Vitamin D for Acne – You’re Probably Deficient + What to Do

Could taking vitamin D for acne be the key to a healthier complexion?

According to recent research, the vast majority of people with acne are deficient in vitamin D.

Are you one of these people?

Vitamin D from sunning at the beach can help acne.

Unfortunately, if you have moderate to severe acne – you probably are…

But, don’t worry too much. Low levels of vitamin D can be easily remedied, but you want to do it the right way for best results – and to avoid vitamin D toxicity.

How Does Vitamin D Help Acne?

  1. Reduces Inflammation –

    Non-inflammatory acne (think basic whiteheads) is the most common type of acne.

    What separates a simple whitehead from a painful cyst, pustule or papule is inflammation.

    A comparison of inflammatory vs non-inflammatory acne. Vitamin D helps treat inflammatory acne.

    Vitamin D helps treat inflammatory acne.

    This inflammation happens in response to acne bacteria inside the pimple.

    A cell culture study have shown that vitamin D helps protect skin cells from this bacteria-triggered inflammation.

    Another study found that vitamin D supplementation had no effect on non-inflammatory acne, but it did reduce the number of inflammatory lesions by 35%.

  2. Reduces Skin Oil Production –

    Research has shown that Vitamin D suppresses cell proliferation in the sebaceous glands (the glands that produce skin oil)

    These glands have vitamin D receptors, and when vitamin D binds to these receptors, it inhibits cell proliferation.

    This is great for acne treatment because it helps prevent the enlargement of sebaceous glands

    And enlarged sebaceous glands produce exponentially more sebum (skin oil) than normal glands.

    A meme of a man sweating excessively.

    So, vitamin D helps acne sufferers by reducing excess skin oil production.

    The researchers found that this effect increased when higher doses of vitamin D were given.

  3. Antioxidant Protection –

    Skin oil oxidation is believed by some skincare experts to be the initial trigger that leads to the formation of all pimples.

    In particular, oxidation of squalene (a component of skin oil) is to blame.

    A chart showing how sebum oxidation causes acne.


    Part of getting acne under control involves reducing oxidative stress in the body.

    Luckily, studies have shown that vitamin D has a powerful antioxidant effect on the body.

  4. Antimicrobial Effects –

    Research shows that vitamin D stimulates production of special antimicrobial compounds called cathelicidins.

    These compounds are capable of killing acne bacteria and may be important in preventing acne.

A Quick Recap

Getting plenty of vitamin D can significantly reduce inflammatory acne, and may also prevent enlarged sebaceous glands – which produce much more skin oil than normal glands.

It’s also important for reducing skin oil oxidation (a possible cause of acne), and for boosting levels of the skin’s natural antimicrobial compounds.

Studies Using Vitamin D for Acne Treatment Show Great Potential

Studies have shown that people with acne are much more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than people without acne.

In 2014, a Turkish study compared vitamin D levels between people with acne and people without acne. They found that over 95% of acne patients were deficient in vitamin D – while only 56.5% of the healthy patients were deficient.

…over 95% of acne patients were deficient in vitamin D…[and after taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D for two months] the number of inflammatory pimples (red, irritated pimples) dropped by 35%.

Keep in mind that vitamin D levels of 20 ng/ml are considered “adequate”.

The Turkish researchers found that the average vitamin D level of the participants with acne was only 11.2 ng/ml – barely half the “adequate” level.

The participants without acne had average D levels of 19.7 ng/ml.

In 2016, A Korean study found that almost 50% of acne sufferers were deficient in vitamin D, while only 22.5% of people without acne were deficient.

The researchers also found that acne severity is closely tied to vitamin D levels. The patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D had the most severe acne lesions.

A chart showing how vitamin D reduces acne severity.

They also tested whether or not taking a vitamin D supplement could reduce acne. Patients were given 1000 IU of vitamin D per day for two months.

This graph shows the results:

A chart shows how vitamin D reduces the number of acne lesions.

  • After two months the number of inflammatory pimples (red, irritated pimples) dropped by 35%.
  • The number of non-inflammatory pimples (whiteheads and blackheads) was unaffected.

Interestingly, the researchers believed that 1000 IU of vitamin D per day may not have been enough because, even after supplementing for two months, the patients still had less than adequate levels of vitamin D (below 20 ng/ml).

How Much Vitamin D Do I need for Acne?

The amount of vitamin D anyone needs is going to be based on a few things…

First of all, let’s look at the recommended blood levels of vitamin D.

The ideal blood level of vitamin D is 50 ng/ml (according to the Vitamin D Council), and you want to have at least 30 ng/ml.

I reproduced a chart from their site which compares the recommendations of a few different organizations:

 Vitamin D CouncilEndocrine SocietyFood and Nutrition BoardTesting Laboratories
Deficient0-30 ng/ml0-20 ng/ml0-11 ng/ml0-31 ng/ml
Insufficient31-39 ng/ml21-29 ng/ml12-20 ng/ml
Sufficient40-80 ng/ml30-100 ng/ml>20 ng/ml32/100 ng/ml
Toxic>150 ng/ml

You Might Want to Get Your Vitamin D Levels Tested

Vitamin D is fat soluble – which means extra vitamin D is stored in your cells and can build up to toxic levels if you take too much.

