A recent study published by the journal PLoS One found that low vitamin D status was associated with the onset and severity of acne. The study also discovered that vitamin D supplementation improved inflammatory lesions after 8 weeks.
Acne vulgaris, or acne, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease in which the sebaceous glands, which lubricate the skin, become clogged causing a bacterial overgrowth. Those who suffer from acne most commonly develop blackheads, red and tender bumps or pimples on the face, neck, shoulders, chest or upper arms. Due to its appearance, many individuals develop psychological complications, such as decreased self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Research has shown that vitamin D plays a role in skin health. Vitamin D exerts anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties by increasing antimicrobial peptides, which are naturally occurring antibiotics that help fend off bacteria. Furthermore, in vitro studies have identified vitamin D receptors located in sebocytes, the cells lining sebaceous glands, suggesting vitamin D may play a role in the pathophysiology of acne. However, there are no reported studies to date that directly look at the clinical relevance of vitamin D status in acne.
Therefore, researchers recently evaluated the vitamin D levels in 80 patients with acne and 80 healthy controls. Those who received acne treatment, systemic corticosteroids, vitamin D supplements or with additional inflammatory conditions were excluded from the study. The participants had their vitamin D levels measured at baseline, with levels of <12 ng/ml considered deficient, 12-20 ng/ml defined as inadequate and >20ng/ml considered vitamin D sufficient.
Here is what the researchers found:
- A total of 48.8% of patients with acne were vitamin D deficient; whereas, only 22.5% of healthy controls were deficient (P = 0.019).
- Serum 25(OH)D levels were inversely associated with the severity of acne (P = 0.002).
- Vitamin D status was negatively associated with the presence of inflammatory lesions (P < 0.001).
After the initial observation, the 39 vitamin D deficient patients with acne entered a subsequent blinded controlled trial in which the patients were randomly assigned to receive a 1,000 IU vitamin D3 drop per day (n = 20) or a daily placebo drop (n = 19) for a period of two months. The patients were assessed by three independent, blinded dermatologists at baseline, and after weeks two, four and eight. The acne severity was determined according to the global acne rating system (GAGS).
- Vitamin D supplementation significantly increased 25(OH)D (P < 0.001) and exhibited an improvement in clinical severity compared to the placebo group.
- Those who supplemented with vitamin D experienced a decreased presence of inflammatory lesions compared to the control group (P < 0.05).
- After 8 weeks of treatment, inflammatory lesions in the vitamin D group decreased by 34.6% compared to only 5.8% in the control group.
The researchers concluded,
“Vitamin D deficiency was more frequent in patients with acne, and serum 25(OH)D levels were inversely correlated with acne severity, especially in patients with inflammatory lesions.”
The study is the first to determine a relationship exists between vitamin D status and acne. Additionally, the significant reduction in inflammatory lesions in acne patients who supplemented with vitamin D provides researchers with an exciting finding that warrants further investigation. However, this study was limited by its relatively short duration and small sample of individuals who received vitamin D supplementation. Also, none of the participants reached vitamin D sufficiency according to the Vitamin D Council’s recommendations (40-80 ng/ml).
Therefore, large scaled randomized controlled trials with daily vitamin D supplementation in doses that allow the participants to achieve vitamin D sufficiency (>40 ng/ml) are needed in order to determine the full effect vitamin D supplementation has on the prevention and treatment of acne.
Sturges, M. & Cannell, JJ. Vitamin D status inversely associated with acne, according to new study. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.