Vitamin D for Acne – The #1 Acne Vitamin

Vitamin D and Acne | Get Some Sun

Get some sun – natural Vitamin D helps acne by reducing inflammation.

If you’re still struggling with acne, it might be because you’re not getting enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” plays a major role in healing and preventing acne, and chances are that you’re not getting enough of it. In fact,  Vitamin D levels have been steadily declining over a number of decades, and 75% of American adults are clinically deficient.*

Are you at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

You might be, if…

  • You work indoors
  • You live in a gray, rainy climate
  • It’s winter
  • You don’t get sunshine on your bare skin at least 3 times per week
  • You have darker skin (anything other than “fair”)

How does Vitamin D help acne?

Vitamin D:

  • Reduces wrinkles and makes your skin soft, strong, and smooth (the “glow”)
  • Benefits/prevents diabetes by controlling your insulin response (also improving acne)
  • Cools inflammation, reducing acne
  • Boosts your immune system, often fighting off flu infections as effectively as flu shots (recent studies confirm this)
  • Improves mood and eases depression
  • Allows you to absorb calcium, preventing osteoporosis (in fact, you really can’t absorb calcium without Vitamin D!)
  • Fights cancer by taming the wild reproduction of cancer cells
  • Reduces respiratory infections
  • Relieves body aches by reducing muscle spasms

In short, you must get enough of this vitamin, for your health and longevity, and especially for your acne.

Get Vitamin D from sun first, then take pills as a backup

Your body makes all the Vitamin D it needs for a few days in just 10-15 minutes of full-body sun exposure (think swimsuit), depending on your latitude and skin pigmentation. The darker your skin, and further away from the equator you live, the longer you’ll need to stay in the sun.

Avoid most sunscreens, as they prevent your skin from producing Vitamin D (if your skin doesn’t get any sun, how can you make Vitamin D?), they poison your skin with parabens, chemicals and preservatives, and they clog your pores.

I only use sunscreen after I’ve been in the sun long enough to get my maximum Vitamin D dose for the day (well before sunburn), and I only use oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreens, with no parabens or other harmful chemicals. They’re more expensive, but they lessen the toxic load on your body, allowing your body to focus more on repairing itself (and your acne).

On any day that you don’t get sunshine – which for most people will be the majority of days – take a Vitamin D supplement. I don’t recommend taking a ton of supplements to clear acne, as eating an anti-inflammatory diet is much more effective, long-lasting, and deep-reaching than taking a bunch of pills.

Vitamin D is just too critical to your health to skimp on. Too many people live in rainy, cloudy climates for much of the year where they are unable to get enough Vitamin D naturally (take it from me – I grew up in Seattle, grey and rainy capital of the States!) or they work indoors or sit inside at the computer instead of going outside and getting some sunshine. 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D! That’s seriously bad news for acne.

“Vitamin D Enriched” foods do not provide enough Vitamin D

Despite what the FDA says, you cannot get enough Vitamin D from “Vitamin D enriched” foods, such as Vitamin D milk. (Plus, milk is probably the #1 most potent acne-causing food – read why here.) The FDA guidelines are horribly out of date and haven’t caught up with the latest research. See why in the next section.

Take 5,000+ IU of Vitamin D3 per day

Look for Vitamin D3 at around a 5,000 IU concentration per pill, and take one per day. As of 2011, the FDA’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D is a criminally low 400 IU (International Units). The latest research shows that this is not even close to your body’s actual need, and there are groups of concerned scientists – most notably, the Vitamin D Council - trying to lobby the FDA to raise its recommended intake to cure the near-nationwide-epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.**

Case in point: in just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure, your skin produces 10,000 IU of Vitamin D, so logically, the paltry recommendation of 400 IU per day is not going to give you near enough of this precious nutrient if you don’t have access to sun! 5,000 IU – 10,000 IU per day is instead the target you want to shoot for. And you don’t have to worry about toxicity, because you’d need to take over 50,000 IU per day for several months before approaching toxic levels.

It’s absolutely critical that you take the right type of Vitamin D – for example, Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is commonly found in drugstores, but the majority of current research suggests that D2 is not nearly as effective as natural sun-derived Vitamin D.

Instead, make sure you’re getting cholecalciferol, also known as Vitamin D3, which precisely mimics the natural Vitamin D your skin makes from direct sun.

