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). 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.

“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.

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.

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? :)


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

**Vitamin D Council: About Vitamin D

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    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Jason, D2 isn’t going to do much, if anything, for your D3 levels. The safest thing is to get your D levels checked, and shoot for around 35 ng/mL (according to Chris Kresser). The general recommendation I’ve read is to take 1,000 IU of D3 per 25 pounds of bodyweight, and get D levels checked at regular doc visits to make sure you’re reaching that ~35 target. I’m around 130 pounds and take 5,000 IU per day, on days where I don’t get any sun. During the summer, for instance, I get outside a lot and don’t often take vitamin D.

  1. Mike says

    So I came across this site and it says 5000 ui I get that but I got a bottle of d3 with 1000ui 25mcg should I just take 5 pills to get what I need can’t seem to find anything at a high number like u suggested

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Mike – yes, absolutely, you can just stack D3 pills to get to the desired dosage. I’d say to go through the bottle you have now at 5/day, and then if you want to get pills in 5,000 IU increments, this is what we take. It’s inexpensive and doesn’t include any weird fillers or vegetable oils that might be problematic for acne!

  2. Reena says

    Hey there!!
    I just read your article and I’m excited to try this starting today. I have been breaking out like crazy around my cheeks and I’m freaking out because my bf is coming home for leave a month from now from Afghanistan. I was wondering how fast would this work??

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Reena! Sorry to be responding to this a month later… I realize this answer might be coming too late for this particular situation. We get a lot of inquiries about how long it takes to clear up acne with the diet and lifestyle changes we recommend. There’s not an easy answer to that – some people start seeing results almost instantly, and for others, it takes months. Many people fall somewhere in between – it really depends on your particular situation, and how closely you stick to the program. Even if it were to take longer in your case, for example, you’d likely see improvement along the way, which is a great motivator to stick with it until you’re fully clear!

      I hope you have / are having a great time with your boyfriend!

  3. john says

    I heared its reccomended if you take vitamin D to also take Vitamin K2 but its not mentioned in your article. What’s your opinion about that?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey John, yep, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 all interact synergistically, so it’s definitely a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough K2. I haven’t seen any research on the effects of K2 for skin health / acne, but it’s conceivable that there’s a beneficial effect. There’s a good K2 complex made by Life Extension that I take regularly. I wouldn’t recommend taking vitamin A, though – fermented cod liver oil seems to be a safer bet.

  4. Anna says

    I had cystic acne for 13 years that got worse as I was ovulating every month. It appeared to be hormonal acne. Then one day I read about vitamin D3 and a week after taking it my acne was gone. I take 7000 IU per day. I am a 120lb female. The more I take the drier my skin is which is what stop my acne from happening. The first two weeks that I took it, my skin started peeling a lot. I loved it. The peeling made my hyperpigmentation go away faster and if there was a small bump, it would peel right off, rather than growing into a big infected cyst. If I take 8000 IU it’s too much because my eyelids and eyeballs start to dry out. At one point I took 10 000 IU for a few days and my eyes got extremely dry and puffy. If I take 5000 it still works, but I get small bumps here and there. If I miss my Vitamin D pills for half a day I begin to break out again. I’ve been taking it for about a month now.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Anna, you might want to get your vitamin D blood levels checked. 7,000 IU is pretty steep for a 120lb female. I wouldn’t go over 50 ng/mL. Also, are you taking any vitamin K2? Any fermented cod liver oil or beef liver or other sources of vitamin A? These two can protect against vitamin D toxicity, which could potentially eventually happen taking 7,000IU per day.

      • Anna says

        Hey, yes I did get my levels checked and they were normal. I checked the vitamin D council website which said you have to take more than 10 000 IU (closer to 40 000) daily for 3 months to get toxicity. I also do take K2.