Therefore, it can be a good idea to get your blood level tested before taking a supplement.

25-hydroxy vitamin D test results and a tube of blood.

If you do decide to test yourself, I recommend you order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test online. No need for a referral, no hassle.

Then, just go to one of those independent labs you see all over the place (like LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics) to get the test done.

On the Other Hand – You Really Might Not Need To

Based on the studies we talked about earlier, If you have acne you have a 95% chance of being vitamin D deficient…

In this case, you really don’t need to worry about vitamin D toxicity or over-supplementing. Just start taking a good supplement or getting more sun.

Vitamin D From The Sun is Superior to Supplements

You may have heard of vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, but have you ever heard of Vitamin D3 Sulfate?

Vitamin D2 is produced by some plants (such as mushrooms) in response to UV radiation. It’s often added to fortified foods as a cheap way to boost their nutrient levels. Unfortunately, it isn’t absorbed or used very well by our bodies.

Vitamin D3 is a much more biologically active form of vitamin D found in humans and animals. This is the form of vitamin D that most supplements are made from.

A meme of a boy getting vitamin D from the sun.

Vitamin D3 sulfate is created when your skin is exposed to the sun. Once exposed to the sun, cholesterol on the skin becomes oxidized and transforms into vitamin D3 sulfate.

D3 Sulfate has a couple of big advantages over regular D3. First, it’s water soluble. Regular old D3 has to be encapsulated inside an LDL cholesterol molecule to be transported, but D3 sulfate can get around freely in our blood stream and bodies.

The other advantage comes from that extra sulfate – which provides numerous benefits of its own. If you want to read more about vitamin D3 sulfate check out this article.

The Best Vitamin D Supplements for Treating Acne

Now that we know vitamin D3 is superior to D2, be sure to look for a supplement made from cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and avoid ergocalciferol (vitamin D2).

A vitamin D3 supplement label.

Vitamin D supplements come in various dosages ranging from 1,000 IU to 10,000 IU. I would stay away from the 10,000 IU products because it’s just too much – and you run the risk of vitamin D toxicity.

If you have inflammatory acne (moderate to severe acne) you have a 95% chance of being deficient in vitamin D, so I’d suggest taking a pretty substantial dose to start with, say 5,000 IU.

Then after you finish your first bottle, see how you’re doing. You might want to consider getting a blood test done before continuing at a high dose.

On the other hand, if it’s winter, or you live in a cold climate with less sunlight – you might be perfectly fine continuing to take a high dose.

Here are two solid vitamin D supplements that would be great for anyone suffering from acne:

  1. NatureWise Vitamin D3 – The Best Value

    NatureWise Vitamin D3 is the top rated vitamin D on Amazon, and I can see why. It delivers a solid 5000 IU of vitamin D3 at a super low price.

    It’s gluten free, non-GMO and the only other ingredient is organic olive oil. No complaints there.

  2. SeekingHealth Vitamin D3 Liquid – Flexible Dosage

    SeekingHealth Liquid Vitamin D3 is another high quality vitamin D product with great reviews on Amazon. The reason I recommend it is because it gives you a lot more flexibility.

    For example, you can start off taking 2-3 drops (that would be 4,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D).

    Then, after your vitamin D blood levels get up to a healthy range, you can cut back to just 1 drop (2,000 IU).

So Who Should Try Using Vitamin D for Their Acne?

So what does all this mean for the average acne sufferer, and who is most likely to benefit from getting more vitamin D?

The research seems to be very clear…

People with inflammatory acne have the most to gain from getting more vitamin D.

If you only have mild acne, such as non-inflammatory whiteheads and blackheads, then vitamin D will probably not benefit you.

However, It will take more than just vitamin D to completely get rid of your acne.

Combine Vitamin D With Other Acne Treatments for Better Results

A single treatment alone will most likely not be enough to get rid of a bad case of acne…

That’s why I always suggest hitting acne hard from several different angles. Try taking other powerful acne-fighting vitamins such as vitamin A (the most important vitamin for healthy skin).

And don’t expect to clear up acne by only attacking it from the inside with supplements and diet…

Use a good topical to hit it from the skin’s surface as well. You can find tons of ways to get rid of acne in my article about The 61 Best Ways to Get Rid of Acne.

Hopefully, this article will help some of you with inflammatory acne get your condition under better control.

If you have any experience using vitamin D to treat your acne, please tell us about it in the comments! Good luck everyone!

Sophia Simmons

I'm not a doctor or anything like that :( , but I love writing about how to have beautiful, clear skin. I put a ton of time and research into everything I write, so I really hope you'll enjoy reading my articles!!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Chathuranga - September 15, 2018

Nice article about Vitamin D & Acne.
I have found following article on the internet about “Allergy And Asthma Care”.
Read more & surely you can get more knowledge about sessional allergy & asthma care

Joanne - July 22, 2019

How about taking fermented cod liver oil to get vitamin D? Would that supply enough to make a difference for moderate inflamed acne?


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