Why did taking Vitamin D3 pills give me a rash instead of clearing my skin?

Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before taking supplements or medications. All information below is for educational purposes only and not to be taken as medical advice.

Some people who attempt to use Vitamin D to cure their acne find that taking Vitamin D3 pills actually gives them rashes, skin problems and other negative reactions. There are potentially many reasons why this may have occurred, but one may be that you are allergic to the source of the vitamin.

Did you know that the source of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) found in supplements can come from sheep’s wool or fish oil? Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol), the less often recommended form of Vitamin D is a synthetic drug created with sugars and yeasts. (Source: Vitamin D Council) If you are allergic to any one of these sources, you may have found the cause of your reaction!

Oily sheep's wool covered in lanolin, the source of Vitamin D3 in many supplements (source: CC Flickr MissBossy)
Oily sheep’s wool covered in lanolin, the source of Vitamin D3 in many supplements (image: CC Flickr MissBossy)

So what do you do if you are allergic to wool or fish? How do you know the source of your vitamin D supplement? You may have to contact the vitamin company and ask, especially if you have an allergy. Often times when Vitamin D is labeled Cholecaliciferol (or Vitamin D3) it comes from sheep’s wool, unless it specifically says (from fish oil) in brackets. But again, it’s better to be safe and contact the company who produces the supplement, or talk to your doctor.

If you are allergic to wool or certain fish you should change your vitamin D source to one that you are not allergic to. Hopefully you are not allergic to both fish and wool, or your best source of Vitamin D may be the sun.

Sometimes vegans like to take Vitamin D2 (a synthetic drug and not a natural form of Vitamin D). This form of Vitamin D is not recommended as the best form of Vitamin D by the Vitamin D council.


Why Does Vitamin D deficiency Cause Oily Skin?

More and more people are finding Vitamin D deficiency to be the cause of their acne. For some of these people, Vitamin D supplementation has been found to reduce oiliness of their skin resulting in clear, acne-free skin.

But does Vitamin D deficiency cause oily skin? And if so, why?

From My Experience….

There is not much information available on Vitamin D and skin oiliness, so I can only hypothesize based on my own personal results and the limited information provided. Vitamin D has reduced the oil on my skin to a great extent and cured my acne. I believe it is because the oil that is over-produced in my skin when I am Vitamin D deficient is an oily cholesterol that contains Vitamin D precursors. You could call it “Vitamin D Making Oil”. These precursors contained within this oil need to react with the sun to produce Vitamin D which your body can use. I believe when you are deficient in Vitamin D, your skin overproduces this “Vitamin D Making Oil” in an attempt to produce more useable Vitamin D. It then clogs your pores and causes acne.

How Humans Produce Vitamin D

Humans get their Vitamin D from the sun by producing a cholesterol that sits in the very top layer of our skin, the epidermis. The cholesterol then reacts with UV radiation to produce Vitamin D which then gets absorbed into our circulatory system and used by our bodies. (Source: Vitamin D and Skin Health) Cholesterol is described as a fatty and waxy substance. Is it possible that this is the substance clogging the pores of acne-sufferers? To answer that question I’ve researched how animals produce their Vitamin D.

How Animals Produce Vitamin D

Sheep’s wool covered in a Vitamin-D-containing oil called lanolin (image: CC Flickr MissBossy)

Many furry/hairy mammals cannot actually absorb vitamin D through their skin and instead produce Vitamin D in an oil that sits on top of their skin and in their fur. Because their fur blocks the re-absorption of the oil into their skin, they must then ingest the Vitamin D through grooming. To produce vitamin D, sheep create a yellowish waxy substance called lanolin (also known as “wool wax” or “wool grease”). Lanolin contains high amounts of vitamin D and is used to create many Vitamin D supplements!

A bird with an exposed uropigial gland

Birds also secrete oil onto their feathers in order to produce Vitamin D, although how they go about this is still debated. One compelling theory is that the uropygial gland (an oil-containing gland, found on most birds and used for preening) contains cholesterol Vitamin D precursors (among other substances) that the birds spread onto their feathers in order to produce Vitamin D through contact with UV rays. This gland is also believed to provide an oily water-proof coating for aquatic birds. (Source: The Oil Glands of Birds).