        • Sonia Carlson says

          That’s good to hear that your D levels are normal – it might be good to get tested from time to time if you’re continuing to dose at 7,000 IU daily. Tolerable amounts of D are tied to your levels of K2 and A, so as Devin said, make sure you’re getting a high-quality source of A (retinol) as well. As a fat-soluble vitamin, what your body doesn’t use now gets stored, so even if you’re not taking 10,000 IU of D3 per day for three months, you could still be accumulating small amounts in your body that will build up to toxic levels a year from now. I’m not saying that’s necessarily going to be the case with you – but I do recommend monitoring your levels with occasional blood tests to be safe!

          Thanks for sharing your experience – it sounds like a D deficiency was a major cause of acne for you!

  5. sharrondaboone says


    What is a good alternative to taking whey protein and creatine if I’m working out trying to build muscle?

  6. Rebecca Hamric says

    Hi! I just stumbled upon your website the other day and have been reading for hours! Tons of interesting information on here. My question regards the vitamin D supplements. I purchased a liquid softgel form and noticed the other ingredients include soybean oil and corn oil. Do you think this could cause breakouts? The pills are pretty small, but the oil concerns me.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Rebecca, glad you’re liking the site! Means a lot to hear you say that. Yep, I would avoid any supplements containing soybean or corn oil. It’s true that the problems with these oils are dose-dependent, so a small amount may not cause a visible problem, but the small bits add up. I use Vitamin D3 from NOW Foods, and it contains olive oil, and is pretty inexpensive. That’s generally what I recommend. Hope this helps!

  7. 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!

  8. 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:

      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:

      • Annie says

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

  9. 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!

      • Christy says

        So desperate … I searched please help my acne and found this site … And praying this is it!!! I love you in advance ..

        • Sonia Carlson says

          Welcome Christy, I’m so glad you found us! I hope you find our writings really informative, and that they inspire you to make changes that lead to wonderfully clear skin and a healthier you!!

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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….

  12. 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:

      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!

  13. 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?

    • 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!)

  14. 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:

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

  15. 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):

      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!

  16. Devaki says

    Im 19 an ive been having moderate acne on my face for three years now. Ive tried many topical creams and tablets for my acne. Even natural remedies and nothing seems to work on my skin.
    I stay in a very rainy region and im not getting vitamin d at all. Could you tell me what iu of vitamin d3 i should take to get rid of acne and when should i have it? Like before food or after lunch? I have a vitamin d3 of 60,000 iu with me now. If i have that once in a week, will it be bad for me? Your blog is really amazing. :)

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Devaki, thanks for the kind words! 60,000 IU is a large amount. I don’t have any experience with large weekly doses of Vitamin D, so I can’t give you a safe / experienced recommendation on this. I personally take 5,000 IU daily. If you were taking that much Vitamin D, it would be important to not take any calcium supplements. As far as when to take Vitamin D, shoot for a main meal containing fat. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, the the dietary fat will benefit absorption.

          • Devaki says

            Hi Devin! Okay so this is my 6th day of vitamin D3 5000iu and i have seen very good results. Thank you so much for this post! Very less inflammation, no rednes. But i wanted to ask if small new pimples are normal at this stage? because I’ve been getting a few small ones here and there but it doesn’t stay for more than two days. So is it normal? And also, approximately how long do you think it will take vitamin D3 to clear all the acne and the scars?

          • Devin Mooers says

            Whoa, just a sec there! Vitamin D is not a miracle cure-all for acne. Simply taking Vitamin D, for most people, will probably not clear their acne completely, because there are so many other dietary and lifestyle factors involved. Eating dairy, for instance, is a huge problem. Have you seen my article on that?

            My book lays out all the main dietary/lifestyle factors that cause acne, so you if you’re looking for the whole picture on how to get rid of acne, that’s a good place to go. Vitamin D is a great starting point, but it’s really just the beginning for most people. Identifying all the different foods and lifestyle choices that trigger acne is the next big step. I wish acne were a simple problem that could be cured with one simple change, but it’s usually not for most people (including myself). That’s why I wrote the book, to systematically lay out all the causes of acne as I saw them, and how to get rid of them. Here’s the link to the book if you’d like to check it out:

            Hope this helps!

