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Rosacea research points to vitamin D

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June 18, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 15 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.

  • May 31, 2017

    by Mike


    Can you elaborate on which particular soap doctor it is? Nothing is showing up via overstock for this brand; I see face doctor. Can you give me the specifics on this particular soap?
    Thank you,

  • 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.

  • April 13, 2013

    by Roxy

    Hi..I came down with rosacea two years ago after a severe case of contact dermatitis. I have redness, skin peeling, itchiness and small pimples that are very tiny and my face swells up. I was using hydrocortisone on advice from my doctor, what an error that was. It burnt my skin very badly so I stopped using it and started to use a honey face mask which calmed it down some. I also wash my face with cold milk which is soothing as well as cetaphil The next step will be trying zinc oxcide..hopefully this will work. I take 4 salmon capsules once per day, vitamin 3d which I just started after reading the post on this site and oil of oregano capsules 2 x a day. I am wondering if there is ongoing research into the causes of this horrible disease or because it 's not life threatening it has been put on the back burner.? Hoping this zinc calms this itching and burning down before I go bat sh*t crazy.

  • April 10, 2013

    by LN Starr

    I was just diagnosed with Rosacea, and I feared that this was going to be the case, as I am "predisposed" due to my heritage, (Irish English). I have been virtually house bound for the past 3 months with 3 different rounds of viral infections. 1 mild cold, 2 worse cold with upper res. infection and 3 MEGA FLU. So this would make sense with immune issues as well as no sun exposure for several months. I DO NOT like the idea of taking drugs FOR ANYTHING because the potential side effects. I was prescribed Minocycline an antibiotic to take every day for 2 months and a topical Metrocream to use as needed. I don't want to do this! I am fearful of pharmaceuticals these days and am hoping, very strongly hoping that a Vit. D3 supplement will help me. I will keep you posted. Thanks so much for this informations.

  • March 16, 2011

    by Julie Kay

    I've been lax in taking my vitamins the past couple months; D3 being one of them. I finally reordered and am back on my regimen. I take 4,000 units of D3 a day and have (again) for about two weeks. Reading these comments, I realize my cheeks are less red and lightening to a rosy hue! Brilliant. ~jk

  • March 15, 2011

    by ken

    I started taking vitamin D3 in the form of a tiny gel tab from Costco three days ago. I didn't take it for my rosacea, but I noticed that after only one day, my rosacea had substantially improved. I've learned not to get too excited about this sort of thing, but after only three days and three vitamin D3 tabs later, my symptoms are just about gone. I have a pretty bad case of the condition and so consider this nothing short of a miracle. Hooray!

  • November 3, 2010

    by Mary

    Hi All, will try the vitamin D - I use metrogel, buy at costco not too expensive. I have had several (expensive -500 dollars a pop) laser treatments for my redness that has helped a LOT, but cannot really afford this- thanks for the info, best of luck, everyone :)

  • June 25, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Melissa, I'd be really interested to hear how you get on. All my best, Marta

  • June 24, 2010

    by Melissa

    I have had rosacea for several years and was diagnosed with Vitamin D defeciency last week. I started taking OTC Vitamin D and within the week noticed a reduction in the redness from my rosacea. Thinking it was due to the Vit. D, I did a search and ended up here. I am very hopeful that I will continue to see improvements!! In the meantime, I will keep using my Finacea and Differen!

  • November 24, 2009

    by Chris Tucker

    Great Information.
    I have Rosacea, and just ordered some generic metrogel from Poland, cheap!
    I am gonna go to a health food store and buy some Vitamin D3 supliments.
    I hate my red face.

  • July 3, 2009

    by mike

    If you are interested in vitamin D you should take a look at The Canadian Cancer Society now recommends that everyone take vitamin D to prevent cancer. The site has good summaries of the data and offers a new preparation of vitamin D in a micro-pill formulation. The pills have been formulated with cellulose which absorbs water very quickly. This ensures that the pill breaks up very quickly to provide for maximum absorption. The micro pill is tiny and tasteless. Many vitamin D pills on the market have very poor dissolution properties resulting in poor absorption.
    The site also offers to supply customers with a free supply of 400IU for their children and it also has a good newsletter.

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