For BEAUTY, optimal intake of vitamin D3 enhances skin tone, protects against premature aging, and discourages acne and discoloration. It is indispensable to the health, longevity, and youthful appearance of the body’s largest organ: the skin. While it is traditionally used to treat psoriasis and related conditions, vitamin D3’s anti-inflammatory benefits also extend to healthy skin. Research indicates that it helps prevent wrinkles and skin sagging, due to its powerful anti-aging properties. For hair, vitamin D3 promotes stronger, thicker locks, and ample new growth.
How does Vitamin D3 impact beauty?
For beautiful skin and hair, vitamin D3 has several positive actions:
- It mobilizes the natural immune protective mechanisms of the skin, reducing the risk of skin infections and rosacea.
- Acne is minimized by sufficient vitamin D3 levels in the skin.
- Vitamin D3 plays a critical role in skin cell development and repair, such as healing from pimples or abrasions.
- It destroys free radicals that can cause premature aging.
- Vitamin D3 also stimulates collagen production which improves elasticity and lessens fine lines and wrinkles.
- It reduces pigment discoloration and the appearance of dark spots and redness.
- Ample tissue levels of vitamin D3 enhance the radiance of skin, eyes, and hair, as D3 leads to better fat and oil balance in tissues, improved hydration, and more youthful tone.
What is Vitamin D3?
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D3 is technically a hormone, defined as a substance made by a gland or organ in the body that travels in the blood to regulate its target tissues. Vitamin D may be one of the oldest hormones that exists on earth. Vitamin D was long recognized for its role in bone health since it was discovered as the cure for rickets in the early 1900s. Technological advances have illuminated the importance of vitamin D3 for our integumentary system–our external covering including nails, skin and hair–as well as for endocrine and hormone functions which drastically affect that system. Thus, its biological significance has grown exponentially.
“If we do not take supplemental vitamin D3, however, most of us have very low levels in our bodies because of insufficient ultraviolet exposure or intake in foods.”
Dr. Rachelle Herdman, Custom Health Guide
How do we get Vitamin D3?
Although sunlight absorbed through the skin triggers vitamin D synthesis, in many climates, there simply is not enough ultraviolet light for this action because of the sun’s angle. In northerly U.S. and Canada in areas like Washington, British Columbia, New England; and in northern Europe, Scandinavia, and southern New Zealand, the sun is weak and people make no vitamin D3 through their skin during the fall, winter and spring, and barely any even in mid-summer. In addition, as we age, the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases up to 75% percent from the age of 20 to 70.
In sunny climates such as southern California, northern Australia, Hawaii or Mexico, after just 15 minutes of direct sun exposure, the skin can make as much as 10,000 IU of vitamin D, sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin.” However, strong sun poses risks for oxidative injury to tissues. This could result in sun damage, dryness, wrinkles and fine lines, loss of skin tone and sagging, and increased risk of skin cancers, including squamous, basal cell, or melanoma. Sunscreen that blocks UVB is highly recommended, but it also inhibits vitamin D3 formation in the skin.
Only minimal amounts of vitamin D3 are naturally found in very few foods, such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel and trout, or mushrooms. And so, it is nearly impossible to receive enough of this important fat-soluble nutrient from our diets. Because vitamin D3 is transported in fats, the absorption of vitamin D is greatly enhanced in the presence of an oil base or fatty carrier.
Vitamin D deficiency is thus very prevalent because of sunscreen use, weak sunlight, and scanty dietary sources. D3 deficiency may affect half of the North American population, as research increasingly reveals. In a 2011 estimate by the Centers for Disease Control, at least 25% of Americans were at risk for vitamin D inadequacy, with 8% probably suffering overt vitamin D deficiency. This may underlie many chronic degenerative disorders, and accurate supplementation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce common and life-threatening infections and diseases.
