Should You Be Using Vitamin D Skin-Care Products?

Channel the sun with these dermatologist-approved picks for the best vitamin D skin-care products.

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You've probably heard this before, but your body needs vitamin D for healthy skin and bones. Whether winter (or coronavirus quarantine) has you trapped indoors or you're working in an office space with limited natural light, you might be wondering if you're at risk of vitamin D deficiency. And if your levels have fallen low, you may be on the hunt for ways to increase your exposure—if that's through supplements, changing up your diet, or simply opening the windows and curtains while inside.

Since vitamin C and vitamin E have both become popular skin-care ingredients in recent years, you may have come across serums and creams boasting vitamin D. If you're wondering why this is and if you need it, here experts discuss what's up with the sunshine vitamin. Think: how to get enough vitamin D for optimal health, how it benefits your skin, and share their picks for the best vitamin D skin-care products to add to your beauty arsenal. (

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

From Sun Exposure

Getting a dose of vitamin D is as easy as stepping outside—seriously. Your skin can actually produce a form of vitamin D in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation (or sunshine!), says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and fellow at the American Academy of Dermatology.

But how exactly does this work? UV light interacts with proteins in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3 (the active form of vitamin D), explains Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. Not to get ~too~ science-y, but once those proteins in the skin are converted to vitamin D precursors, they circulate throughout the body and are converted to the active (i.e. immediately useful!) form by the kidneys, adds Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

If you've recently succumbed to a more indoor lifestyle (due to the weather, change in work settings, or, perhaps, a global pandemic), the good news is that you only need minimal amounts of daily sunlight exposure for more than enough vitamin D, notes Dr. Gohara. So, no, you actually don't have to sunbathe or spend hours outdoors to produce adequate vitamin D levels, says Dr. Zeichner. Believe it or not, 10 minutes in the sun at midday is all you need.

Know that if you're venturing outside for the first time in a while, don't think that you can just forgo SPF in order to soak in some much-needed sunlight. Sunscreen doesn't block 100 percent of UVB rays, so you'll still get enough exposure even when safely lathered up, explains Dr. Zeichner. That being said, you should also still be applying SPF if you're staying inside and working from home. "While UV light does penetrate through window glass, it is UVA rays (those that cause premature skin aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and sun spots) that penetrate glass, not UVB (those that cause sunburn and potentially skin cancer). You would only be exposed to UVB rays if you opened your window," he points out. (Psst, here are some of the best facial sunscreens to stock up on.)

Also important to note, if you have brown skin, you are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency, says Dr. Gohara. This is because of your built-in melanin (or natural skin pigment), which lowers the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. While it's nothing to stress about, Dr. Gohara recommends taking particular care in checking your levels each year with your doctor.

Through Your Diet

Another way you can ensure that you're getting enough vitamin D is through what you're putting into your body. Dr. Nazarian and Dr. Gohara both suggest taking a look at your diet and making sure you're consuming vitamin D-fortified foods like salmon, eggs, milk, and orange juice. It's not exactly clear how much vitamin D each person needs—it varies with diet, skin color, climate, and time of year—but the average, non-deficient adult should aim for 600 International Units (IU) per day in their diet, according to the National Institutes of Health.

You can also consider vitamin D supplements if your levels are less than desirable. Dr. Zeichner advises speaking with your doctor before trying anything—and if a medical expert gives you the green light, be sure to take the supplement with a fatty meal for best absorption (as vitamin d is a fat-soluble vitamin), he adds. If you've recently had a physical exam and learned that you're vitamin D deficient, it could also be credited to not eating a well-balanced diet during quarantine, and Dr. Zeichner says a multivitamin with vitamin D could be a good solution. (Once you have approval from your doc, check out this guide on how to pick the best vitamin D supplement.)

How Vitamin D Benefits Your Skin

While vitamin D is essential to your immune system and overall health, a deficiency could have a negative impact on your skin, as well. If you've been searching for ways to up your vitamin D intake—no matter the reason—you may have come across topical vitamin D treatments.

The most studied role for topical vitamin D is as an anti-inflammatory, specifically used to treat skin conditions, such as psoriasis, says Dr. Gohara. It also has antioxidant and anti-aging benefits, helping improve cell turnover and neutralize free radical damage, adds Dr. Nazarian. However, both Dr. Gohara and Dr. Nazarian agree that topical serums, oils, and creams are not enough to supplement systemic levels of vitamin D—meaning, no matter how many vitamin D-infused products you add to your skin-care routine, it is not an appropriate or efficient way to improve low vitamin D blood levels. You would need to take supplements or increase the amount of vitamin D through your diet, notes Dr. Gohara. (

The Best Derm-Approved Vitamin D Beauty Products

If you're prone to low levels of vitamin D to begin with, being stuck indoors for such an extended period of time with the COVID-19 quarantine might be an issue—just as levels typically fall in the wintertime, says Dr. Nazarian. While topical products wouldn't be your best bet (again, you'd want to discuss oral supplements or a change in diet with your doctor), vitamin D-packed skin-care products still offer big-time benefits when it comes to aging and its effects, she adds. So, check out the expert-picked vitamin D beauty products that'll help protect against skin damage, reduce puffiness or inflammation, and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin D Skin-Care Products
Amazon, Zelens, Dermstore, Herbivore Botanicals

Murad Multi-Vitamin Infusion Oil (Buy It, $73, amazon.com): "In addition to vitamin D, this product contains soothing natural oils and fatty acids to protect and hydrate the outer skin layer," says Dr. Zeichner. To use, cleanse the skin and pat dry, and follow up by applying a thin layer of this lightweight oil to your face, neck, and chest.

Mario Badescu Vitamin A-D-E Neck Cream (Buy It, $20, amazon.com): Dr. Nazarian's pick, this moisturizer combines hydrating hyaluronic acid with cocoa butter and vitamins—including vitamin D—to multitask your anti-aging regimen. While it's meant for the neck, she points out that your face can also benefit from its powerful formula, since it helps soften and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

One Love Organics Vitamin D Moisture Mist (Buy It, $39, dermstore.com): This mist gets its vitamin D from shiitake mushroom extract, which helps enhance cell turnover, soothe inflammation, boost the skin's moisture barrier, explains Dr. Zeichner. Spritz once or twice before applying your face oils, serums, and moisturizers, so that they better penetrate the skin.

Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Antipollution Sunshine Serum (Buy It, $36, amazon.com): Delivering a bronzy glow, this serum also protects against pollution and free radicals for more youthful skin. Plus, it contains chronocyclin, a peptide (translation: a type of protein that helps cells communicate and influences gene behavior) that basically mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D. How? It operates similarly to enzymes in the skin that convert sunlight to vitamin D during the day, and then supports cell renewal at night, says Dr. Nazarian.

Herbivore Botanicals Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil (Buy It, $48, herbivorebotanicals.com): This moisturizing oil targets dryness, dullness, and redness, and is safe for all skin types, especially acne-prone. Hemp seed and squalane soften the outer skin layer and fill in cracks between skin cells, while shiitake mushroom extract helps deliver soothing vitamin D, notes Dr. Zeichner.

Zelens Power D High Potency Provitamin D Treatment Drops (Buy It, $152, zestbeauty.com): Dr. Nazarian is also a fan of this serum since it's lightweight and comes with a dropper for easy application. While the price tag is definitely a splurge, this product plumps skin, protects against free radicals, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

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