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

Note: The product links in the rest of this post are affiliate links, which means we receive compensation if you make purchases using these links. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.

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.

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

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

Sources (click to expand)


  1. Emma says

    Hi i’m in france and here the Dr gives out very high doses of Vitamin D 100 000 U.I. Cholecalciferol D3 to be taken only once for a 6 mth period. I asked for smaller daily doses and she refused. Is this an ok way to take vitamin D? I’vé been following and anti-inflammatory diet for about 6 weeks now and the results are amazing – rosy not inflamed cheeks, shinny hair and soaring energy levels!!! Eating lots of leafy green, lots of lacto fermented, and lots of green tea. The ocasional coffee, no dairy or gluten and only grass fed meat from a local farm. The whole things is so simple. I walk I the forest daily but we are now entering a six week period where the sun doesn’t reach us, so I’m a little worrired about vitamin D. Thank for any suggestions.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Emma! So glad to hear you’re having such great results from your diet 🙂

      The body can store up vitamin D for later use (as it can for other fat-soluble vitamins), so taking larger, infrequent doses is commonly prescribed by doctors. I think it’s probably safe to follow your doc’s recommendations (especially if she’s basing it on blood test results), but you can also DIY with a daily capsule per our suggestions – your choice!

  2. Elizabeth says

    Hey, I’m 15 and really breaking out for the first time. I am getting bumps, whiteheads, and pimples (and dark sports as a result of this) all on both of my cheeks. I am also breaking out terribly all on my chin. My chin has bumps, whiteheads, pimples, and dark,dark spots from previous pimples and white heads. And I am getting occasional hard bumps on my forehead. Before, I have never ever had breaks out my cheek and rarely on my forehead. I did used to get pimples around my mouth area or on my chin however, now my chin and around my mouth is the worst I have ever had, (hard bumps etc.). I’m not sure what is happening to my skin. I mean I can probably guess that one reason is stress because I am taking a AP class, and it is very stressful. I also only get about 6 to 5 hours of sleep every night. But, I cannot change my classes and school load because it is school. I’ve been looking at videos of how people became vegan and cleared their acne and some people are going vegan and taking vitamin supplements. I’m just confused and stressed out over school and on top of that now my skin is breaking out. Any advice? I have began trying to cut out diary, wheat, sugar (don’t really eat sugar anyways), and eat less meat. I do eat healthy, like vegetables and fruit (I enjoy my veggies and fruits). I am just so confused on what to do because this has never happened to me before.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Elizabeth! I hear your frustration – your breakouts are getting worse, and you know the stress you’re under (and the lack of quality sleep) is probably contributing to the condition of your skin. I know it’s hard to make time for yourself (and a full night’s sleep) when you’ve got a full course load.

      Your diet is something you can change though, you’re right, and that can make a huge difference! You’re on the right track with cutting out dairy, wheat, and sugar. Meat, I disagree with – many people who go vegan see positive health outcomes because they’re suddenly eating more vegetables, and avoiding dairy and processed foods, not because of the meat. High quality meat is an important part of a skin-clearing diet. I would encourage you to continue with what you’re doing (and do whatever you can to sleep more; that’s really important).

      For the full diet-and-lifestyle-acne-clearing program, check out our book, titled Clear Skin Forever (like our blog). It comes with forum support (so Devin and I and other readers can help you along the way) and our Food Explorer app, so you always know what foods are good or bad for your skin, and why. If you don’t like it, you can return it for a full refund!

      I hope that gives you some ideas – and best wishes to you!

  3. Mimi says

    What about if your vegan? Is there another form of vitamin D that you can take besides D3? I heard vitamin D3 comes from animals? I’m not sure thank you in advance.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Mimi, good question. Most D3 is derived from lanolin, a substance gleaned from sheep’s wool (which is vegetarian but not vegan). The best (and cheapest) one I was able to find on Amazon is this one – it’s vegan, and contains no veg oils or other problematic ingredients.

  4. diana says

    Im 21 and i started to breakout on the right side of my face. I have no clue what it can be from or why its happening but im so self conscious about it. It can be from anything so i have no clue what to do about it. Do you like vitamin D will help? Its not crazy acne but its a few pimples on the side of my face that wont go away. Ive tried so many creams. I work at a mall so im not exposed to Vitamin D a lot but i do go to school and im in the sun sometimes. I really want to help my face get back to how it was.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Diana! That sounds really frustrating – suddenly getting acne, and not knowing why. If you’re inside most of the day and not getting much sun exposure, then there’s a good chance that vitamin D will help! However, acne is a complex issue, so adding this one supplement may not be enough. If you haven’t checked out the other articles on our blog already (especially the one on dairy, and also the one on vitamin A / fermented cod liver oil), then I would suggest starting there, since all the things you put in your body make a difference!

