitamin D. Throughout human evolution, our species evolved many different skin tones depending on where we lived around the world in order for our skin to soak up just the right amount of sunlight to produce optimal Vitamin D levels. It’s that important.

Some varieties of fish and some fortified foods contain Vitamin D, but the sun is by far the leading way that our bodies get Vitamin D. However, in modern society, most of us no longer get the sun exposure Mother Nature intended, and thus do not produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D.  The darker the skin tone, the more serious the deficiency tends to be, but even people with the light skin are often deficient.  A 2006 Mayo Clinic review reported that 57% of general medicine inpatients in the U.S. were deficient.  Levels were even higher in Europe.  Chances are you may be deficient as well.  My doctor ordered a full blood work done recently, and the one thing he expressed concern about was my slight Vitamin D deficiency.  I take a Vitamin D pill almost every day, but even with this I remain slightly deficient.

What about acne? I’ll be looking more deeply into a possible Vitamin D and acne connection.  Since Vitamin D helps keep cells from overproducing, it makes sense that proper amounts of Vitamin D could help prevent pores from overproducing cells, which is what ends up producing a clogged pore and an ensuing zit.  Supplementation with Vitamin D or topical application of Vitamin D are both potentially an option.  Already, the front line in psoriasis treatment is the application of topical Vitamin D. Could it help with acne too? I think it would be interesting to find out.

How to get enough:  In almost every study I’m reading on Vitamin D deficiency, scientists recommend 5-10 minutes of exposure to the sun during 10am and 3pm, without wearing any SPF.  Since most of us either work or go to school during those times, this can be difficult.  In that case, they normally recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.  The minimum recommended amount seems to be 1000IU per day.  However, this is what I take each day and I’m still slightly deficient.  I’m considering bumping it up.  Vitamin D can be toxic in super high amounts, but even at levels over 7000IU per day, researchers saw no adverse effects after two months of supplementation.  From what I’m gathering from my reading, Vitamin D3 in particular is a safe choice, and is widely available on store shelves.

I’ve been telling all my friends and family to consider hanging out in the sun a little more, or alternately supplementing with Vitamin D.  I really think it’s important.  For people with acne in particular, I think daily supplementation of fish oil, zinc, a good multivitamin, and at least 1000IU of Vitamin D makes a lot of sense.


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  • Rudy

    I take atleast 4000 IU’s a day.

  • Pearls

    That’s funny because I was just reading all of the reviews on Vitamin D (and vitamin c and fish oil) and it sounds awesome! What a coincidence! Anyhow, thanks for this info Dan; it’s thrown out any remaining doubts I might have had about buying Vitamin D supplements. I was wondering about fish oil though… A lot of people reviewed saying they break out from it, even though you take it and I know it is really healthy for your overall health.

  • Rudy

    Ive started talking a Vitamin D supplement after reading some study’s recently, but I never once heard someone saying to go out in the sun without sunscreen, sunlight is a carcinogen.

  • Elita @ Blacktating

    Yes, we have only hit the tip of the iceberg in understanding the importance of Vitamin D. Lack of Vitamin D is being linked to everything from autism to breast cancer, pre-term birth, the increased C-section rate, depression, and more. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it also affected acne. People of color in particular are susceptible to having low Vitamin D levels, even if they live in the South. I live in Miami and spend time outdoors daily and my level was abysmal (20). I now 5,000 IU of D3 that I get at Whole Foods.

  • S117

    I agree with the supplements Dan said at the end, and that’s what I do too. Cod Liver Oil is even better than fish oil, but more expensive.

  • S

    I had been taking 1000IU per day for a year and then got my levels tested as part of the Vitamin D Council’s survey of Vitamin D levels across the population. My D3 levels came out lowish at 35 ng/ml when the recommended level for best overall health is 40 – 60 ng/ml. I’ve been taking 5000IU per day for the last year or so but haven’t got my levels tested again.

    Vitamin D is too cheap to disregard: you can get a year’s worth of 5000IU capsules for $15 online. If you’re going to buy a Vitamin D supplement make sure it is in the D3 (NOT D2) form with cholecalciferol listed on the label.

    I live in the UK so get very little proper sun exposure and even when it’s sunny we’re not at the right latitude for the UVB to be powerful enough to induce adequate Vitamin D synthesis. I make sure my parents and brother take 5000IU per day also. Add B Vitamins, Magnesium and Fish Oil and that’s pretty much all I take supplement wise.

    Here’s an interesting map for those of you in the US to show which states receive enough sunlight for the rest of the year outside summer. *link edited out*

    The Vitamin D Council’s website is at *link edited out* . It’s good for reading research about Vitamin D. They have a chart which shows that keeping your blood levels between 40 – 60 ng/ml reduces your risk of many diseases including cancer (colon, breast, ovarian), diabetes and heart disease etc.

    It’s prudent for people to get their levels tested before they start taking large doses, but make sure you read up about which testing method the laboratory uses and which is recommended by the Vitamin D Council or other reputable sources.

    Sorry to have rambled on a bit, but Vitamin D is definitely too important to ignore. Thank you for making a post about this Dan.

  • yoyo

    I wouldn’t worry about people who say fish oil broke them out. How could they possibly know that the fish oil is the exact cause of the acne? I mean they took it because they have acne. So their skin is already acne prone. Odds are that their skin was going to break out whether they took the fish oil or not. So i’d say take the fish oil or cod liver oil. I take cod liver oil because it has additional vitamins that fish oil doesn’t like vitamin A and yes, vitamin D!