Summary – Why Vitamin D is the #1 Acne Vitamin

Vitamin D:

  • Cools inflammation (reducing redness and swelling of acne)
  • Boosts your immune system (allowing your skin to get rid of toxins better, and making it easier to fight off acne bacteria)
  • Improves your mood (reducing stress, lowering your cortisol levels, and improving acne)

Of course, if you’re eating a pro-inflammatory diet, not getting enough sleep, and not living a balanced lifestyle, no amount of vitamin D is going to produce these effects… much less cure your acne. For most of us, simply taking a supplement – even a powerful one like Vitamin D – isn’t going to be enough to heal our acne completely. That’s why we wrote the book on how you can cure your acne with diet and lifestyle – check that out here!

Get sun on your bare skin almost every day, or take 5000+ IU of Vitamin D per day, especially if you work indoors and/or live in a gray, rainy climate. By getting the sunshine vitamin as part of a clear-skin diet and lifestyle, you’ll notice improved overall health and a big improvement in your acne.

Ready for the Clear Skin Challenge?

You can have clear skin too. Stay and read for a while, and/or grab a copy of our book, and we’ll walk you through the whole process! I (Devin) have cured acne for myself with a sustainable, all-natural diet+lifestyle method, and I want to share this with as many people as I can. If you find valuable tips on this site, please share it with a friend who struggles with acne. You’d want them to share it with you, right? :)

Sources:

*Scientific American: “Vitamin D deficiency soars in the US, study says”

**Vitamin D Council: About Vitamin D

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Comments

  1. Davis says

    I’ve read and heard from many sources that sun exposure actually causes MORE acne, so wearing sun screen is an absolute must. Moreover, I have dark skin so I don’t how much sunlight I need and if I should, in fact, wear any sun screen at all! I play sports everyday in the evenings where it can get as hot as 30 C or more, so I wear sun screen everyday. Need some clarification please, Thanks!

  2. Annie says

    Hi Devlin, I’ve read a few articles concerning overconsumption of vitamin D3, zinc picolonate and vitamin B12 and vitamin A. This has concerned me somewhat and was wondering what your response is to claims that these vitamins should not be taken in the high doses you recommend? I’m 21, female and weigh 7st 3 – should I take less due to my smaller frame?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Annie! The safest thing with Vitamin D is to get your levels tested – then you’re not guessing anymore. The test is pretty cheap. There’s some more recent research to suggest that the Vitamin D Council’s recommendations of 50+ ng/mL are dangerously high, and Chris Kresser here recommends shooting for 25-50 ng/mL, with 35 as your target:

      http://chriskresser.com/surprising-new-vitamin-d-research-the-myth-of-multi-tasking-and-how-the-internet-is-rewiring-our-brains

      The main thing about fat soluble vitamins to remember (incl. A, D, K2) is that they must exist in balance with each other, and they interact in complex ways. For example, if you have high Vitamin D levels (say 50), but you’re deficient in Vitamin K2, you’re likely to get some calcium buildup in soft tissues, joints, arteries, that kind of thing. Not good! But adequate K2 levels protect against Vitamin D toxicity, and Vitamin D protects against Vitamin A toxicity.

      I generally only recommend supplementation as a backup procedure when natural sources of those vitamins aren’t available. If you can’t get regular sun, it makes sense to take D3. If you don’t eat much liver/organs meats, pastured egg yolks, or grass-fed dairy (the dairy not recommended for acne sufferers anyway), it makes sense to supplement K2, or maybe even better, fermented cod liver oil (see my article here).

      As far as I know, there’s no reason to supplement B12 if you’re eating animal products. And I would not recommend supplementing with synthetic vitamin A –

      Also, zinc needs are probably best met through diet (red meat is a great source), but supplementation can help too.

      Does this make sense? In the end, it’s always best to get your vitamin/mineral levels checked. Guidelines only go so far, because each individual varies in how well they absorb different nutrients. When in doubt, I’d defer to Chris Kresser’s recommendations, since he actually has a clinical practice around this stuff. He’s got general supplement recommendations here:

      http://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-4-supplement-wisely

      • Annie says

        Thank you so much Devin, this blog is brilliant – have been taking your food recommendations for a few weeks so fingers crossed!

  3. Tamina says

    Hi Devin!
    I wish I could have found your website a few years ago when I was struck with severe cystic acne. At the time, I was leading a fairly stressful life ( I was in graduate school), but I soon realized that there were more factors involved that were causing my acne… As an avid athlete I consumed huge amounts of milk, and other dairy products, meat, and sugar. I also realized that I was very deficient in zinc and vitamin D. Reading your website would have saved me DAYS of research. I have pretty clear skin now, with the occasional cystic breakout here and there, but I can easily live with that!