      • Marilyn says

        Hi Devin,

        So if we take large amounts of D3, we shouldn’t take calcium? Maybe I read that on your site before. I’ve read elsewhere that you should take calcium with D3, so I’m kind of confused on that one. Is it because it will get deposited in the arteries?

        • Devin Mooers says

          That’s right. ESPECIALLY not if you’re not taking K2. K2 is necessary for proper apportioning of calcium to the right places (i.e., bones), and without K2, artificially high calcium intake with absorption amplified by high Vitamin D intake leads to calcium deposits in all the wrong places – soft tissues, arteries (hardening/calcification), joints, etc., combined with osteopenia/osteoarthritis/osteoporosis. A bit perverse, really, that taking excess calcium without K2 can cause calcium deficiency problems! (And excesses elsewhere in the body.) I’m now experimenting with taking D3 + K2-MK4, as I believe I get enough calcium from foods, and I think the K2 helps your body get the most out of the calcium you are getting naturally and makes sure it goes to the right places. Thorne Research makes the best one I’ve been able to find – it’s a D/K2 mix in liquid form. It provides a great ratio of D to K2 – 10 drops gives 5,000 IU of D3 and 1mg of K2.

  17. Nathaniel Nguyen-Le says

    Great post! I was just wondering though. I don’t get direct sun exposure that much because I work in a office. However, it is a 30-40 minute commute car ride and would you think that is enough to get the adequate amount of Vitamin D? I really do not want to have to take too many supplements for my acne but I noticed that this past weekend, when I went to an outdoor concert, my acne improved a lot. I am willing to drink two teaspoons of Fish Oil but I am still unsure about the Vitamin D intake.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Nathaniel, awesome question. According to this study, car windows block pretty much all UVB radiation, which is the type of UV light that causes your skin to produce Vitamin D. So it looks like you won’t get much, if any, Vitamin D while driving. Why not take supplemental Vitamin D? It’s got an incredible range of powerful health effects, and causes lots of problems if you’re deficient in it. Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that lends itself incredibly well to supplementation. The fact that the outdoor concert improved your acne is a great sign that you’re deficient in Vitamin D. (Direct sun exposure also kills P. acnes bacteria, which are definitely a factor in acne, but they’re not the whole story, and chances are you’re deficient in Vitamin D, so why not supplement with, say 5,000 IU per day of D3?)

  18. sean says

    hey devin I’m approximately on my 5th day of taking 5000iu of vitamin d3 and have seen some minor improvement on my facial acne if you don’t recall I told you I had some acne on my back as well as acne scarring on my back can I expect this to minimize and or disappear? if so do you have an estimated time frame? I got a ton of patients so time is no issue just curious, also I get paid tuesday so you can most likely expect an ebook purchase from me, one last concern I had was I can’t affrod some days to be on a strictly paleo diet, my food intake for today included, two bananas and peanut butter sandwhich, and for a snack around 1:00pm I had tomato soup with noodles and a hardboiled egg, and for dinner I had hardboiled egg sandwiches with white bread, I usually eat lots of meat and salad but it wasnt in the cards today, is anything that I listed bad for my acne? also I drink nothing but water once in a while some arizona ice tea.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sean, timeframes are difficult to estimate. Completely depends on the individual, their current health, digestive health, mental state / stress, lifestyle, environment, genes, and diet. It’s a matter of weeks for some, months for others, or maybe a year for major gluten-damaged digestion. I think you’ll find a lot of answers in the book! For example, white bread is definitely something that can trigger acne (for high glycemic index and gluten content). Same goes for the noodles. Peanut butter is not ideal (inflammatory omega-6 fats, aflatoxin). There are a few ideas in the book, too, about how to eat more Paleo on the cheap. Definitely can be done. Here’s an excellent article by Robb Wolf on it:

  19. German says

    Devin, thank you so much for your advice again. I just started taking Zinc along with the D3. I guess I do feel a need to wash my face with any kind of soap or face wash, but I believe that’s not the best for the acid mantle. I will start rinsing my face with only water to see what I can get from it. My complexion is not dark, it’s rather pale but it can easily get darker over the summer. I am sure I am 100% gluten free. The oatmeal bar I usually eat in the morning, is a raw, organic oatmeal bar, Here’s the bar I eat . Again, thank you so much for taking the time to write these answers for me, they have been really helpful. And although I am still battling with acne, I will make sure to get back to you in a few weeks to discuss my results. Excellent website!

