Since vitamin D reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system, studies suggest it may also be good for hair and skin health. Many brands add vitamin D to creams, lotions, and shampoo, along with other vitamins. Some people take vitamin D supplements, while others notice beneficial effects upon sun exposure. Read on to learn if the research backs them up.
Snapshot of Vitamin D for Skin & Hair
- Reduces inflammation (strong evidence)
- May improve eczema and psoriasis (limited evidence)
- May reduce hair loss (limited evidence)
- Early research suggests a role in wound healing (insufficient evidence)
The body naturally makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Getting regular, moderate sun exposure is a safe way to maintain normal vitamin D levels during the summer months.
Vitamin D is also found in certain foods, such as fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Additionally, many vitamin D supplements are available on the market.
Taken at the recommended doses, vitamin D supplements are considered safe. However, taking too much can be harmful. Vitamin D supplements may also interact with prescription medications. Remember to talk to your doctor before supplementing!
Does Vitamin D Improve Skin Problems?
Vitamin D Levels & Skin Disorders
A recent scientific review emphasized the role of vitamin D in skin health. In the review aimed at dermatologists, scientists claimed that maintaining normal vitamin D blood levels is important for people with the following skin problems :
- Polymorphous light eruption (skin rash triggered by sun exposure)
- Mycosis fungoides (skin lymphoma)
- Alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Melanoma (a type of skin cancer)
Despite this, additional large-scale studies need to determine the benefits of monitoring vitamin D levels in people with diverse skin disorders.
Might Help with Psoriasis
According to some studies, vitamin D levels are significantly lower in patients with psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disease [2, 3].
This vitamin may be important for psoriasis since it regulates the production of keratinocytes in the skin and immune cells. Scientists think that psoriasis starts off when overactive keratinocytes trigger an autoimmune response. Each time this reaction takes place, people with psoriasis are likely to experience flare-ups [4, 5, 6].
In one pilot study, a high daily vitamin D dose of 35,000 IU was safe and effective for psoriasis patients. However, this study only included 25 patients. High-quality, large-scale studies need to replicate these findings before we can draw any conclusions from them .
Creams and lotions with synthetic vitamin D analogues (calcipotriol and/or tacalcitol) are considered first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate psoriasis. These treatments are sometimes taken in combination with other systemic therapies in more severe cases of the disease [8, 9].
It’s important to remember that studies show that topical applications are beneficial but the data on oral supplementation is mixed [10, 11].
Might Improve Eczema
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) affects up to 20% of children and up to 3% of adults .
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with atopic dermatitis. However, data are lacking to say whether vitamin D deficiency can cause psoriasis or increase the risk of this disease .
Some scientists believe that vitamin D supplementation may improve disease symptoms and severity. It is also considered as a safe and tolerable therapy when used at the recommended doses [14, 15].
In cell-based studies, vitamin D increased the production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial deficient in atopic dermatitis. More studies are needed to explore its mechanism of action and efficacy [16, 17].
Effects on Acne
In people with acne, inflammation is a result of the immune response targeting bacteria in the skin: P. acnes. In one study, P. acnes activated Th17 cells, a response that vitamin D blocks. Vitamin D also reduced inflammation in studies on skin cells. Based on these mechanisms, scientists concluded that vitamin shows promise for fighting acne. Further studies are needed .
Role in Wound Healing
According to a cell-based study, vitamin D increases the activity of an antimicrobial skin protein called cathelicidin. This protein seems to balance immunity in the skin by promoting wound healing and tissue repair .
In one human study, cathelicidin expression was increased during the early stages of normal wound healing. Other studies suggest cathelicidin helps regenerate and strengthen the skin barrier, increasing so-called reepithelization .
However, more research is needed to determine if vitamin D affects wound healing, whether as oral supplements or creams and other topical formulations.
Can Vitamin D Boost Hair Strength?
Effects on Hair Loss
Studies show an important role of vitamin D receptor in hair loss .
Scientists believe that the function of the vitamin D receptor is essential for the maintenance of a normal hair cycle. Animal and cell-based studies show that defective vitamin D receptor function may lead to defective growth and loss of hair follicle [20, 21].
Additionally, limited studies have associated hair loss in both men and women with decreased blood levels of vitamin D. In some studies, lower blood levels were linked with more severe hair loss [22, 23, 24].
Based on this, some scientists advocate for screening patients with hair loss for vitamin D deficiencies. They think that these patients are likely to benefit from supplementation, which shows promise for helping regrow hair .
Though these findings give many people hope, it’s still too early to say whether vitamin D can help regrow hair in people who are deficient.
Normal blood levels of vitamin D help balance the skin’s immune response. Some researchers think that people with higher levels–like those who get a lot of natural sunlight and eat plenty of oily fish–are better protected against autoimmune and inflammatory skin disorders and hair loss. Studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is more common in people with eczema and psoriasis. Limited research suggests that people with skin disorders tend to be deficient in vitamin D and that they may benefit from supplementation. Studies are also currently looking at the effects of vitamin D on acne and wound healing. Nonetheless, hard evidence is lacking to support vitamin D supplementation in the majority of the cases. Topical creams may be beneficial in people with psoriasis when prescribed by a doctor.
- What is Vitamin D? Health Benefits & Dosage
- Can Vitamin D3 Help Prevent Infections?
- Vitamin D for Fitness, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health
- Can Vitamin D Help Protect Against Inflammation & Autoimmunity?
- Can Vitamin D Reduce the Likelihood of Cancer?
- Vitamin D Benefits for Brain Health & Sleep
- How Vitamin D Improves Bone & Kidney Health
- Is Vitamin D Safe for Fertility, Pregnancy & Breastfeeding?
- Vitamin D: Dosage, Sources, Deficiency, Toxicity