  • S

    Uh, I don’t know why the links in my post were edited out. They’re legitimate, safe websites and would actually be of great use to people looking to find out more about Vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council has a link to a Vitamin D blood test on it’s site but I wouldn’t class that as me advertising a product.

    For people who want to find the links I posted, just google ‘vitamin d latitude’ and it’s the 2nd and 4th websites listed (at this moment in time).

  • S


    It’s best not to take too much Vitamin A through cod liver oil since it blocks Vitamin D’s effect on gene expression at levels above 3,000 IU of retinol per day. Some cod liver oil’s have the Vitamin A taken out so they would be the better choice.

  • Henry Lahore

    There are only 8 items on vitamin D and acne at the There are 2500+ other items on vitamin D there however

  • Christiana

    Regarding Vitamin and Acne…

    I’m currently 28 years of age and have suffered from severe acne since I was 12. Tried Acutane, antibiotics, Proactive… you name it. Long story short, I went to the doctor a few months back and the doctor suggested I take Vitamin D supplements as she thought I was deficient. Upon results of my blood test, turns out my Vitamin D levels were perfectly normal; however, the extra boost of Vitamin D cleared my skin completely. No more cystic acne, huge blemishes, absolutely nothing! Just a few minor whiteheads around my cycle. It’s been 3 complete months and my skin has never been better. Who would have thought?

    • Natalie

      Hi Christiana,

      My vitamin D levels are also normal but have been looking into this as help with acne. So I’m just wondering how much vitamin D you starting taking to notice a difference?


    • Precious

      I know this is an old post, but how much were you taking each day? I have started taking Vitamin D and want to make sure I am taking the right amount!


  • Evan E

    My advice to everyone is to get tested. Either through a doctor or at home (blood droplets home test…order through the Vitamin D Council to save 10 bucks). I have been on 4000IU D3 from September to March after tanning outside all summer and finally decided to check fearing I might be too high. I came back at 35 ng/mL. I am not even in optimal range (50-100). I am a white male, 6’1″ and weigh 162 pounds (slim build, not much fat on me) and apparently I need more than 4000IU per day (I am going to double up to 8000IU and do the test again before I start tanning). I have read everyone has their own needs and they can vary considerably, and it just got proven to me (my wife takes 2000IU per day and was at 60 ng/mL, she is also white, 5’5″ and weighs 120 pounds). Don’t assume. Get a blood test done and find out your individual needs.

  • AJ

    Has anyone tried liquid D on acne? I have adult acne, which means I also have dry skin so the teenage treatments are too dehydrating for me. Recently I read about liquid D to treat eczema so put it on my son’s skin and cleared it up overnight. Like a miracle. So I stated thinking about D for acne. Would appreciate anyone’s experience on this.

  • SL

    I have suffered from acne for my almost 16 years, from age 12 to age 28. I have no doubt my acne is hormonal. I have tried everything- going to the dermatologist repeatedly, antibiotics, birth control pills, vitamins, apple cider vinegar, proactiv, and every topical solution under the sun. I recently decided to read the Clear Skin Diet as well as try Vitamin D. My sister also tried Vitamin D (as she suffers from hormonal acne). I began talking it for 2 weeks, and for the last week woke up with 2-4 new, small zits on my chin. This has never happened to be before. Usually, I can have a week or two of good skin, and break out only a couple times a month. But after taking 800 IUs of vitamin D and foregoing sunscreen for 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day, I was breaking out like never before. My sister noticed the same thing: increased breakouts. Now, the Vitamin D may work for some, but it seemed to have the complete opposite affect on me. I would be curious to see if others have had similar experiences. I assume this is why Vitamin D has not become a worldwide sensation. Also, I have to be deficient in Vitamin D. I NEVER am out in the sun, and always wear sunscreen. I think pale people like me aren’t suppose to have a lot. Anyway, I stopped taking it yesterday, and woke up today with no new zits!

    • K

      Me too. I’m a fellow d break-outer and am crazy deficient. Not good. And it’s definitely the d supplement, sadly. Looking for methods for significant d (sun won’t cut it) sans beeakout

  • To SL

    Maybe you should get tested. You randomly picked an amount of vitamin D to take each day.. your acne got worse (also still possibly unrelated) and you blame it on the vitamin D when you have no idea if you were taking the correct amount?

    You were taking 800IU, some people need 8000IU. You aren’t going to see any improvements if you take 1/10th of what you need.

  • Bruno

    When I was extremely vitamin-d-deficient (9ng/ml of blood) I had the worst skin in my life. Watch out with retinol though! I’m not 100% sure yet but I think it may be the cause of my allergic rashes. I now take 10k IU of vitamin D and spray a lot of it on my body too (1 spray = 1000 IU, I do something like 4 sprays).

    Maybe that looks like a lot to you, but I came from 9ng/ml, there is no sun here (it’s winter) and studies have shown vitamin D only starts to get toxic at 20k IU/kg of body weight. So you’d definitely have to supplement more than 100k IU daily to become d-toxic 🙂

    I see a lot of people say beef liver is great food for acne, and while I agree to some extent, it doesn’t seem to benefit me.