    • Marilyn says

      I really like Dr. Ohhira’s beauty bar. I know it sounds like a girl thing but it’s not. It’s supposed to have probiotics in it, not sure if the probiotics could actually still be alive, but it’s the best cleanser I’ve found for my acne prone skin. If you need a coupon, PEY 561 works. The other thing I am recommending to people whose skin problems are connected to digestive issues is Intestinew by Renew Life. I swear I could feel it working. I’m also taking large doses of Now Vitamins D3 (liquid form because MCT oil doesn’t go rancid the way others do) and I’m getting a little sun every day and my skin is much, much better. I do take vitamin A, though, and fish oil, too, as well as things like wheat grass powder and chlorella. I’ve just added amla powder for vitamin C and to help balance blood sugar. Oh, and no gluten, of course, and I try not to eat sugar but I do eat fruit and a little honey.

      • Devin Mooers says

        Hey Marilyn, thanks for the tips! The beauty bar looks like a great cleanser for folks who need it (if they use makeup, etc.), so I will definitely pass that on. Same goes with the Intestinew – sounds like a great transitioning-off-gluten supplement to restore proper intestinal barrier function. Thanks!

        Vitamin A may not be the best idea, by the way – taking isolated beta carotene has been linked to cancer in several studies now, I believe. Much safer to get Vitamin A from foods like greens and sweet potatoes, because there are tons of other carotenes besides beta carotene that fill in the spectrum and have important health effects (and you typically won’t find these in Vitamin A supplements). If you’d like a little more info, let me know and I can link you a recent Mercola article on it.

    • Marilyn says

      I forgot to mention that I also take K2, magnesium glycinate and calcium pyruvate, which are supposed to be important if you’re taking large amounts of D3. The only thing is I’ve heard conflicting things about calcium and D3. Some sites say to take calcium while taking D3, and some sites say not to because it can be deposited in the heart and arteries. I wish I knew for sure!

      • Devin Mooers says

        I’ve read that these are important too, but I’d still rather get them from foods. You’re missing all the enzymes and cofactors and complexity by taking them in supplement form. The argument that it’s important to take K2 and cal/mag if taking Vitamin D doesn’t hold water for me, because you can get all those nutrients in whole foods, but not Vitamin D (you either need sun or supplements for that). To me, taking supplemental Vitamin D is just a proxy for getting real sun, and I don’t think it would be necessary to take cal/mag/K2 (outside of what you get in whole foods) if you’re getting 10,000 IU of Vitamin D per day just from bare skin exposure. Thoughts?

  20. German says

    I have been struggling with adult acne for over two years now. I am a 25 year old male living in Los Angeles (which makes me believe I might not be deficient in Vitamin D). However I’ve been desperately trying everything I can to get rid of my breakouts. I have been taking MSM, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Fish Oil and B Complex. My vitamin a intake is very low, due to its toxicity. I don’t know if fish oil is causing me to break even more but my skin looks worse everyday. I just started using the OCM to cleanse my face since any other face wash products were only irritating and drying out my skin. I really don’t know what else to do. My diet consists of vegetables (mostly greens), some fish (lean tuna and salmon), and nuts. I avoid dairy and wheat at all costs. I drink plenty of water everyday. I don’t work out everyday but I am pretty active. Help please!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey German, hmm. Sounds like a good challenge. I’d stop the MSM, Vitamin A, and B complex. MSM is unnecessary if you’re eating cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), eggs, and meat. Taking isolated beta-carotene has been associated with cancer – sounds like you’re eating plenty of veggies and shouldn’t have a problem with getting enough bioavailable Vitamin A from your diet. High-dose B vitamins also can cause problems as well – in general, you’re better off getting those in whole foods too, and it sounds like you have a solid, nutritionally dense diet.