    For all you people out there, listen to this guy. Everything he talks about on this website is exactly what I did a few years ago, and it helped me tremendously (still does!) Stay away from dermatologists who charge an arm and a leg ( and prescribe medication that compromises your health) Natural and a healthy lifestyle is the way to go!
    Thanks again!!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Tamina! Whoa, thanks for the kind words, it really means a lot! Sounds like you didn’t run across this information as early as you wished, but I’m really glad that you’ve figured it out now. Grad school stress + acne-promoting diet is a recipe for disaster indeed! Anyway, thanks for the kind comment and I wish you the best!

    • Devin Mooers says

      I don’t, anymore, actually! I transitioned from butter –> ghee –> red palm oil/coconut oil, basically. I was eating + recommending grass-fed butter for a long time for the fat-soluble vitamins (A + K2, especially), but have since come to understand that the small amount of milk solids might still be problematic. I now take a fermented cod liver oil + high vitamin butter oil supplement for Vitamin K2, but other than that I stay away from butter and ghee altogether.

  4. Mercedes says

    Hey Devin, gonna start this program tmw. I have tried loads of things to have my acne controlled, antibiotics, roaccutane, BP, Retin A… the list is longer and nothing seems to get rid of it. I have even tried juicing for 10 days but the problema got worse, whyyyy?. I have been with this problem for over 10 years already, from having none sometimes to moderate to mild to super severe pimples. I am 25 now and I am getting tired of trying to get rid of my acne and what is worse cover it with loads of make up everyday. Since I changed workplace and I live on my own I started to get loads of acne which obviously as u said makes me feel ugly. I don’t want ppl to look at me and I try to not go out no more which is pathetic and harmful to my social life.
    I couldn’t go a day without any make up or without showering but hopefully will definitely try it after my acne is clear with this program. And I really hope works for me. So frustrating!! Any tips on cooking or recipes? I just think of salads.

    Cheers from Mexico

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Mercedes! So many people share your story – they had no success with the traditional (and some not-so-traditional) acne treatments, and have been suffering from acne for years. You’re not alone, and you’re on the right track, so hang in there! For meals, there is a recipe guide PDF that came with the book that you might want to refer to. What I do is just google “paleo recipes.” You can find tons of great dairy-free, grain-free, meat-and-vegetable based meal ideas that way. We are currently working on some new content for the site that will include some recipes and meal plans, but there are a lot of inspiring recipes on the web already. (PaleOMG is one of my favorite sources for recipes!)
      Since it sounds like your acne got worse along with some major life changes – changing jobs and living on your own – you may want to think about taking care of your stress levels and emotional health in addition to making some diet changes. Ask yourself, “what am I going to do to take care of myself today?” You deserve it. Also, ask for help when you need it.
      Good luck; we’re glad to have you here! Even as you work to heal your acne, remember that you’re beautiful and worthy no matter what your face looks like.

  5. Vishal Sonigara says

    Hey dude, i am from INDIA & we have a sunny climate here….bt still ee have acne problems…..what will u recommend to us….

  6. Sandi says

    So which is it? Get sunlight for vitamin D? and Vitamin D reduces wrinkles? Really? I thought excess wrinkles WERE a sign of a person that’s out in the sun too much. You can’t have it both ways!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Get sunlight for Vitamin D! As I understand it, wrinkling is actually caused by damage to elastin and collagen in the skin, caused by advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). In a word, sugar. High levels of sugar in your bloodstream triggered by eating high-glycemic foods leads to the formation of AGEs, which damage skin cells and actually modify the structure of collagen and elastin, causing wrinkling. Here are a few papers that explain it in more detail:
      http://www.medwelljournals.com/fulltext/?doi=rjmsci.2010.324.329
      https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jaam/8/3/8_3_23/_article

      So essentially, high-sugar, high-glycemic diets lead to wrinkling, and if you’re also not eating foods like meat cooked on the bone, bone broth, etc., you’re not getting much exogenous collagen or collagen-supporting nutrients like glycosaminoglycans, so it’s a double whammy. A low-glycemic diet high in meats cooked on the bone, as well as organ meats and bone broth, is an excellent way to maintain youthful-looking skin for longer. The skin is quite capable of detoxifying the oxidative stress caused by UV radiation – as long as you don’t get sunburned, of course! Then everything goes out the window. Sunburn can definitely lead to skin damage and wrinkling. I’m not advocating sunburn – I’m advocating 10-15 minutes out in the sun with bare skin to get a full Vitamin D dose. That amount of sun could cause sunburn if, say, an Irish person were sunbathing in Africa, but in most cases, 10-15 minutes is enough to get a full 10,000 IU+ of Vitamin D without getting sunburn or accumulated sun damage.