“Hence, most people need to supplement with sufficient vitamin D3 to achieve healthy blood levels. Very importantly, there is no standard vitamin D3 dose: Each of us has an individual requirement that depends on our absorption and how fast our body clears vitamin D.”
Dr. Rachelle Herdman, Custom Health Guide
How much Vitamin D3 do we need for beauty?
Each person’s required daily dose is the amount that is needed to reach the standard target blood level after 4 to 6 weeks. The optimal range is 60 to 100 ng/mL, although recent research indicates that a blood range of 70 to 85 ng/mL may be ideal. We generally need to continue supplementation all year, as even in temperate climates blood levels may only increase by 5 ng/mL during the summer, and sunscreen prevents vitamin D3 formation in the skin. For our patients, a blood level between 60 to 100 ng/mL brings skin and hair beauty and health, and optimal muscle tone, bone density, and immune vitality.
The Vitamin D Council (VDC) is a non-profit organization of medical professionals and researchers whose goal is to educate professionals and the public on the benefits of vitamin D and the risks associated with deficiency. The VDC recommends blood testing and dosing to achieve an optimal level.
How does Vitamin D3 work in the body?
Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure or food is biologically inert and must undergo two changes in the body, called hydroxylations, for activation. Vitamin D is made in our skin when ultraviolet (UVB) light from sunshine converts 7-dehydro-cholesterol, a cholesterol derivative, into cholecalciferol. This can occur after minutes of sun exposure, but the cholecalciferol may only last for hours or a few days at most.
If sunlight is effective, cholecalciferol is transported to the liver where it is converted into 25-hydroxy-cholecalciferol, a prohormone which is five times more active than cholecalciferol. This, in turn, is metabolized in the kidneys into 1,25-dihydroxy-cholecalciferol, which is ten times more effective than cholecalciferol, and is the most potent form of vitamin D3. Liver or kidney disorders can impair the production of these most active compounds. The plant form, vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol, is weaker, only about a third as effective for raising 25-hydroxy-cholecalciferol levels.
Vitamin D3 works by entering cells and attaching to vitamin D receptors, which are within the cell nuclei. Being fat-soluble, vitamin D easily crosses phospholipid cell membranes to migrate to the nucleus and its receptors. The human genome has more than 2,700 binding sites for active D3; these receptors are located near genes that are involved in virtually every known major disease of humans. Once vitamin D3 locks into its receptor, the combination stimulates the cell’s DNA to produce proteins that have specific jobs.
The crucial role of Vitamin D3 for skin-deep beauty
Vitamin D3 has several crucial roles for the health and beauty of our skin. The skin must replace approximately 40,000 lost cells each minute, and vitamin D3 is vitally important to nourishing and replacing the skin barrier, which serves as the line of defense against injury and pathological invaders. Vitamin D is needed in sufficient amounts to control the rate of cell division and maturation, as vitamin D receptors are directly involved in cell proliferation and differentiation. Within the skin, vitamin D3 is also required for optimal immune function, to prevent bacteria or fungi from breaching the surface. Peak vitamin D3 levels reduce the chance of developing acne, rosacea, and psoriasis, and thus encourage smooth, soft, even-textured skin.
This constant replenishment of skin surface cells relies upon a continuous vitamin D-dependent renewal process taking place in specialized cells called keratinocytes. Accounting for about 95% of all epidermis skin cells, keratinocytes have the unique ability to both make and activate vitamin D. These cells are the primary innate source of vitamin D3 for the body, and they possess the enzymatic machinery to convert their precursor form of vitamin D into active metabolites, in particular the 1,25 dihydroxy (OH) form. Skin keratinocytes can also make the vitamin D receptor protein, which enables them to respond to the active 1,25 vitamin D3 they generate.
Skin tissues use the vitamin D3 they make for cell repair, immune defense, and fat and oil balance. If vitamin D3 levels are inadequate, then epidermal cells cannot reproduce or differentiate optimally. As a result, the outer layer of the skin may become thinner, more fragile, prone to infections and wrinkles, and lose some its natural beauty.