      1) How much D3 are you taking?
      2) Are you putting anything on your face? Sunscreen, face washes, scrubs, creams, lotion, anything?
      3) What’s OCM?
      4) Are you eating red meat at all? (thinking about a potential zinc deficiency) If not, why not?
      5) Can you give me an example run-down of a typical day’s meals?

      Happy to help you figure this out if I can!

      • German says

        Devin, thank you for your reply. In regards to your questions. 1) I have 400IU D3. I take it three times a day. 2) I wash my face twice with a salicylic acid 2% face wash. I use MSM face scrub twice a week. A regular Aubreay natural moisturizer. No sunscreen. When I’m truly desperate I use Benzoyl Peroxide as spot treatment. 3) OCM is the “Oil Cleansing Method” I basically started cleansing my face with sweet almond oil. 4) I don’t eat red meat at all because its associated to colon cancer, digestion problems, and many others health problems. I only eat fish. 5) Breakfast: green juice (kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley and apples) and an oatmeal bar. (Most times I skip breakfast) LUNCH: Green salad with grilled salmon. DINNER: lentil soup or stewed vegetables with pumpkin soup. SNACKS: almond butter and apples.

        • Devin Mooers says

          So first, 1,200 IU of Vitamin D3 won’t get your levels up high enough. Unless you’re getting direct sun-to-skin exposure without sunscreen several times a week at least, you’ll probably need more like 5,000 – 8,000 IU per day to get to healthy levels. You’d be surprised how many people in very sunny places are Vitamin D deficient.

          I don’t have any experience with OCM, so I can’t advise there, other than that it seems weird to put oil on your face. Do you know if almond oil is non-comedogenic (non-pore-clogging)?

          I urge you to reconsider your position on red meat in light of the most recent (well-performed) science. Not sure where you’re getting that data, but red meat has been largely exonerated. Here’s an excerpt from an upcoming FAQ I’m putting together:


          It’s definitely been conventional wisdom for decades. Took a long time for my parents to come around to the idea of eating red meat. Grass-fed red meat, in general, has a more beneficial fatty acid profile with a much higher omega-3 : 6 ratio, and for unknown reasons actually boosts your body’s levels of omega-3’s more than one would expect from how much is actually in the meat, if I remember correctly. Grass-fed red meat also contains much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is strongly cancer-protective. Corn- and soy-fed red meat has very little CLA, and also tends to have dangerous levels of bio-accumulated agricultural by-products (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) and other environmental toxins concentrated in the fat (because these compounds are fat-soluble). Grass-fed red meat is lower in fat, overall, it’s true, but it also has a much better balance of fats, i.e. less inflammatory, polyunsaturated omega-6 fat and a greater ratio of saturated fat. As research is increasingly showing, saturated fat does not, and has never, contributed to heart disease. Check here for more on that:

          The ways you can go wrong with red meat are by:

          1) Processing it heavily (like you suggested), which gets worse when you cook it, because nitrites and nitrates in processed meats, when cooked, form nitrosamines, which are highly carcinogenic.
          2) Cooking it at high heat, e.g. grilling or searing intensely or high-heat frying, which causes heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) to form in the meat, both of which are carcinogenic.

          More here:


          Is that farmed salmon you’re eating or wild salmon? If farmed, it’s going to be much worse for you than grass-fed beef, for example, because it will have bio-accumulated dioxin / PCBs / PCAHs / heavy metals / etc., and furthermore, grilling it creates advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines (carcinogens/toxins), and likely oxidizes the normally beneficial omega-3 fatty acids into cell-membrane-damaging, DNA-damaging free radicals. Not sure how you’re actually grilling it — in foil, for example, would be great, but open to the flame at all is not a good idea.