      Hope this helps, Sandi! Let me know if you’d like further clarification on this or anything else and I’d be happy to help, if I can!

  7. Sarah H says

    Hey Devin!
    Get an Instagram! I have a fitness/nutrition blog on there called @healthycleanleanlife and just posted this article with your name and site of course. Check it out!
    Btw do meat and animal products also trigger acne you think?
    Thanks!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sarah, thanks for posting the article! Really appreciate it! Just created an Instagram, @clearskinforever, and followed you. Now I have to figure out what to put on there…

      As far as I know (and I’ve done a fair amount of research on this), meat and animal products in general, if anything, provide the essential nutrients the body needs to maintain clear skin. Certain fat-soluble vitamins (e.g. A, K2) and minerals (zinc, heme iron, etc.) are best gotten through animal foods, as they’re either not present or not very absorbable from plant foods. A few years ago, I went 100% raw vegan for 8 months, but came back around again to eating animal foods after I dropped a bunch of weight (and I was skinny to begin with) and was borderline pre-diabetic. Here’s another way to put it — if you gave me a choice between only eating plant foods for the rest of my life, or only animal foods, I would WAY choose the second option, based on everything I’ve learned and read over the last few years and my own crazy diet experiences. (I mean, I eat plants, too, but my focus is really on grass-fed, sustainably raised meats, eggs, and other animal products [e.g. offal]).

      Turns out that when people stop eating meat, they replace it with a lot of plant-based foods that tend to trigger acne, like wheat, seitan, soy, and vegetable oils! Meat + veggies is definitely the way to go for clear skin, with an emphasis on organic, pastured / grass-fed, sustainably raised, local food — farmer’s market type stuff. That’s where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping these days.

      What are you thoughts on all this? Also, do you have a separate blog outside of Instagram? (Kind of new to the whole Instagram thing!)

  8. Nora says

    Hello Devin, it’s me again.
    Recently I have been having bad craving for snacks and fatty stuff, as a result of suppressing my desire for chocolate, desserts and dairy products.
    I managed to say no to peanut butter and nutella, and been having watermelon and almonds for snacks. However, is it bad to eat a lot of almonds (I am talking about 20-30 kernels)? I was told that it’s a good source of fat, but someone also said it can produce oil and trigger acne.
    And again, thank you for the hundredth time. I wish you have instagram and share great photos of healthy skin and recipe ideas ! I’ll be the first to follow you ha ha

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nora, watermelon and almonds sounds like great snacks. Sounds like you’re finding a good way to deal with acne-causing food cravings! I’m not sure how almonds would increase oil production in your skin… Excess oil production is generally triggered by high glycemic foods, dairy, and stress. Don’t think almonds fit into that anywhere! You should be fine. Here’s some more reading on nuts if you’re curious:
      http://www.marksdailyapple.com/nuts-omega-6-fats/#axzz2cjElLuoK

      I’ll have to keep the Instagram thing in mind! :)

  9. Lois says

    Hi there! Do you have any information regarding how much D3 a person should take based on their size? You suggest 5,000 IU’s a day (which is what you are taking), but I wonder if someone like myself (5 feet tall and 100 pounds) should take less than that… I’m having trouble finding solid sources online that give a definite answer to how much should actually be consumed. Also, should you start out lower and work up your dosage?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Lois! Dave Asprey over at Bulletproof Exec recommends 1,000 IU per 25 pounds bodyweight – that’s the only definitive recommendation I’ve seen, and he does his research well. So 4,000 should be fine in your case. I think there’s quite a lot of fudge factor involved, since everyone gets different amounts of Vitamin D from sun exposure, has different absorption rates due to other mineral levels in the body – I’d go for 4,000. The definitive thing to do is to get your blood levels of 25-hydroxy-D levels tested. 50-70 ng/ml is what you’re shooting for. Mercola talks in depth about it here (scroll down): http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/advanced_supplements.htm

      As far as I know, you can jump right up to the full dose. I’ve read a fair bit about Vitamin D and have never encountered anything about working up to the full dosage slowly being necessary.

      Hope this helps!

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