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.

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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).

You can check out the EWG’s list of recommended safe sunscreenswe like and use this one, since the spray is not as thick and pasty as most mineral sunscreens.

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.

(An important exception to this supplementation recommendation is for people who are prone to getting milia, those tiny, hard bumps under the skin. Supplementing with vitamin D can worsen or trigger milia, whereas getting natural sun exposure may help reduce it.***)

“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 up to 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 600 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 600 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 much about toxicity, because you’d probably need to take over 50,000 IU per day for several months before approaching toxic levels – but let’s stay well below that, ok?)

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.

If you can’t find D3 in 5,000 IU amounts, you can buy pills with less D and stack them (e.g. take 5 capsules daily with 1,000 IU D3). As another option, this brand is an affordable choice that doesn’t include any vegetable oils or other problematic ingredients.

When you should take less Vitamin D

As they say, the dose makes the poison – and more is not always better. Taking a 5,000 IU D3 pill might not be the best thing for every single one of our dear readers, so listen carefully.

Unless directed by a qualified health professional, you can (and should) take less D if:

  • You’re taking other supplements that include vitamin D (such as cod liver oil with added D, or a multivitamin). Read supplement labels to find out how much D you’re getting from those, and adjust accordingly.
  • You’re getting some sun exposure on a regular basis. How much to reduce is a bit of a guessing game, but use our sun exposure guidelines above to estimate how close you are to getting 100% of your D from the sun, and supplement the remaining percentage.
  • You don’t have robust sources of vitamin A in your diet, such as fermented cod liver oil or liver. Vitamins A and D work together in the body and need to be in balance. So if you’re not supplementing with fermented cod liver oil, or eating a quarter pound of liver weekly, we suggest taking only 2,000-3,000 IU of D3 daily.

If you fall into one of these categories, this is a good, super-cheap 2,000 IU D3 supplement, and here’s the 1,000 IU version.

FAQ - What about vitamin K2? Do I need to supplement that too?

Vitamins A, D, and K work together in the body, and it’s important to keep them relatively in balance. We know that vitamins A and D have strong implications for healthy, acne-free skin, but there’s not much research that connects acne and vitamin K (that we know of), so we haven’t emphasized it much.That said, if you’re boosting your intake of vitamins D and/or A, it’s a great idea to evaluate how much K you’re getting in your diet. Foods like egg yolks, livers, leafy greens, and fermented vegetables are great sources of K2, so if you’re eating lots of these, you probably don’t need to worry about another supplement.

However, if you’re not sure, it wouldn’t hurt to supplement around 100mcg per day (MK-7 recommended), especially as there’s no evidence of any harm from “overdosing” K2. We keep this K supplement in our cupboard, and pop one occasionally when we think we might need a boost!

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 up to 5,000 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.

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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

***Curing The Blistering Skin Condition Known As Milia: Treating Adult Onset Milia

Sources (click to expand)

{ 226 Comments }

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Stuart, I do think that taking 10,000 IU D3 is unnecessarily high – unless you’ve been instructed to take that much from your doc. Your fish liver oil probably also has some D in it, so keep that in mind as well. I’d keep your D3 intake to around 5,000 IU / day, including what’s in the fish liver oil.

  1. Dominique says

    I thought vitamine D3 supplements would be my holy grail to finally get rid of my acne, so I tried taking vitamine D3 supplements (which are hard to find without any sugar in it). Then, after a few days, I started getting a lot of milia all over my chin all of a sudden! They where so persistent that they had to be professionally removed… Turns out if you’re sensitive to getting milia you should avoid vitamine D3 supplements at all cost. Just my luck..

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Ah, bummer! Right, sounds like we need to make an update to our blog post. If you’re prone to getting milia, it sounds like it’s best to get your D from natural sun exposure. Sorry you went through that, and thanks for drawing our attention to this!

  2. khloe says

    Hello! I decided to try vit D3 as I heard several amazing stories on its effects on acne. I have extremely oily skin which causes me to have occasional break outs on my face but pretty moderate back acne. I am wondering if it is true that these Vitamin D pills need to be taken with Vitamin A pills? TIA

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Khloe! I would generally avoid taking vitamin A pills. Beta carotene isn’t well absorbed / converted, and actual retinol tends to be easy to build up a toxicity with.

      More info here on vitamin A and acne.

      As for oily skin, do you wash your face with soap/cleansers a lot? Do you eat much dairy and/or sugar?

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- Devin and Sonia

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