Vitamin D for Acne? Heres what it Can and Cant Do

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

So can a vitamin D deficiency cause acne?

An estimated 41.4 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D. A deficiency can be caused by:

  • Malnutrition. Not getting enough nutrients through your diet can lead to low levels.
  • Kidney issues. Your kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active form. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can mess with this process.
  • Tummy troubles. Certain digestive diseases — like cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease — can affect your ability to absorb vitamin D from food.
  • Darker skin. The pigment melanin reduces your skin’s ability to create vitamin D from sunlight.
  • Not enough fun in the sun. Your bod makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. So if you live where the sun don’t shine, you probably have low vitamin D levels.

We know vitamin D may play a major role in a healthy immune system. So theoretically, it would make sense that a poor immune system might affect your skin health.

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In practice, a small 2014 study found that low levels of vitamin D increased the severity of participants with nodulocystic acne. Symptoms improved when participants took oral D supplements.

But, we need way more evidence to prove the link between low vitamin D levels and acne.

Does vitamin D actually help acne?

Vitamin D might help you zap your zits if the acne was caused by bacteria. Vitamin D has antimicrobial properties that might calm symptoms. A 2016 study found that vitamin D supplements resulted in clearer skin after 8 weeks.

Also, keeping your D levels on fleek might help with acne inflammation. The hormone has anti-inflammatory properties that could reduce redness and swelling.

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But again, more research is needed to prove this 10/10. We also need more studies to show if a topical vitamin D cream or an ingestible supplement works better to ease acne.

How to use vitamin D for acne treatment

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is 15 micrograms (600 IU) a day for adults. But, the upper limit for supplementation is 100 micrograms (4,000 IU). Here’s how to hit your daily dose.


Sitting in the sun won’t fix your acne alone, but it can increase your vitamin D levels. Just keep in mind prolonged sun exposure increases your risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and premature signs of aging. So don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen even on cloudy days!


Fill your plate with nom-noms that have vitamin D. Good options include:

  • cheese
  • beef liver
  • mushrooms
  • fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel
  • fortified foods such as milk, fruit juice, or cereals


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If you have a hard time absorbing vitamin D through food, your doc might suggest a vitamin D supplement.

Just keep in mind the U.S. Food & Drug Administration doesn’t monitor supplements as closely as prescription meds. So be sure to do your research or stick to quality stuff recommended by your doctor.

Are there any risks when taking Vitamin D?

Taking too much Vitamin D typically isn’t a problem. Milder side effects include nausea, weakness, or vomiting. Unless you’re taking a crazy high dose for months, you shouldn’t have to worry about serious health complications.

Vitamin D toxicity can lead to buildup of calcium in the blood, which can result in hypercalcemia. This is super rare, but if left unchecked, hypercalcemia could cause kidney problems, soft issue calcification, and organ damage. Again, it’s unlikely this would happen if you’re taking the recommended vitamin D dosage.

Can other vitamins help acne?

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Vitamin D isn’t the only nutrient that might boast acne-busting action. One study found that folks with low levels of zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E had more acne symptoms than those with higher levels. Here’s the DL.

  • Zinc. A 2013 systematic review found that topical or oral forms of zinc can help treat acne. Zinc might also decrease excess oil levels on the skin.
  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A might prevent bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) from wrecking pimply havoc on your skin. Topical retinoid products like retinol (which are derived from vitamin A) can also help skin turnover and acne.
  • Vitamin E. A 2017 study found topical vitamin E reduced symptoms in adults with severe acne. But participants also received zinc and lactoferrin, so it’s hard to say if vitamin E alone did the trick.

PSA: More research is needed to show the effects of zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E as an acne treatment.

The takeaway

Vitamin D isn’t an acne cure-all. But there’s some research to support healthy levels might lead to clearer skin.

If acne is affecting your life, talk with a dermatologist. They can help you come up with some top-notch treatments for your unique skin-uation.

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