Vitamin D3 also strengthens the supporting connective tissues of the skin, making it absolutely essential to the maintenance of beautiful, healthy-looking skin. Continuous surface cell renewal requires a strong underlying framework reinforcing the delicate matrix of skin tissue. This helps the epidermis form a watertight barrier locking in moisture and keeping the skin soft and supple. Without the growth factor of vitamin D in sufficient amounts, skin begins to sag from lack of adequate support. Dryness and wrinkles set in as moisture is gradually lost. An ample D3 blood level leads to better skin tone and texture, less sagging, reduced puffiness, and more of a youthful skin radiance.
Amongst other tissues, intestinal cells use vitamin D3 to produce proteins that greatly increase the transport and absorption of calcium into the bloodstream. Bone, kidney, and parathyroid gland cells are activated by vitamin D3 to regulate calcium and phosphorus balance for bone health. Vitamin D receptors are present in the brain, heart, colon, prostate and breast tissues; also in blood vessel linings (the endothelium), and the pancreas, as well as the skin. Vitamin D is a powerful immune booster: it activates macrophage white blood cells and other key immune cells, when it binds to its receptors.
Studies document the beneficial effects of vitamin D3 for skin cells, including decreased DNA damage, and reduced apoptosis, or cellular self-destruction, which normally happens to aging cells. Vitamin D3 prolongs the survival of healthy cells, and decreases erythema or redness, and skin inflammation. It also exhibits photo-protective effects, shielding skin against sun damage. Although the mechanisms for such effects are still being clarified, one study found that 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 induced expression of a protein called metallothionein. This protects the bottom or basal layer of the epidermis against oxidative damage from free radicals, which are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that seek other compounds to bond to. If they attach to tissues, free radicals cause damage, called oxidative stress. Ongoing oxidative stress causes tissue damage and symptoms of aging such as wrinkles. It eventually results in degenerative disorders, slower metabolism, and impairment of muscles, organs, and cells.2
Vitamin D3 also has antimicrobial benefits regulating the expression of a specific skin-protective protein that deters infection. This also modulates skin inflammation, and restores the epidermal barrier to shield underlying cells from environmental exposures. These protective actions help to discourage acne or rosacea, and to keep skin youthful and supple.3
The essential actions of Vitamin D3 for healthy hair
For healthy hair growth, vitamin D3 has several important roles:
- Hair follicles contain dedicated vitamin D3 receptors, and these need to be occupied by the vitamin for the follicles to become active and produce healthy hair.
- Vitamin D is a precursor that is required for the hair growing cycle; vitamin D nourishes the growth phase.
- Keratinocytes, the skin cells that initiate hair follicle cycling and stimulate hair growth, are acted upon by Vitamin D.
Vitamin D3 must be able to attach to intact receptors for hair to grow adequately. For the purpose of healthy hair follicle cycling, vitamin D plays an indisputable role, as the follicles naturally go from dormancy to hair growth phases, to shedding old hairs and resting, and then back to abundant new growth. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) has the ability to exert an extensive biological response encouraging healthy hair growth, as shown in several research trials.4 Mutations in the VDR gene, causing defective vitamin D receptors, give rise to alopecia or balding. Studies demonstrate that adequate vitamin D is necessary for normal hair growth.5
Other ways Vitamin D3 impacts beauty
Vitamin D3 enhances beauty in several other important ways. Nails become stronger, as patients commonly report, with faster growth, less splitting or cracking, and more robust nail quality for fingers and toes.
Muscle tone and stamina are improved by adequate vitamin D3 intake, and exercise capacity increases. Vitamin D3 optimizes muscle function and repair, and brings about better remodeling of muscle, as the body gains fitness and strength. It also has important roles in calcium-magnesium balance for accurate nerve transmission and muscle activity, and neuromuscular coordination. Vitamin D helps muscle tissue recover faster from the stress of exercise. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that reduces inflammation of joints and connective tissues. With all these benefits, exercise becomes easier and more fun. More exercise leads to better body tone and muscle definition, less fat or flab or bloating, and a clearer complexion as metabolic waste is removed more efficiently.