          Okay, so summing up, I would up your Vitamin D intake and think about eating some red meat. I would also triple-check that your moisturizer is “non-comedogenic.” If it were really up to me (which it’s obviously not!), I would quit the BP entirely, as well as the salicylic acid and the MSM scrub. The first two can damage and irritate the skin and prevent it from healing normally, and all three combined will strip your natural oils off and force your sebaceous glands to over-produce oil to compensate (compounding the acne risk). The OCM seems odd and unnecessary as long as you’re giving your body what it needs to heal itself (and nothing that causes acne).

          Your diet looks pretty stellar, on the whole. What’s in the oatmeal bar, by the way? (E.g. is it gluten free? Oats are commonly contaminated with gluten.)

          And what’s your age/gender/occupation, if you don’t mind sharing? (I’m assuming male, but you never know!)

          • German says

            Devin, I would so much rather take a supplement instead of consuming red meat (like Zinc?). I could avoid BP and salicylic acid and even MSM, but what other products can I include in my routine to cleanse my face and actually see it healing? I avoid gluten and wheat. I am pretty sure I consume wild salmon. I am a 25 year old male. I am a student. I go to the beach a lot. I’m sure I am under the sun at least 30 minutes a day. It’s summer, and my face and body are quite tan right now. I am very picky when it comes to a diet. I only consume organic vegetables, wild fish, I avoid GMO’s, and any kind of harming chemicals, my meals consist or pretty healthy and whole foods. I can stop the OCM. But yet again? What can I use to cleanse my face? I am sure my moisturizer is non-comedogenic. Can I just up my Viamin D intake by taking more pills and adding up close to 5,000-8,000 IU per day? Almond oil is in fact non-comedogenic as well.

          • Devin Mooers says

            Cleansing your face is not as important as common wisdom makes it out to be. Rinsing/washing with water is enough, in my experience. Why do you feel you need to cleanse it with something specific, if I might ask?

            If you’re in the sun 30 minutes a day, I can say with fair certainty that you don’t need to take Vitamin D, unless your skin is very dark.

            Might be worth taking some zinc. Deficiency in zinc can definitely be a contributor to acne. A good starting place would be 25-40mg of zinc per day, using either zinc picolinate or zinc monomethionine (well-absorbed, easier on the stomach than other forms).

            Are you sure you’re 100% gluten free? You mentioned eating oatmeal bars, so I’m wondering on this. A gluten-damaged gut lining can also be a huge contributor to acne, and can take up to 6 months of being strictly 100% gluten free to heal fully in highly sensitive individuals.

  21. Don says

    Hi Devin!

    I started to take vitamin D3 (5000iu) along with zinc, vitamin e and magnesium almost 3 weeks ago but I haven’t seen any change on my acne yet. I had few new ones as well…I dont eat dairy.What do you think how much time vitamin D needs to work? Am I too impatient?:) I’m also trying to be on sun as much as I can. I spent 7months in a very sunny country and I didn’t have acne, since I came back I have it again. Thats why I tought it might be the vitamin D deficiency. So all in all, what do you think, how much I have to wait for the results?:)

    Thanks very much,


    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Don, there are tons of things that can cause acne, most of them diet-related. Vitamin D deficiency is very important but definitely not the only cause. There are also other reasons why the sun exposure probably helped clear your skin — UV rays kill P. acnes bacteria, and sun exposure also causes your body to produce nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator / improves blood flow to the skin and facilitates healing / transport of waste products. So just taking Vitamin D doesn’t give you those benefits.

      You have the right to want results, and to want them fast! If you haven’t seen any changes in three weeks, chances are something else is causing it. I’d highly recommend checking out my book, which gives the whole run-down of what foods and lifestyle factors cause acne and how to address them: Clear Skin Forever.

      Hope this helps, Don!


