Who among us hasn’t experienced frustrating issues with our skin? From acne to hives, from dry skin to eczema, and from sunspots to melasma—these are just some of the health-related problems that can make us literally want to crawl out of our skin. And while that’s not really possible, fortunately there are some simple ways to find some relief.
Let’s first take a look at some of the causes of dry skin, rashes, itching and other skin-related problems. Your skin might be uncomfortable with a new moisturizer you’ve just bought, or a perfume that your nose likes, but your skin doesn’t. Sometimes skin reacts negatively to ingredients in laundry detergent or a new soap. And an allergic reaction to certain metals in jewelry can also make your skin jaded, and not in a good way.
Would it surprise you to learn this: science shows us that when it comes to some common skin-related issues, vitamin D deficiency may be one of the culprits. In other words, if you’re low in D, your skin may suffer.
Here’s one possibility as to why: Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and inflammation is one of the causes of skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes and more.
Other research connects vitamin D as being important for skin cell growth, skin protection and supporting skin immunity.
If you’re lacking in vitamin D, your skin may tell on you. For example, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, your complexion might be dull, lacking that desired glow and you might also experience dry, flaky skin on your face and other areas of your body. Dry, irritated skin may lead to skin sweat, another sign you may need to take a closer look at your vitamin D intake and make changes.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hives?
The medical term is urticaria, but in laymen’s terms, the sudden appearance of pinkish red bumps or welts is a good description of hives. There are different kinds of hives, as this article explains, and although they’re likely to itch, hives are also a different animal than contact dermatitis.
Certain foods, even those that are good for you like nuts, fish, eggs and fresh berries, as well as some common medications including aspirin, ibuprofen and ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, may trigger acute urticaria.
On the other hand, physical urticaria is often brought on by cold or heat, changes in temperature, sweating or exercise, or other things that stimulate the skin, like clothing that’s too tight or sun exposure. This piece goes into more detail about possible causes of hives.
About 20 percent of people experience some type of hives in their lifetime. Hives come about by the release of histamine in your bloodstream, which is why your doctor might suggest an antihistamine to treat some forms.
This study from researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center suggested that vitamin D, as an add-on therapy to allergy medications, could help relieve some symptoms of chronic hives. Although not a cure for chronic hives, the researchers found that after just one week, both the group of patients taking 600 IUs of vitamin D3 and the other half taking 4,000 IUs experienced a 33 percent decrease in symptoms. (Both groups took the vitamin D along with a combination of allergy medications.)
Even more impressive, at the end of three months, the group taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 experienced a further 40 percent decrease in the severity of their hives, while those in the lower dosage range had no further improvement beyond the first week of treatment.
More research in this area, however, is needed to confirm these promising results.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Itchy Skin?
Beyond hives, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), there’s a long list of itchy skin conditions that may drive you up a wall, starting with atopic dermatitis (AD), which is the most common form of eczema. Millions of people—about one in ten Americans—live with atopic dermatitis and it doesn’t discriminate based on age.
Both hives and AD are allergic reactions that literally get under your skin. While hives can break out anywhere on your body, AD is usually a scaly, itchy rash that tends to favor the elbows, knees and your face.
Psoriasis is often mistakenly thought to be a condition like hives or AD. The fact is psoriasis is not a rash, nor ringworm or eczema but instead is a common autoimmune disease that lingers most commonly on the scalp, knees, torso and elbows. But make no mistake. It comes with a painful, burning, annoying itch for up to 90 percent of people with psoriasis, says the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Low vitamin D levels are thought by many scientists to be connected with several health conditions and illnesses. There is some research, including this study, which suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the risk of both psoriasis and AD.
The same study advises that several studies—both clinical and observational—have pointed to vitamin D as a potential therapeutic option for psoriasis and AD.
And this meta-analysis also found favorable results for vitamin D supplementation as a potentially safe therapy to lessen the severity of AD.
But the research is not conclusive and scientists are eager to see where the next wave of research takes us. In the meantime, it makes sense for people to check their vitamin D status, and take action, if warranted, to ensure they are not among the 35% percent of American adults, or 1 billion people worldwide, who are vitamin D deficient.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Melasma?
Melasma may not be as familiar a skin condition as are hives and eczema, but for those who experience this, it is likely as frustrating. It is a type of hyperpigmentation that is characterized by the appearance of dark patches of skin, most commonly on the face. However, it differs from age spots, which more often than not occur in fair-skinned people and typically those who are older. Melasma, on the other hand, is more common in women ages 20-40.
In fact, melasma is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” as up to 50 percent of pregnant women experience this condition, referred to as chloasma in that population.
While melasma can also be a result of sun exposure, it is also related to hormonal changes in the body, thus the association with pregnancy. This article delves into the details of what is specifically referred to as a melasma mustache.
Although there are some theories that link vitamin D deficiency to melasma, and at least one small study, there is not a lot of research yet in this area. Stay tuned!
The bottom line: skin issues can range from just a nuisance to negatively impacting your quality of life. And if not properly treated, they can turn into more serious concerns. Dermatologists are best positioned to properly identify your exact skin issue and recommend treatment. So, get a good one (dermatologist, not skin issue) and put them on speed dial.