AcneHow does vitamin D work?

Vitamin D does not seem to affect the risk or expression of acne. However, one paper suggested that the hormonal metabolite of vitamin D might be useful in treating acne as it seemed to have an impact on sebocytes1 2.

Another paper noted that antimicrobial peptides, cathelicidin and defensins can be generated by sebaceous gland and are involved in innate immunity: “Antimicrobial peptides, such as cathelicidin and beta defensins, directly kill microbes and have been detected in human sebaceous glands and cell lines.”3 (See, also, Nakatsuji4).

Since the hormonal metabolite of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, induces production of cathelicidin and defensins5 6, the finding by Lee indicates that vitamin D is involved in reducing the risk of acne.

Page last edited: 13 May 2011


  1. Reichrath, J. Vitamin D and the skin: an ancient friend, revisited. Exp Dermatol. 2007 Jul; 16 (7): 618-25.
  2. Kramer, C. Seltmann, H. Seifert, M. Tilgen, W. Zouboulis, C. C. Reichrath, J. Characterization of the vitamin D endocrine system in human sebocytes in vitro. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology. 2009 Jan; 113 (1-2): 9-16.
  3. Lee, D. Y. Huang, C. M. Nakatsuji, T. Thiboutot, D. Kang, S. A. Monestier, M. Gallo, R. L. Histone H4 is a major component of the antimicrobial action of human sebocytes. The Journal of investigative dermatology. 2009 Oct; 129 (10): 2489-96.
  4. Nakatsuji, T. Kao, M. C. Zhang, L. Zouboulis, C. C. Gallo, R. L. Huang, C. M. Sebum free fatty acids enhance the innate immune defense of human sebocytes by upregulating beta-defensin-2 expression. The Journal of investigative dermatology. 2010 Apr; 130 (4): 985-94.
  5. White, J. H. Vitamin D as an inducer of cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide expression: past, present and future. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Jul; 121 (1-2): 234-8.
  6. Schwalfenberg, G. K. A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2011 Jan; 55 (1): 96-108.