      Hope this works for you 🙂

    • Jone says

      Try washing your pillow case, if you sleep on the rights side of your face your putting your gona put the oils into your skin which can cause some minor break outs

  5. Meg says

    Also, I got my Vitamin D3 checked and I was at 7.8. I know that is like deficient and all this while i was finding reasons of me breaking out. I gym regularly, I eat healthy, no junk, my cycles are normal. Recently I went to a doctor for my neck pain that was bothering me, he suggested vitamin d3 test and I was so deficient.

    He has prescribed D-rise cholecalciferol (60,000 IU) weekly for 15 weeks+ Shelcal HD daily( Calcium 500 mg + D3 500 IU).

    I hope to see positive results on my acne.

  6. Meg says

    A basic question, what is the best way to take natural sun. Most of the time we are clothed for office , Would standing in sun be sufficient by being partially clothed?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Meg, good question! You don’t have to be in a bikini, but it’s good to expose as much of your skin as possible, like maybe your entire arms and some of your legs. That can be hard if you’re wearing pants – skirts and shorts are much more amenable to getting sun exposure!

  7. Ben says

    Wow i’ve been trying to find ways to get rid of some redness from acne/pimples (i cant tell the difference 🙁 ) And searching for a tons of articles and finally coming across this websites with such good reviews! shall start trying on Vitamin D! Thanks alot Sonia and devin for taking time to writing this article!

  8. Keith says

    I have had acne on and off since I was a teenager im now 62. I tried many remedies.
    I recently gave up dairy milk . Hey, thats the problem ,my skin cleared in a week .
    No more dairy products for me , with a touch of vitamin D to be sure.
    Cheers and people take note this really works.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Jacob! Just checked out the ingredients on those drops – and they contain corn oil, which is not a great thing to consume if you’ve got acne (…or at all). Of course, if you’re taking mere drops of the stuff, which are at most half corn oil, it might not be a huge problem… that’s your call!

      You can supplement with 1000 IU of D, that’s fine. We recommend a higher dose because many people are deficient, and it’s safe especially when you’re also taking fermented cod liver oil or eating liver regularly (for the vitamin A), but the best way to know is to get your vitamin D levels checked and then supplement accordingly.

  9. Jacy Johnson says

    Hi, I forgot a couple things in my previous comment. I have 2000IU pills, so how many of those should I take a day? And can you take too much vitamin D3 and have that make your acne worse, or is it the more you take the better your acne will be? Thanks again!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Try taking 2 – that’ll give you 4000 IU per day. I’ve never heard of too much D causing acne – but too much D can cause these symptoms:

      The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting. Weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems also may occur.

      So if you start experiencing any of that, stop taking the D. However, you usually have to be supplementing like 50,000 IU per day for a period of months before you get into this territory!

  10. Jacy Johnson says

    Hi! I’m a 14 year old girl, so is taking 5,000IU too much for me? I’m hoping to get rid of my acne and blackheads, but I don’t want to have to take 5-1000IU pills a day. Will 2-1000IU pills be enough to get rid of my acne? Thanks so much!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Jacy, really the best thing is to get your D levels tested and then supplement according to your results. But that’s kinda expensive, and most people are deficient, so supplementing up to 5000 IU per day is what we recommend. At 14 you’re basically adult-size, so it should be fine for you, but if you’re unsure, check with your doc/naturopath. You can low-ball that as much as you want, or maybe take 2-3000 IU per day in addition to trying to get some sunshine every day. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how much D will or won’t get rid of your acne, since everyone’s different, and so much more plays into acne than just vitamin D – but I’d start supplementing at a level you feel comfortable at and see what happens!

  11. Alaynah says

    I recently bought D3 1000 IU, and I read above that i need to take 5000 IU for relief of acne. So is it ok to take 5 – 1000 IU, or should I get the 5000 IU so i just take one pill?

  12. Minnie Mouse says

    I’m taking the FCLO, Vitamin D3 5000iu a day and a probiotic.
    I have just ordered vitamin k2. Is the K2 necessary?

    And also, are white potatoes and white rice okay to eat? I’ve been using a
    rice vinegar on top.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Minnie – whether or not the K2 is necessary depends on whether you’re getting enough K2 in your diet. Foods like egg yolks, livers, leafy greens, and fermented vegetables are great sources of K2, though even if you’re eating lots of these foods, it probably wouldn’t hurt to supplement around 100mcg per day (MK-7 recommended). White potatoes and rice are good sources of starch – rice vinegar is great for blunting the blood sugar spike, and eating it with other foods (fats, veggies) is good for that too.

