Vitamin D and Skin
By Allison Tannis
Ah, the sunshine vitamin. Credited for keeping depression and bone fractures at bay, we can all agree that we could use more vitamin D in our bodies, especially now when never-ending snow falls and chilling temperatures has us wrapped-up in scarves, toques and parkas breaking our backs shovelling snow in our driveways. Being bundled up from toque-to-toe keeps us warm in cold weather, but it also reduces our skin’s exposure to sunlight. Truth is, without sunlight exposure skin can’t produce vitamin D. And since we’re a skin-conscious bunch here at The Skiny, you ought to know that vitamin D plays a role in skin cell regeneration.
According to nutritionist Susan Kleiner, PHD, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN, a respected dietitian across North America, “I think [vitamin D’s] role in skin health has been under-discussed.” So let’s discuss!
D-Deficiency and Dull Skin
Let’s begin shedding some light on how your skin makes new skin cells. The outermost layer of your skin is actually made up of dead cells. Beneath these dead skin cells is a layer of actively reproducing cells. As more new cells are produced on this bottom layer, the older dull looking cells are forced to move up and away. Newer cells look more radiant so you want your skin efficiently making new cells. Vitamin D plays a role in the creation of these new skin cells – a process called differentiation. Without enough vitamin D the skin struggles to make new skin cells and your skin could look dull.
Eat It Up
Now more than ever there are lots of ways to get vitamin D into your day even when the wind-chill reaches double digits and only the tip of your nose has the chance of getting a suntan. From milk to chocolate to fish oil, vitamin D is being added to supplements and foods across the market. The type of vitamin D used to fortify foods is called vitamin D2. It’s different than the vitamin D3 that is made in your skin when it is exposed to light, but vitamin D2 is still very effective. If you’re looking to enhancement your diet with vitamin D3 you can find it in supplements. Either way, studies have found that getting supplemental vitamin D into your body can have healthy benefits. To date, research shows that vitamin D supplementation may promote health not just of the skin but also of bones, teeth and the immune system; and may even prevent cancer.
Vitamin D for Chronic Hive Relief
Exciting news from researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre was reported last month: supplementing with vitamin D3 reduced the severity of chronic hives – a condition with few treatment options. The study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology investigated the effect of over-the-counter vitamin D3 supplements (600 IUs or 4000 IUs) in combination with a triple-drug combination (cetirizine, ranitidine, and montelukast) for 12 weeks. They found those taking 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 experienced a 40% greater decrease in their severity of hives than those taking 600 IUs.
Topical Vitamin D for Psoriasis
If you suffer from psoriasis then you have something in common in Kim Kardashian. This chronic skin condition causes skin cells to grow quickly, resulting in inflamed red or white patches of skin. Getting relief from the itchiness might be as easy as lathering on a vitamin D cream or ointment, as it has been shown to help slow down the growth of skin cells. When a researcher from the Baylor University Medical Center reviewed the science to date, he concluded that topical application of vitamin D is an effective way to improve symptoms of psoriasis. However our resident dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett says that while topical vitamin D derivatives have shown to be beneficial, it isn’t a one size-fits-all approach because “there are many forms of psoriasis.” Dr. Kellett encourages people with psoriasis to get a proper health examination with a board-certified dermatologist who can create a customized treatment and management plan, which may or may not include topical vitamin D.
Getting Enough D
Scientists have found links between vitamin D deficiency and a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends Canadians take in 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day. During the spring and summer, that can be accomplished through normal daily exposure to the sun. Think just a few minutes of exposing your skin to natural sunlight each day, or follow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommendation of Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly. The NIH say that is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D. Yet, as we’re bundling up in the cold dark days of winter supplementation may be necessary. Dr. Kleiner recommends 1000-2000 IU per day ”but, it’s best to have blood tests, which is what I do with clients.” Of note, according to Health Canada, 4000 IUs of vitamin D is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level per day for adults. Before using high dosages of vitamin D be sure to consult a health care professional.
About the Expert Allison Tannis, BSc MSc RHN is a nutritional scientist and registered holistic nutritionist based in Halifax, NS. She wrote Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles.
Segaert S and M Ropke. The biological rationale for use of vitamin D analogs in combination with corticosteroids for the topical treatment of plaque psoriasis. J Drugs Dermatol 2013 Aug;12(2):e129-37.