Health Benefits of Vitamin D from the Sun or Supplements
Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D plays a HUGE role in skin protection and rejuvenation. In its active form as calcitriol, vitamin D contributes to maintaining a calcium balance in our bodies, improving skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism while also boosting our immune system and preventing free radical damage that can cause premature aging. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and the healthy development of bones and teeth. Not to mention, vitamin D supplements have also been found to improve conditions such as acne and psoriasis. So, what’s the secret behind all of the health benefits of vitamin D and how do you get your daily intake? We have all the must-know facts below.
Table of Contents
- Vitamin D calms inflammation, protects the skin barrier, and improves cell turnover
- Vitamin D deficiency weakens immune functions and the skin barrier
- You can get enough vitamin D with a well-balanced diet or supplements; just make sure not to consume more than 100mcg per day
"Is Vitamin D Good for Your Skin?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and one of the most critical vitamins for biological function (1). Our bodies produce vitamin D on their own through sun exposure. In fact, vitamin Dis the only nutrient that our bodies produce when exposed to sunlight (2). Our gut (via diet) and skin (via sunlight) are the two main sources of vitamin D, which is made in two forms—vitamin D3 in the skin and D2 and D3 in the gut. But as we know, too much sun exposure is a huge no-no, as it can damage the skin barrier and cause premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles, sun spots, and even an increased risk of skin cancer.
Even in the seasons when sun exposure is limited, like the winter, you should still be applying sunscreen and/or getting your daily intake of vitamin D through your diet and supplements. Supplements and diet are two of the most effective ways that you can see the health benefits of vitamin D. There are also beauty products and skincare products on the market that include vitamin D in their formula, such as some serums, oils, and moisturizers. Plus, applying vitamin D topically to the skin is also effective in maintaining good skin health and improving some skin conditions.
Vitamin D Dosage and Side Effects
The recommended daily value of vitamin D is 20mcg per day from foods, but if you don’t get enough sunlight, your intake should be closer to 25mcg per day. Keep in mind, though, that you should not be consuming more than the recommended amount of 100mcg of vitamin D per day. Make sure the other supplements you’re taking, such as a calcium supplement or prenatal vitamin, combined with your vitamin D intake aren't putting you over the recommended amount as well. Taking too much vitamin D can result in side effects such as vitamin D toxicity, a buildup of calcium in your blood called hypercalcemia that causes nausea and vomiting, and even kidney stones.
Vitamin D Foods
If you’re looking for some good sources of this amazing nutrient, check out these healthy foods that are packed with the health benefits of vitamin D.
- Egg yolks
- Canned tuna
- Sweet potato
- Red meat
- Fortified foods like milk, cereal, yogurt, and orange juice
Instead of getting the health benefits of vitamin D from your diet, you can also purchase supplements that will help you stay on top of your intake. Especially if you have a vitamin D deficiency, supplements come in handy. Here are some popular supplements that are also excellent sources of vitamin D.
- Cod liver oil
- Vitamin D3
Vitamin D for Skin
The main health benefits of vitamin D when it comes to the skin are calming inflammation, protecting the skin barrier, and improving cell turnover. While you can get your vitamin D from supplements and nutritious foods, those looking to fight inflammatory skin diseases can also benefit from prescription topicals (1). However, topical vitamin D cannot be combined with hydroxy acids, like glycolic or salicylic acid because the acidic pH deactivates vitamin D. On the plus side, vitamin D has antimicrobial properties. So, if the acne you are experiencing is being caused by bacterial overgrowth, using topical vitamin D products might calm your symptoms.
Since vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor immune function and increased inflammation, a deficiency can negatively impact the skin. This is because poor immune function weakens the skin barrier, which can, in turn, increase dryness and the chance of infections. Increased inflammation can exacerbate inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema, vitiligo, and rosacea. According to Byrdie, while we typically associate decreased insulin sensitivity with diabetes (if severe enough), dysregulation of this pathway can lead to irritated acne as well as glycosylated collagen which makes collagen stiff and causes us to age prematurely (1).
Avoiding Vitamin D Deficiency
While the health benefits of vitamin D are amazing, there is still up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun, and 40% of U.S. residents are deficient in vitamin D (2). This is mostly due to the fact that people mostly spend their time indoors, wear sunscreen outside, and eat a diet that is not sufficient in terms of providing vitamin D. There are unfortunately a lot of factors that can affect our ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through sun exposure. To know how to deal with vitamin D deficiency, it’s first important to know what is causing it. These factors can also include:
- Living in an area with high pollution
- Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
- Having higher levels of melanin in the skin
But how do you really know if you have a vitamin D deficiency? Of course, doctors can diagnose this deficiency by performing a blood test, but there are some symptoms to be aware of in order to look out for the signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin D. The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
- Aches and pains
- Severe bone or muscle pain or weakness
- Stress fractures in the legs, pelvis, and hips
Written by Selena Ponton