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Rosacea research points to vitamin D

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Reviewed by Marta June 18, 2009 14 Comments

My first rosacea flare up happened when I turned 40 (14 million Americans over the age of 30 suffer from rosacea). I looked like Mrs Angry until I was given some 0.5% Desonide, a low potency cortisone cream. Since then I've worked out how to prevent seeing red (at least most of the time): click here for some of my rosacea management tips. None of it is rocket science, but now researchers seem to be getting closer to understanding the root cause of rosacea and treatments that don't involve steroids.

In 2007, Dr Richard Gallo of the University of California discovered that peptides known as cathelicidins and the proteolytic enzymes that activate cathelicidins in the skin are abnormal in patients with rosacea. Cathelicidins are antimicrobial peptides and the enzymes in the skin of rosacea sufferers cause them to produce these peptides in an abnormal form. This revelation turned out to be a breakthrough and sent a whole bunch of scientists off in a new direction. Gallo himself has now done follow up research and he thinks that rosacea patients' innate immune systems, overall, are abnormal.

A study in Belgium of all the research in the last couple of years has made a connection between the regulation of cathelicidins and vitamin D. This is because there is what they call "a previously unknown and unexpected link between innate immunity and the vitamin D system".

Interestingly, one in four Americans are vitamin D deficient and medical researchers believe that low levels of vitamin D are responsible for a whole range of ills, from muscular weakness to autism. The best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is to spend 30 minutes a day exposed to sunlight. Failing that, there oral supplements available, specifically vitamin D3. A synthetic form of vitamin D is available in a cream called Calcipotriene. It may also help to control sebum production and, therefore, provide some relief for acne sufferers. Apparently, vitamin A interferes with D, so avoid retinols if you decide to give this therapy a go.

  • June 8, 2015


    Vitamin d3 is helpful as is coconut oil.

  • April 9, 2015

    by Jean

    I too was diagnosed with Vitamin D defficiency. After 3 months of taking 4000m, I see a marked improvement in the Rosacea. Also, moisturize with coconut oil.

  • December 1, 2014

    by Vik

    I will try the vitamin D. For those of you wanting a wonderful soap for this condition, try soap doctor. Best place to get it cheapest is I have used it for years and it helps redness and also the small bumps on arms, etc. it is around$10 per bar, but if you keep it properly so it dries after use and only use it on face and arms, it lasts 3 months or so. Love the soap.

  • September 20, 2013

    by Nancy

    I am soaking up all this "new" information, which I had not been aware of in the past. I also have roseacea, and have linked my flare ups with emotional stress, as well as certain foods. We had started researching vitamin D to help with improving a mood disorder my teenage daughter was dealing with...I also took it to see if it would affect my own mood. My daughter has also suffered a loss of pigment on her face as a result of vitíligo. It did not really improve with the myriad of creams that were prescribed, and she was not compliant with her treatment. In reality, it didn't get better and it didn't get worse, and she wasn't worried about it. Since beginning to take 4000 units a day, we noticed that the pigment on her face was coming back! We didn't immediately put the two together, but began to think more about that "side effect", still looking for the improvement primarily in her mental health. Then, I realized that my roseacea was much better (I am taking 6000 units/day). Before I began taking it (about 3 weeks ago) I had been treating a flare up (probably linked to my daughter's diagnosis).

    As I am reading more about it, it feels like a revelation! I had been found to have a vitamin d deficiency (I am light skinned, Irish English heritage) during a blood exam 2 years ago, and had starting taking supplements (2000 units in a GNC multivitamin packet). My husband (hispanic, dark skinned) also was deficient, despite us both having lived in the tropics for the last 20 years. My four children have all suffered varying degrees of anxiety/depression, which I could not really attribute to any particular cause (don't worry, I thought ALOT about the parenting angle, but really, we/they don't feel there was any particular problem there). My oldest daughter, who lives in Canada, had already made the connection with vitamin D after noticing a dramatic change in her moods during the winter months, which she attributed to seasonal affective mood disorder). She could probably further improve her mood with a higher dose.

    All the research seems to point to a possible vitamin deficiency, which may account for the hereditary aspect of depression. I am passing along this information to my kids, who are all adults, with the hope that this can alleviate alot of their symptoms.

    This connection has never been mentioned by any of the doctors, and I am reading that doctors in general seem to be on the fence about it, despite so many patients noting relief.

  • July 24, 2013

    by Dania

    Vit. D3 ended my rosacea. I was low in it. After a month of taking it the rosacea is gone.

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