This article looks at the benefits of vitamin D for acne. Does sun exposure and getting a tan improve acne? Or is it actually vitamin D that is key factor to getting rid of spots?
When I was growing up and suffering from acne, May and June would often bring comments from friends and family such as “now the summer’s here your spots will clear up” and “all your skin needs is a good summer holiday!” but can all that extra sunlight really cure acne?
Sun, sea + vitamin d for acne
Many of us believe that getting out in the sun and getting a “healthy tan” (I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but NO tan is actually a healthy tan) will do wonders for your acne and help heal your skin. But where does this theory come from? There’s no smoke without fire so there must be some truth behind it, right?
Tanning & sun sensitivity
Unfortunately, the truth is, it’s pretty much all just an illusion! You may think that your spots and hyper-pigmentation are fading due the sun, but in fact, what you are seeing is your complexion darkening around the pimples – making them less noticeable. The sun can also dry your skin out big time – which will improve your skin short term by drying up pimples and temporarily reducing oil production, but this will only be a short term effect – sun exposure actually just aggravates one of the root cause of your skin problems – excess oil production! Once your skin realises it’s drier than normal it will just produce a whole tonne of extra sebum which will more than likely give you further breakouts PLUS all that sun exposure can also cause hyper-pigmentation and darkening of already existing acne scars – meaning that when your tan fades, you could be left with darker marks that will take longer to heal and fade.
To make matters worse for you and your acne, if you’re using chemical based acne treatments that contain ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, then they can increase the chances of sun sensitivity, making your skin more vulnerable to long-term UV-related ageing and damage. If you want to protect your skin from future sun damage, it’s important you slap on that natural sun protection (view my acne safe sun lotion recommendations here) and avoid baking your face under the sun to hours. While it might seem like a good idea and a quick fix to your skin problems – it will actually just cause further irritation and damage to your already delicate skin in the long term.
Stress management for acne
We are told time and time again that stress = acne! Stress is said to be a major factor in acne cases in a number of different ways. At it’s most basic level, it leads to hormone imbalances which causes an excess of sebum production. This sticky sebum can block up our pores which leads to inflammation which will end up developing into the king of all breakouts! Stress can also cause us to indulge in high sugar, processed foods (read my post on sugar and acne here), disrupted sleep patterns and bad behavioural habits such as touching your face or picking any existing spots.
So how does this relate to the sun?
Well let me ask you this, when was the last time you really really enjoyed some quality time in the sunshine? Was it on holiday? By the pool on a rare day off or a lazy weekend by the beach? I’m sure when you were enjoying that warmth on your skin that there was little room for stress and worries – even if you’re a total worrywart like myself! This makes it easy to attribute our clearer skin to the sun but it’s actually more likely to do with our calmer nervous system and relaxed state of mind.
Vitamin d for acne
We’re spending so more of our time indoors, working long hours behind desks and thanks to our typical British weather – we barely even see the sun for 3 months of the year – let alone have the time to enjoy it! All this, combined with the increasing concerns over sun damage and skin cancer, mean that we’re slathering the sun lotion on when do get those rare stolen moments in the sun (sun lotion usually blocks over 90% of vitamin D production!) so as a nation our vitamin D levels are quickly becoming depleted.
Acne and other skin disorders can be associated with vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin and plays a key role in healing and preventing acne by cooling inflammation, smoothing the skin, improving mood, boosting your immune system and helping to control insulin response, yet so many people just aren’t getting enough vitamin D each day!
Studies into vitamin D deficiency have shown that more than half the population of the UK are deficient in vitamin D with 16% suffering severe deficiency during the darker winter months so it’s really important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D all year round – not just during the summer months.
Increasing vitamin d for acne healing
Foods such as oily fish, eggs and vitamin D fortified foods such as cereals and milks do contain small levels of vitamin D, however considering most of us are deficient in vitamin D, it’s safe to say that diet alone isn’t enough! I like to supplement every day with Better You Vitamin D3 oral spray or Thorne Vitamin D/K2 drops – especially during the winter (I have some other vitamin D recommendations here). I take 3,000 IU in June-August and 5,000 IU during the rest of the year and the only days I don’t take vitamin D is if I’m on holiday, or spending the day on the beach! By using an oral spray you can ensure than you get a guaranteed level of absorption that a tablet or capsule cannot provide. Studies by Cardiff University have shown that when the oral vitamin D supplement is sprayed under the tongue or on the inside of the cheek, it is absorbed directly through the mucous membrane and into the blood system meaning that there’s little/no loss during the absorption process – unlike if you were to take a tablet or capsule where it would have to go through your digestive system first before being utilised by the body.
If you do decide to supplement your diet with vitamin D (which I highly recommend) then it’s also important to make sure you’re taking the right levels of co-factors such as vitamin K2 (which helps to transport vitamin D round the body), Magnesium and Zinc. Vitamin K2 can be found in high quality, fermented vegetables, ghee and grass-fed animals, Magnesium I take in supplement form but is also found in dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and beans and Zinc is found in red meat, sesame and pumpkin seeds but I also recommend supplementing with Zinc to heal acne.
The do’s and don’ts of vitamin D for acne
A lot of my clients often say they’re already taking vitamin D but when we take a closer look at the supplements they’re taking, they’re often only getting 50-100 IU a day as part of a generic multi vitamin which just isn’t enough to correct a deficiency or achieve optimum levels for clearer skin and balanced hormones. Below is a round of of the top tips you need to consider before taking a vitamin D supplement for acne:
- Take at least 3,000 IU of vitamin D a day – even during the summer
- Avoid taking vitamin D capsules or tablets, these are not absorbed as well as sprays and drops
- Do not take vitamin D2 – look for supplements contain D3 instead (D2 is not absorbed by the body very well)
- Ensure you eat a diet rich in vitamin D co-factors such as Magnesium, Zinc and vitamin K2
So while the sun can have some positive benefits on your skin – it’s vital to not go overboard with the tan – you’re acne is caused by deeper issues that need addressing and unfortunately once the tan fades, the spots will still be there. Stay safe and supplement responsibly and your skin will thank you for it in the long run!
Are you taking enough vitamin D for optimum skin benefits? Have you experienced the benefits of supplementing with vitamin D for acne?
Peace, Love & Clear Skin