Skin rashes can be unsightly, annoying and often unbearably itchy. They can also be tingly and mysterious, but not in a budding romance, second date filled-with-excitement kind of way. In fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve ever been saddled with a skin rash—including the more common ones like dermatitis, eczema, hives or heat rash—you know what we’re talking about. When you’ve got a skin rash, you may be more likely to want to jump out of your skin than jump someone’s bones, if you catch our drift.
So, what are the drivers of skin rashes? There are more types of skin rashes than we’d care to count. But in today’s blog, let’s focus on whether vitamin deficiencies may play a role in some of the skin rashes you may be more familiar with, like those we just mentioned, starting with dermatitis. Eczema and dermatitis are used by some interchangeably; however, while they have commonalities, there are also some differences.
One potential culprit of contact dermatitis (and there are other kinds) is allergic reactions to things that your skin doesn’t get along with. According to this piece, those irritants can be things like perfumes, scented creams, jewelry metals, or poison ivy. Other causes of dermatitis may be related to issues with your immune system, viral infections, genetics or stress.
How about hives? Certain medications, including penicillin and other antibiotics, aspirin, insect bites or stings, pollen, pet (the dander specifically) allergies, food allergies including to peanuts and other nuts, eggs, shellfish and more, are all possible rash-starters.
Heat rash (sometimes known as sweat rash, which is your first clue as to causes) can be caused by working out (especially a workout that raises your temperature), exposure to excessive heat, or wearing tight clothes likely made from spandex, nylon, polyester or blends, that can trap heat, generally in the folds of your skin.
There are other potential causes too, including one which may surprise you.
Vitamins, You Say?
Although it’s not talked about much, vitamins—more specifically a lack of vitamins—could be to blame for your skin rashes. In fact, if your skin is blotchy, itchy or flaky, it’s possible a vitamin deficiency could be the non-human perpetrator and should not be overlooked.
Although vitamin deficiencies may not be something that pops up in your mind while you’re trying to scratch your rash away (heads up: the scratching’s not going to help, by the way); however, when you think about it, it makes some sense.
Some vitamins, and today we’re using the more general term for vitamins here—including letter vitamins but going beyond your Cs and Ds to also include minerals and other nutrients—are known to be skin protectors, skin moisturizers, skin brighteners, not to mention all the benefits vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional ingredients have in serving day-to-day bodily functions and promoting and maintaining good health.
But back to your skin. Your skin doesn’t exist on an island. If your body isn’t properly nourished and functioning at its best, chances are your skin is not going to look, feel and act its best either. You know the saying your eyes are the windows to your soul? Well, your skin is the reflection of your body’s inner workings.
Vitamin Deficiencies and Skin Health
So, it makes sense that if you’re deficient in certain vitamins, then rashes and other skin issues might surface.
In talking about vitamin deficiencies, the basic definition is a lack of that specific vitamin (or nutrient) generally developed over time or a result of a medical condition, such as malabsorption. You shouldn’t just guess as to whether you’re vitamin deficient as there are tests for that. So, get tested to find out if your numbers are out of range.
Your doctor can order labs test to determine your vitamin/nutrient levels. Or find a company that offers at-home self-testing kits. Here at OmegaQuant, we test for several nutrients including omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and vitamins D or B12, among other testing services. (Learn more here.)
So, let’s talk about some specific vitamin deficiencies as they relate to skin issues. For example, some experts attribute dry skin to deficiencies of these vitamins: A, B, C and D. If you’re deficient in vitamins C or K, you might be more susceptible to bruised skin.
And your skin color can be impacted by vitamin deficiencies. For example, a vitamin D deficiency can result in loss of pigmentation and light-colored spots (in light-skinned people) and darker pigmentation (in dark-skinned people). If you’re deficient in vitamins C or B (specifically B6, B9, B12), iron or zinc, your skin may look pale and lack-luster. Omega-3, zinc, or B3 deficiencies can also lead to dermatitis with its dry, itchy skin symptoms.
And those are just some of the skin problems associated with some of the vitamin, mineral and other nutrient deficiencies which could impact your skin. Read more here, here and here. (By the way, talking about all the issues beyond skin connected to vitamin deficiencies would be a much longer blog!)
Keep this “silver lining” in mind: given that skin rashes and other skin problems can be a calling card of vitamin deficiencies, having a rash but not knowing the obvious cause could be a blessing in disguise. If in fact you have a vitamin deficiency, one that could be confirmed by testing, you could also try adding the deficient nutritional supplement to your routine to see if that rash goes away. And if it does that might mean that the rash served as an early advisory for a vitamin deficiency, and unaddressed vitamin deficiencies can lead to more serious health issues if not corrected.
