Food itself can’t always provide us with all the nutrition that we need, and that’s true when it comes to vitamin D levels. Vitamin D, often known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a nutrient produced when our skin is exposed to the sun’s UV rays. The vitamin is mainly known for its benefits surrounding bone health and development. But, because of vitamin D’s role in immune regulation and reducing inflammation, we can see full body benefits from optimal vitamin D levels, especially around skin health. So, let’s get into how vitamin D might help acne and what you can do to optimise your levels.
The Role of Vitamin D in Skin Health:
- Immune Support: Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system, enhancing its ability to fight off infections and promote skin healing.
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
- Wound Healing: Adequate vitamin D levels are essential for proper wound healing, assisting in tissue repair and regeneration.
- Regulate skin cell turnover: which can help to reduce the risk of developing blocked pores.
- Regulating sebocyte function and oil production within the skin, helping to reduce the risk of blocked pores as well.
So, can a vitamin D deficiency cause acne?
We don’t have enough evidence to suggest a direct link with vitamin D deficiency causing acne. But what has been found is that people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to have more severe forms of acne and more inflamed breakouts. Supplementation has been shown to help optimise vitamin D levels while reducing the severity of breakouts in these individuals. Lower vitamin D levels are also more common in people with acne than those with clear skin – suggesting a link.
But before you try supplementing – let’s talk about what causes a vitamin D deficiency and what to do about it.
Testing for a Vitamin D Deficiency:
Although the general suggestion with vitamin D is to supplement because everyone in the UK is deficient, the only way to know if you are low (and also how low your levels are), is through doing a blood test.
Vitamin D levels are something that I always test in my clinic, because if it’s low, its a really ‘easy win’ when it comes to clearing acne if we correct it through supplements. The following ranges are commonly used to assess vitamin D status:
- Severe deficiency: Less than 25 nmol/L (10 ng/mL)
- Insufficient: 25-50 nmol/L (10-20 ng/mL)
- Sufficient: Above 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL)
- Optimal: 80-120 nmol/L (30-50 ng/mL) – The ideal range for most people and what I aim to get my clients to.
Knowing your vitamin D level allows us to get the perfect dosage for the supplement you may need. While the NHS recommends a vitamin D dosage of 400iu daily for adults, this is a drop in the ocean for a person whose vitamin D level is at 20nmol/L – they’d need a much higher dose to see any benefit. Whereas someone with a level of 100nmol, 400-1000iu would be perfect for them daily.
Why your vitamin D is low
Some things I’m often told when vitamin D is mentioned are: ‘My vitamin D levels will be fine; I spend a lot of time outside’, or ‘I just got back off holiday, so my vitamin D should be good’. And I’m here to tell you that it’s very rare to see an optimal vitamin D level through diet & lifestyle alone – remember, we’re aiming for So let’s talk about what can contribute to low vitamin D levels:
- Lack of sunlight exposure: People who don’t spend much time outside, or live in areas with limited sunlight (especially during winter) are at a higher risk of a deficiency. If you live in the UK, you can only get vitamin D from the sun between end of March to September.
- Diet: Although some foods contain vitamin D, it’s in tiny amounts, making it challenging to obtain anywhere near enough vitamin D through diet alone.
- Skin pigmentation: Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour, can reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight. Individuals with darker skin may require more sunlight exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
- Genetics: Some people actually aren’t that good at producing vitamin D (they have a VDR SNP). This means that even if they did spend a lot of time outside, they still struggle to get enough vitamin D naturally.
- Intestinal absorption issues: Certain conditions, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, can hinder the absorption of vitamin D from the diet.
You’ve had your levels tested; they’re low – now what?
Safe Sun Exposure
Spending time in the sun is the most natural way to boost vitamin D levels, but there’s a fine line between safe amounts of sun exposure and increasing your risk of skin cancer. Getting sun exposure in the morning (around 10am-11am) and after 2pm can be a safer way to reduce the risk of burning. You want to aim for 15-20 minutes of sun exposure on your face, arms, and legs.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin D
Fatty Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and cod liver oil will provide small amounts of vitamin D. As well mushrooms will provide us a little vitamin D too, and if you leave your mushrooms out in the sun, they actually make a bit more!
Vitamin D Supplements
In my clinic, we use anything from 1000iu – 10,000iu daily (depending on the results). Getting the dosage recommended by a doctor or nutritionist is important, as excessive vitamin D intake can lead to toxicity.
To recap: Can vitamin D supplements help with acne?
Vitamin D is a very important nutrient that can help your skin heal. But vitamin D will have the most benefit in reducing skin inflammation and the severity of acne if you have low levels of vitamin D. If someone has acne, and their vitamin D levels are optimal – taking more vitamin D will not solve the problem.
So although vitamin D is essential to achieving radiant and healthy skin, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Taking vitamin D alone probably won’t clear your acne. But, by embracing a holistic approach to skin, we can optimise vitamin D alongside correcting other underlying factors of acne.
Regular vitamin D testing, safe sun exposure, dietary sources, and supplements, when necessary, can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels. Remember, consulting a healthcare professional is essential for personalised guidance to ensure a safe dosage to optimise vitamin D levels. Looking to get your vitamin D levels checked? Book a call and we can check what supplements will be best for you based on your blood test results.