Are You Actually Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Natasha Burton
Raw salmon fillets

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We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat” and this is certainly true when it comes to the vitamins you consume—or lack in your diet.  While there are a number of important nutrients you need, vitamin D in particular is seriously indispensable to the health and longevity of the largest organ in the body: your skin.

According to South Florida-based dermatologist Dr. Gary Goldfaden, founder of GOLDFADEN MD Skin Care, “Vitamin D provides powerful antioxidant protection, improves elasticity and promotes a more youthful complexion.” It also stimulates your skin’s immune system and helps destroy free radicals that can cause premature aging—so you don’t want to be in short supply.

Here’s what the experts say about getting enough of this crucial beauty vitamin – and how to find out if you’re getting enough of what you need.

What happens when you don’t get enough vitamin D:

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, Goldfaden says. “When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your complexion may look dull and uneven and be more susceptible to skin infections,” he says, noting that most Eczema sufferers are deficient in Vitamin D. “Internally you may feel ‘blue’ or lethargic, your bones or muscles may hurt or ache. Low blood levels of Vitamin D have even been linked to cancer and increased heart disease.”

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How to get it: 

The tough thing about getting vitamin D is that body uses sunlight to make it—and we all know that sun exposure accelerates skin aging, and can even lead to cancer. Limiting your time in the sun to just five minutes a day is one way to get vitamin D, but you can also get it through your diet: New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Marina Peredo, of Skinfluence NYC,  says that milk and other dairy products are a great option, as well as food that are naturally rich in vitamin D like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and eggs.

Yet, according to Goldfaden, there’s a wide-spread misunderstanding that eating your vitamin D, or even taking vitamin D supplements, will supply enough for the skin, leaving most people deficient. When you ingest vitamin D, or even get it from the sun, your skin is the last part of the body to reap the benefits. (In short, your skin gets whatever is leftover after your other organs absorb that they need, which might not be much!) He suggests using beauty products infused with vitamin D, like his Vital Boost moisturizer.

How to make sure you’re actually absorbing Vitamin D:

Peredo notes that diseases such as kidney, chron’s, celiac and cystic fibrosis all impede vitamin D absorption. Taking laxatives is another vitamin D inhibitor to be aware of as well.

If you choose to get vitamin D topically through beauty products, Goldfaden suggests regular exfoliation, which he says is imperative before applying treatment products to the skin. “Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and allows for the skin to absorb topical ingredients more effectively,” he explains.