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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Randomized controlled pilot study shows vitamin D3 can be delivered through the skin safely

A new study in International Journal of Biomedical Science has shown that vitamin D can be safely and effectively absorbed through the skin.

Administering substances through the skin in order to be absorbed and distributed throughout the body is known as transdermal administration. Transdermal administration is a relatively recent discovery in medicine and has been used and is currently used to administer various pharmaceutical compounds such as scopolamine (treats motion sickness), nicotine, and testosterone.

The current study used transdermal administration to address an overlooked problem with vitamin D supplementation. This is the problem in which vitamin D deficiency still occurs in people who are prescribed adequate doses of vitamin D.

There are many reasons why people may have trouble raising their levels when supplementing with vitamin D. One of the reasons is that patients who are taking multiple medications have increased stress and a harder time complying with taking all of the different medications. This is called medication burden.

The compliance of oral vitamin D and calcium supplementation is estimated to be 20-60%. The researchers of this study therefore hypothesized that topical delivery of vitamin D may be an easier and more acceptable route of delivery for vitamin D than oral methods such as pill, tablet, or liquid forms.

The study was a pilot study, meaning it was a small scale, preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate the cost-effectiveness, side effects, and feasibility of topical delivery of vitamin D so as to inform larger and better designed studies in the future.

Researchers from the University of Dammam in Saudi Arabia randomly assigned 48 healthy female medical students to a treatment group or a placebo control group and measured their vitamin D levels to get a baseline reading. The treatment group applied one gram of cream on their skin daily that contained 5000 IU of vitamin D in an aloe vera base. The control group applied one gram of just aloe vera cream on their skin daily. The women had no knowledge of which group they belonged to. After three months of topical application, their vitamin D levels were measured again.

The results were compelling:

  • The average vitamin D levels in the treatment group before and after treatment were 12.05 ng/ml and 37.95 ng/ml, respectively.
  • The average vitamin D levels in the control group before and after treatment were 10.4 ng/ml and 9.58 ng/ml, respectively.
  • The difference in levels after treatment between the two groups was statistically significant (p= 0.001).

The researchers concluded,

“Our study shows that our formulation of vitamin D3 can safely and effectively be delivered by dermal route, reducing the incidence of non-compliance of oral route.”

Transdermal delivery of vitamin D looks to be a promising and effective method of vitamin D supplementation. However, the study is limited by its small sample size. Future studies with larger sample sizes of greater duration are needed to confirm and expand upon the safety and benefits of this form of supplementation in other populations such as in men and in those who have intestinal problems that interfere with the absorption of dietary and supplemental vitamin D.


Sadat-Ali, M. et al. Topical Delivery of Vitamin D3: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. International Journal of Biomedical Science, 2014. 

  About: Will Hunter

Will is the Program Associate of the Vitamin D council and works on website administration, content production and editing, and fundraising. He is passionate about nutrition, exercise, and technology and how they relate to health and longevity.

11 Responses to Randomized controlled pilot study shows vitamin D3 can be delivered through the skin safely

  1. PeterVermont says:

    It would be interesting to know whether this form of administration would result in self-regulation of the vitamin D serum levels. Since the vitamin D3 is coming in via the skin which is the same as the endogenous vitamin D3 production, conceivably the endogenous mechanisms preventing vitamin D toxicity via sunlight would work in the transdermal application as well.

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    • Will Hunter says:

      I don’t see any reason that it wouldn’t. Obviously, the timing of application would have to be synchronized with the exposure to sunlight. The sunlight will not be able to degrade the vitamin D once it is fully absorbed by the skin.

  2. PeterVermont says:

    This article has a misspelled tag: trasdermal rather than transdermal

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  3. Neat that it has been proven that you can increase your vitamin D levels topically
    The full study is at http://vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=5218
    Note that there are many companies selling topical vitamin D, including one in which it is combined with Aloe Vera – as was done in this study. The link above includes the product on Amazon
    By the way: For years I have been applying Vitamin D oil once every 5 days to eliminate psoriasis on my knee

    Also: there was a good review of topical use of vitamin D in March 2014
    I find it amusing that the current science says that vitamin D must go thru the liver and kidney before it can be used, but vitamin D applied to a portion of the skin helps that portion – without seeming to need to take a detour thru the liver and kidney.

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  4. Rita and Misty says:

    This is exciting news.

    By the way, a little personal anecdote here:

    I used to be in love with Retin A…really, my last penny would go towards the purchase of this very expensive prescription face cream…and for those who know me, this was amazing, as I am a very frugal girl.

    But, vanity thy name is woman.

    Two years ago, I made a brazen move. I tossed aside my beloved Retin A for a new love–vitamin D. I started applying 1,000 iu D3 nightly to my face. Within a month the texture of my skin greatly improved–and it was pretty good at the start of this experiment.

    To keep to the point: I never returned to pursue my Retin A treatments. I have been totally faithful to my vitamin D applications.

    I’m 49 years old and folks tell me I look 30 (I don’t believe them, but I say thank you anyways 😉 )

    I am Retin A and Botox free.

    And totally committed to my vitamin D.

    Just an aside: Up until reading this article, I wondered if the topical D had anything to do with my youthful appearance. Many have told me that D cannot be absorbed thru the skin. So I thought that perhaps my optimal 25(OH)D level might be responsible for great skin.

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  5. fredglass says:

    Rita, how did apply the vit D? Did you use a plain liquid formulation? Did you mix it with aloe vera as in the Saudi study? I have read that Vit D is only soluble in a lipid. If so how can it be combined in aloe vera which I presume is water based. Thanks, Fred

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  6. Rita and Misty says:

    Fred–the 1000 iu D3 is in a Shea butter base. I purchase it as a cream. My skin looks great.

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  7. allometric24 says:

    Why has my contribution to this disappeared?

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  8. Rebecca Oshiro says:

    Rita, do you mix the cream yourself or purchase it ready to go? If so what is the link to the product?

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  9. Rita and Misty says:

    Hi Rebecca~I was just thinking of you! :)

    I have at times utilized a liquid D3 as a facial elixir, but mostly I am enamored with this cream (and no I do not work for the Life-flo company 😉 )


    Rebecca, I am telling you that my skin is awesome, and I don’t wear make up. The photo I use here as a profile was taken two years ago, at the start of my vitamin D journey. My skin is way better now. If you visit the VDC FB page, you can find me and click on my photos, as they are open to the public. You will see how vitamin D3 has improved my skin.


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