  22. sean says

    Hey Devin I’m taking about 10,000 iu of vitamin d3 a day since yesterday, I usually take about 5000 iu however I thought it wouldn’t hurt to double since i don’t get a lot of sun exposure, is this good? And im taking them after breakfast and later in the afternoon also forgot to ask, are beans safe to eat? Or would they trigger my acne

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sean! Doubling your Vitamin D3 intake to 10,000 IU probably won’t cause any problems. Dr. Mercola recommends 8,000 on his website. I’m definitely not a doc, though, and don’t have any clinical experience to back that up. Might be worth searching “vitamin d toxicity” and seeing what the generally accepted upper limits are. I thought I remembered it being substantially higher than 10,000 but not sure.

      Beans are not the worst thing you can eat. They do, however, have enzyme inhibitors and phytates that impede mineral absorption from foods, not to mention the “magical fruit” effect. :D Totally up to you. Meat is nutritionally superior, but beans are not the worst thing at all.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Glad to help out, Jake! Thanks for stopping by the blog and let me know if I can help with anything.

  23. sean says

    I’m not sure if my last message went through so ill explain again, I’m not in a hurry to gain so time is no problem I just don’t want to significantally hurt my weight gaining, my buddy added 16lbs by eating chicken and veggies and fish everyday upwards of 5000 calories, he does heavy lifting as do I, and he takes supplements from the product intek

    He takes the protein, the BCAA, and the nitro supplements, are they ok to use?

    And a side note he is a trainer I’m a regular joe, and I haven’t seen acne on him, I apologize if I reposted this

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sean, no worries about the double post, I have it set up so comments don’t display until I approve them / reply to them. Might be wise to add a note about how comments won’t show up right away, don’t worry! Thank kind of thing.

      Man, if you can get down 5,000 calories and lift heavy, you will have no problem gaining. Eating tons of food and lifting heavy are the top two things you can do to gain mass, in my experience. The rest is just bonus. Problem is, the bonus often comes at a cost. It’s likely that your friend just isn’t sensitive to dairy and/or not acne-prone in general. Totally a genetic thing. Some people can pound down a gallon of milk a day and not get any acne. I wouldn’t try to model his behavior, though, since your genes are different, and it sounds like you’re probably more acne-prone / sensitive to foods.

      I’d skip the protein as it’s whey and casein (dairy) based. Just eat a solid meal with meat/protein + some carbs within 1-2 hours after lifting. BCAAs are probably fine. A pound of grass fed beef gets you quite a lot of BCAAs, though. Over 6 grams of leucine, which is really the main BCAA that actually stimulates muscle growth. Yes, there’s probably something to taking BCAAs right during/after your workout, but I’m just not sold on the supps thing, I’ve tried a fair amount of them and I just feel better eating meat and food and lifting heavy and leaving it at that. And it’s cheaper. Just takes focus off the lifting part and gives false gains, in my experience. Not sure about the L-arginine supp (the nitro one), don’t have any experience with those. I’m just 100% in the natural method right now, as that’s what feels best to me. Eat real foods and move around tons of iron and let the body do its thing. Isolated supplements just don’t seem to be a holistically considered idea.

      Eat, lift, eat, and you will gain! If you’re not gaining, just eat more. BTW, volume-wise, you can try something like 4×8 or 5×10 sets x reps at 50-75% of your 1RM, which will target sarcoplasmic muscle growth more intensely and get you more size, faster. Maybe you’re already hip to that, just thought I’d throw it out there. Doing lower reps, e.g. 3×5 sets x reps, is superior for power development and myofibrillar hypertrophy, i.e. you won’t gain as much size but per bodyweight you’ll get stronger (functional strength, increased sports performance, etc.). I’m on a blend of the two right now, as size is super important to me until I get to ~160lbs, and then will focus hardcore on lower-rep power development for sprint speed, 1-arm pullups, handstand pushups, 36″ vertical, that kind of thing. Interesting stuff to play around with.

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