Bone density and resilience depend upon ample intake and blood levels of vitamin D3. This is necessary for calcium, magnesium and zinc to be adequately absorbed from the gut and more efficiently incorporated into bone architecture.
Vitamin D3 plays key roles in the balance of endocrine hormones such as cortisol which regulates stamina, blood sugar and blood pressure. When these operate at optimal rates, healthy hormonal balance encourages ideal weight, good muscle development and less fat accumulation, and steady energy for workouts and activity.
All of these vitamin D3 benefits foster deeper beauty for the whole body!
Our patients’ experience with Vitamin D3
In our clinic, patients who achieve target vitamin D3 blood levels notice smoother and more radiant skin, shiny clear eyes, and thicker and more lustrous hair. They also mention better muscle tone and exercise capacity, leading to better physique and more easily reaching an ideal weight. We recommend a blood level of 60 to 100 ng/mL all year, as recommended by the Vitamin D Council. The quality of a vitamin D3 formula matters a great deal. As vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, its absorption is enhanced in an oil base such as vegan triglycerides or fish oil. Our patients receive consistently excellent results if a vitamin D3 formula also includes the vitamin E family, or d-alpha tocopherol in its natural form, to preserve freshness.
Because of its wide-ranging effects on many tissues and its actions as a prohormone building block for numerous critical metabolic functions, the list of clinical benefits for Vitamin D3 is long. Our patients enjoy fewer colds and flu symptoms which clear up faster, less ‘winter blues,’ less joint pain, reduced soreness after exercise, and increased energy. They are glad to know that they are reducing their long-term risks of developing multiple sclerosis, which around 2008 was one of the first disorders found to be reduced by vitamin D3. They are also reducing the risks of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, as well as colon, breast, or prostate cancer.
Recommendation: Vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol, in an oily or fatty base with either vegan medium chain triglycerides, or fish oil omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA, also including vitamin E as d-alpha or mixed natural tocopherols to preserve freshness. Vitamin D3 should be taken with any meal including fat or oil, for peak absorption. The dose required is that which is needed to attain a blood level of 60-100 ng/mL after 4 to 6 weeks of taking it daily. For most people that daily dose may be in the 4,000 to 8,000 IU range, but checking your blood level is essential to know for sure, or follow the directions of your healthcare provider.
- Holick, Michael F., et al. “Vitamin D and skin physiology: AD‐lightful story.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 22.S2 (2007): V28-V33.
- Lee J, Youn JI. The photoprotective effect of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on ultraviolet light B-induced damage in keratinocyte and its mechanism of action. J Dermatol Sci. 1998;18(1):11-18.
- Heilborn JD, Nilsson MF, Kratz G, et al. The cathelicidin anti-microbial peptide LL-37 is involved in re-epithelialization of human skin wounds and is lacking in chronic ulcer epithelium. J Invest Dermatol. 2003;120(3):379-389.
- Ryan, Jackson W., Paul H. Anderson, and Howard A. Morris. “Pleiotropic activities of vitamin D receptors–adequate activation for multiple health outcomes.” The Clinical Biochemist Reviews 36.2 (2015): 53.
Welsh, Paul, and Naveed Sattar. “Vitamin D and chronic disease prevention.” BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online) 348 (2014).
- Chen CH, Sakai Y, Demay MB. Targeting expression of the human vitamin D receptor to the keratinocytes of vitamin D receptor null mice prevents alopecia. Endocrinology. 2001;142:5386–9.
- Wolpowitz D, Gilchrest BA. The vitamin D questions: how much do you need and how should you get it? J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:301-17.