  13. Jonathan says

    Hello! Question! Hope it’s a good one…most people are vitamin d defficient but don’t have problem with acne, why is that? Also I took 500mg magnesium for 5 days then ended up breaking out a lot!any reason for that? Just started taking 5, 1,000ui vitamin d pills today! Will let you know how it goes! Thanks!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Jonathan! That’s a common question, which we have a chapter on in our book. You see this kind of thing everywhere – you are a pretty healthy eater and have acne, but your friend who eats pizza and fast food every day is pimple-free. The short-ish answer is that a lot of factors play into the overall acne picture, some of which we can control (like diet, and our lifestyle choices), and some of which we can’t, including our genetic predispositions. The fact is that some of us are just genetically more prone to acne, so something as simple as not enough D can push us over the edge into getting breakouts, while others are less prone to it, so that they might need to have multiple vitamin deficiencies, poor diet, and significant other stressors for it to show on their skin. None of that is to say that anyone is genetically fated to have acne!! In reality, most acne-suffers are not merely deficient in D – there are other diet and lifestyle factors that need changing as well.

      As for why magnesium would break you out – I don’t know! What kind/amount were you taking?

  14. jean says

    i tried to use retinol 50,000 iu per week as recommended by my dermatologist. At first i’d suffered severe breakouts for 2 months that made my face worst but still not given up ‘coz my derma told me it was just normal. Luckily, i made a decision to have my labs check and binggo i’ve found out that my vitamin d is only 14.. Since i’m working in a hospital in ksa, obviously i’m not exposed in the sun coz we’re not allowed to go out. To make my story short, after 2 days of taking vitamin 2,800iu per day i didn’t have new bumps on my face that usually i got when i took vitamin A. After a month of taking my sunshine vitamin, i only got acne scars which is my problem now but no more breakouts!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Woohoo, Jean! Way to go! Sounds like a HUGE discovery. Thanks for sharing! Keep getting those levels tested and make sure they don’t go too high. 🙂

      • jean says

        definitely! and i think we should understand what our body is telling to us. We should not just intervene the signs and symptoms but rather the actual problem what our body has. I have an appointment next weeks to check my chemistry and hormones after 2 mos.of vitamin d. Lucky me, everything here is free!
        ciao 🙂

      • Sonia Carlson says

        I would just add a warning that from what I can tell, that product is not “natural” in any sense – I had difficulty finding the ingredients for Mederma PM, but other Mederma scar products contain endocrine disruptors like PEG and other potentially harmful chemical ingredients. Check out our post on aloe for a natural alternative!

      • jean says

        Bad thing, we don’t have mederma here in saudi. But i’ll try the ayurverdic way, thanks sonia carlson for the aloe vera info. I’ll keep you posted with the improvement guys.merci.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Maya! You’re right that FCLO is a great source of vitamin D, but I believe it’s D2 and not actually D3. I’ve read some reports of people not being able to maintain D3 levels on FCLO alone. They had to additionally supplement D3. Definitely worth getting your D levels checked just to be sure!

  15. elaine says

    got my bloods done and came back that I’m low in vitamin D my doctor give me desunin 800 iu Tablets Is This strong enough for me I have aches all over for past while and very tired what all could I be taken to boost me up
    yours faithfully Elaine x

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Elaine! Hmm… what were your D levels, if you feel comfortable sharing? Chris Kresser recommends 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of bodyweight per day, until you get your levels up the ~35 range. Just keep getting your levels tested to make sure you don’t overshoot that. For general aches / etc., are you eating any gluten/wheat? How about sugar? Those things often can trigger systemic inflammation and body/joint aches.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Craig! It’s possible, though that’s not something that most people experience, I think. What brand are you taking? Alternatively, could it be something else – have you done anything different with your diet lately, or had any major life events or stressors that may be impacting you?

      • Craig Jones says

        Hey guys, thank you for the reply! The brand I’m taking is Solgar. nope nothing else has changed, this is actually the second time I.have tried these Solgar ones and both times I’ve broken out! You could be right with the yeast, I was on antibiotics for about a year and a half!

        • Sonia Carlson says

          Hm, it sounds like you’ve got some good evidence that it’s the D supplement that’s triggering breakouts. In these cases it’s hard to know if it’s a die-off reaction like Devin suggested or if it’s just breaking you out, but I would suspect the former before abandoning the D supplement altogether. (Alternatively, you could try another brand to see if that could be the issue.) If after a week or two of taking the supplement daily you’re still breaking out more than before, then I’m not sure you could chalk it up to a Herx reaction… in which case it might just be that brand, or something else!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Craig, I’m not really sure how D3 would cause an initial breakout, unless you were getting a Herx reaction if the extra D3 was revving up your immune system to its ideal level, allowing it to fight off some kind of systemic yeast/bacterial infection. It’s definitely possible, though also possible it was a coincidence from something else, like something you ate (dairy, veg oil, gluten, sugar, etc.).

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