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This is the fourth of a seven-part series, where we invite skin and beauty experts to explain the intricacies of the vitamins found in our skincare products

Most of us are aware that our body produces vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, but did you know that it can also be applied topically for additional beauty benefits?

While consuming the vitamin through our diet and spending time in the sun every day is still essential to keep us happy and healthy, topical vitamin D products can also offer additional antioxidant benefits as well as treat autoimmune skin diseases like psoriasis, vitiligo and eczema.

Not sure if you need it? Dr Toby Hui of Freia Medical and Dr Lam Bee Lan of Ageless Medical shed some light on this “sunshine vitamin”.

What is Vitamin D?

Called the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D belongs to the class of fat-soluble vitamins—along with vitamins A, D, E and K) and is sometimes classified as a hormone. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining the strength of your bones and muscles because it helps the body to regulate the calcium found in your diet.

Available in two forms—D2 and D3, D2 can be consumed through plant sources, while D3 is produced by the body in response to the skin being exposed to sunlight or found in animal-sourced foods like some fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and dairy products.

What does Vitamin D do for our skin?

Applied topically, vitamin D boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, skin-repairing properties.

“The active form of vitamin D, known as calcitriol, contributes to skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism. It enhances the skin’s immune system and helps to destroy free radicals that contribute to premature ageing of the skin,” says Dr Toby Hui, senior aesthetics doctor at Freia Medical.

Who should use it and who shouldn’t?

All skin types can benefit from vitamin D, as it helps to strengthen elastin and maintain overall skin health.

“It is especially soothing for sensitive, irritated or compromised skin—such as overzealous use of retinol and acid products. It is also beneficial for acne-prone skin and rosacea, as well as those who are keen on anti-ageing,” shares Dr Hui.

“Doctors prescribe vitamin D as medication to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo. It has been proven by studies to minimise acne lesions and improve eczema and dermatitis, but it is still recommended to consult your doctor before self-treating any skin condition,” advises Dr Lam Bee Lan, founder and director of Ageless Medical.

What is the best way to use Vitamin D?

To make the most of vitamin D’s skin-repairing and anti-oxidant benefits, Dr Hui recommends combining both oral supplementation and topical vitamin D.

As for people who are using the vitamin as a treatment for psoriasis, Dr Lam shares that it may not be an effective long-term treatment on its own.

“Some people will need topical medications with other active ingredients, such as corticosteroids.”

Are there any side effects to Vitamin D?

“The use of vitamin D3 should not result in any irritations and there are no reports to date of its use associated with any sensitivities,” explains Dr Hui.

However, people suffering from psoriasis may observe side effects like skin irritation, redness, itching, dry skin, and inflamed skin from their topical treatments, according to Dr Lam.


Read more from The ABCs of Beauty: Vitamin A | Vitamin B | Vitamin C | Vitamin E

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