Keep in mind, however, that vitamin deficiencies are just one of many potential reasons for skin rashes. That’s why having the right dermatologist is important.
Nutricosmetics (and the products sold in this space) is one of the latest—and growing—trends in the beauty industry and the dietary supplement industry. Nutricosmetic products are defined as nutritional supplements taken orally that work from the inside out to help keep your body healthy and your skin glowing, your nails strong and your hair shiny and lustrous. You might have heard the phrases beauty-from-within, or beauty from the inside out. These phrases describe the concept of nutricosmetics.
Two examples follow.
Vitamin C and Skin Health
What vitamin C does for your skin: Vitamin C is one of the stalwarts of the nutricosmetic category. And here’s why. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it fights off free radicals that can ravage your body and wreak havoc with your skin. Vitamin C also helps your body produce collagen, a protein that increases skin elasticity, strengthens your skin’s structure, and helps replace dead skin cells with new cells.
What a lack of vitamin C does to your skin: There’s a rash-like condition known as keratosis pilaris, which is associated with eczema and dermatitis. A vitamin C deficiency is believed to be one of the reasons—among many potential reasons—as to why this skin condition appears. It manifests as small, acne-like white or reddish rough patches or bumps on the skin. Some of the other skin problems associated with a lack of vitamin C includes an increased propensity toward wrinkled, dull, dry and fragile skin, although as this piece points out those symptoms may or may not be caused by a vitamin C deficiency.
Best nutritional sources for vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables are your best conventional food sources for vitamin C. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits and kiwi are rich sources as are strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, red peppers and broccoli. Consider taking vitamin C supplements if you’re not getting enough of the nutrient from food alone, and if you’re looking for a way in increase your vitamin C levels.
Potential side effects of too much vitamin C: You may have heard that if you get too much vitamin C, your body will just pee it out, so to speak. However, this post says that although serious side effects from vitamin C are rare, amounts greater than 2,000 mg/daily can result in stomach problems, diarrhea and rarely, kidney stones.
Vitamin D and Skin Health
What vitamin D does for your skin: Inflammation is linked to skin conditions like rashes, eczema, acne, psoriasis and more, and as it turns out vitamin D is known to help reduce inflammation. In addition, vitamin D is thought to be important for skin protection, skin growth and supporting skin immunity.
What a lack of vitamin D does to your skin: You’re in luck, because we’ve researched and written about this before. When it comes to your skin, a vitamin D deficiency is not your skin’s best friend. The itchy, pinkish red bumps or welts that seem to appear out of nowhere and are known as hives (or known medically as urticaria), may be related to a vitamin D deficiency—and researchers have discovered that vitamin D has potential as an add-on therapy to allergy medications as a means to relieve some of symptoms of chronic hives. (More research is needed to confirm these results.)
Some research has shown that a vitamin D deficiency may be connected with several skin conditions, including psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, the latter an allergic reaction that comes with an itchy, scaly rash, usually on your face, elbows, and knees.
Best nutritional sources for vitamin D: Food sources for vitamin D include fatty fish, like salmon and swordfish, beef liver, and vitamin-D fortified orange juice and dairy and plant milks. One of the best ways to get your vitamin D is through exposure to the sun, but the recommended use of cancer-preventing sunscreen makes this harder to accomplish. These are some of the reasons why vitamin D nutritional supplements are popular. Given that 1 billion people worldwide and about 35% of American adults, are vitamin D deficient, vitamin D supplements are a strong option to consider.
Potential side effects of too much vitamin D: Vitamin D toxicity is a rare but potentially serious condition if you take large doses of vitamin D supplements, according to this article. This piece says that 600-800 IU is likely adequate for most people; however, others need a higher dose. The author adds that unless your doctor recommends it, don’t take more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D supplements per day. On the other hand, other experts have found that 10,000 IU is reasonable for some, as an upper level, given the absence of toxicity found in human clinical trials of the vitamin. Either way, it’s best to involve your healthcare practitioner in decisions about taking high doses of vitamin D. (And when it comes to skin rashes, those upper levels are probably not warranted.
Bottom line: If you’ve developed a skin rash, talk with your dermatologist or healthcare provider about the potential causes and possible solutions. While the culprit for your skin issues could be a vitamin deficiency, it may not be the answer. Testing your nutritional status could be one of the first steps to determining if you have a vitamin deficiency. And if you do, changing your diet and/or adding supplements could be a simple solution to fixing a deficiency. It’s important to have those conversations with your doctor.