Interestingly enough these glands can sometimes get clogged, crust up and become infected, much like pores can get clogged with oil to produce acne infections. If this happens to a domesticated bird, the gland can be declogged using a warm compress. Kind of sounds like acne doesn’t it? Google “clogged uropygial gland” and you will find that they look an awful lot like a pimple.

Is “Vitamin D Producing Oil” what’s clogging our pores?

The key words here are oil and skin. Scientists have long attributed acne to an over-production of oil. However an explanation for this oil overproduction has never been found. I believe the culprit to be “Vitamin D Making Oil” in our skin.

My hypothesis is that the over-production of this oily Vitamin D producing substance in Vitamin D deficient people causes the oily cholesterol to accumulate in the skin, clogging the pores and then causing acne.

(Image: Creative Commons, Chi Tranter)

The Basics of using Vitamin D for your acne and oily skin

Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before taking supplements or medications. All information below is for educational purposes only and not to be taken as medical advice.

Will Vitamin D cure my acne?
Maybe. Maybe not. Not all acne is caused by vitamin D deficiency but it’s definitely worth a try. Vitamin D is inexpensive and good for your health. There are currently only a few sources of medical literature supporting Vitamin D as a treatment for acne, but many individuals have reported Vitamin D to be a complete cure for their acne and oily skin.

How much Vitamin D should I take?
The Vitamin D Council (a nonprofit organization in California, United States, working to educate the public on vitamin D, sun exposure and health) recommends a daily dose of 5000 IU of Vitamin D3, with an upper daily limit of 10 000 IU. This is higher than what most doctors recommend, which can be a source of frustration for patients who are looking to use higher doses of vitamin D for health benefits. Patients may be told by their doctors that 5000IU of D3 per day is too much even when they are seeing therapeutic results from taking this amount. Vitamin D daily intake recommendations are constantly being debated with the Vitamin D council pushing for higher limits.

Can I overdose on Vitamin D?
Yes, you can overdose on Vitamin D by taking too many supplements. Your body has it’s own mechanism to limit vitamin D levels through sun exposure, but that mechanism is bypassed when you take supplements.

The following information about Vitamin D toxicity is taken from the Vitamin D Council website:

Possible symptoms of toxicity include:
feeling sick or being sick
poor appetite or loss of appetite
feeling very thirsty
passing urine often
constipation or diarrhea
abdominal pain
muscle weakness or pain
feeling confused
feeling tired

Very high levels of 25(OH)D can develop if you: Take more than 10,000 IU/day (but not equal to) everyday for 3 months or more. However, vitamin D toxicity is more likely to develop if you take 40,000 IU/day everyday for 3 months or more. Take more than 300,000 IU in a 24 hour period. For more information on Vitamin D toxicity, read the resource provided by the Vitamin D Council.

Other ways to prevent vitamin D overdose are to get your vitamin D source from than sun instead of from supplements, because your skin prevents you from overdosing on vitamin D from the sun. You can also get Vitamin D blood work done to make sure your levels are within safe limits.

What if Vitamin D3 is not curing my acne?
This could be for one these reasons:

  • Vitamin D deficiency is not the cause (or only cause) of your acne.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of your acne but you are not taking enough Vitamin D daily. (Be careful not to overdose)
  • Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of your acne but you have not taken it for a long enough period.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of your acne but you are not reacting well to the supplement. Your body may be having a negative reaction to the supplements or you may not be absorbing the vitamins if you have a digestive disease. If you are allergic to wool or fish, you may have a bad reaction to Vitamin D3 pills.
  • The supplements you are taking are expired or have lost their potency.

Should I take other supplements when taking Vitamin D3?
Yes, it is recommended that you take Vitamin K2 supplements while taking Vitamin D3. Together the Vitamin K2 works with the Vitamin D3 to move calcium into your bones. Without Vitamin K2, the Vitamin D3 may mobilize the calcium into your arteries where it gets deposited, instead of into your bones. This can cause serious health problems. For more information on Vitamin K2 and how much to take, the Mercola website is a good resource.