Can Vitamin D be absorbed through the skin?

My Mother is still having problems absorbing Vitamin D due to constipation from even small amounts (2000IU) so we are considering alternatives.

She is reluctant to use UVB light on her skin (too worried about melanoma) so I am coming to this forum to ask if there is any scientific evidence to show that Vitamin D can be absorbed through the skin?

Report post

9 replies. Join the discussion

I mean can vitamin D be absorbed topically or transdermally through the skin. I am looking for scientific back up that this method can work. Has anyone used this method to raise their D levels via this method only and if yes do you have the amount of IUs to use per day?

Report post

I could find no credible research on the subject of transdermal delivery of vitamin D. There are topical vitamin D preparations, but the medical journal search only found them used to treat psoriasis plaques not vitamin D deficiency, and it appears the concentration of vitamin D is quite small.

There are some compounding pharmacies that can prepare injectable vitamin D2, and I know of one physicain who found this to work in one patient who could not tolerate any oral forms and had a history of skin cancer and refused the UVB route. While D2 is not as good as D3. its better than no vitamin D.

Vitamin D is tricky to compound in an injectable form as you have to insure sterility through pasturization. But the temperature at which D2 degrades is barely above the temperature needed to sterilize the dose, from what I am told. I have no idea if D3 can be prepared in a similar manner and I have no idea of the temperature stability of D3 allows it to be sterilized for safe injection. Perhaps a licensed compounding pharmacist could help you with that?

But back to the issue of constipation. Constipation in elderly is a common condition that occurs without much prompting. Are you sure it is from the vitamin D? Have you tried the liquid preparations or gel caps that are available rather than pills? It may be something in the binder or coating of the pill that is causing the constipation, or it could be the separate calcium supplement that many take alongside. Did you stop the vitamin D, see a return to normal BM's, and then rechallenenge without changing anything else in the diet? Have you tried increasing fiber in the diet to compensate?

If you have already tried these tests to insure the constipation isn't just coincidental to the vitamin D, then I would think an IM injection of vitamin D once a month would be a better way of insuring delivery than a cream or ointment because it is much harder to know how much will be absorbed if any.

Report post

Zetpil Vitamin D3 Cholecalciferol 5,000 IU Ultra Absorbent Transdermal Cream, 1 oz Bottle
This isn't a personal recommendation simply an example of a product using trandermal vitamin D uptake.

One of the reasons why MCT oil is used as the carrier oil for for babies vitamin D drops is so that if the baby spits out the drop (as babies are prone to do) you can still wipe the remains round the babies face and be fairly sure some will be absorbed.

I think for people who have an inflammatory digestive tract disorder who may be concerned they have poor absorption then using the transdermal route is an alternative.

I don't see any good reason why vitamin D3 drops, when mixed with a suitable carrier oil such as MCT, COCONUT OIL, OLIVE OIL. and massaged into the skin would not raise 25(OH)D.

If you look at the warnings here from using a vitamin D ointment you'll see it must be raising 25(OH)D levels.
Dovonex ointment (calcipotriol)

EVERYONE should check 25(OH)D regularly to see if the route/supplements/ sun exposure/ diet/ UVB exposure is working effectively for your body and results in a 25(OH)D level that is around 125nmol/l or 50ng/ml.

It's extremely easy for anyone to test this out for themselves

Order a supply of $6.99 (£4.40) vitamin D drops
Get a 25(OH)D test City Assays Vitamin D Blood Spot Test £25 to UK/Ireland and £30 Overseas DISCOUNT AVAILABLE FOR 10 TESTS.

Every day put 2~4 drops onto some coconut oil and massage into the skin (ideally somewhere usually clothed so not exposed to UVA or sunlight as UVA exposure processes D3 into suprasterols we don't use)

2 drops provides 5000iu/daily which is generally an effective amount however if you haven't used a vitamin d supplement before or taken effective measures to raise 25(OH)D you may be better advised to use 1000iu for each 25lbs you weigh or to provide a quicker response 4 drops = 10,000iu daily.

Do this DAILY for at least 30 days but don't expect 25(OH)D level to peak until 3~6 months daily use.
Then whenever you want retest 25(OH)D to see how effective it's been.

It would be helpful to other readers if the results of your single person trial are posted back here as soon as possible.
The key facts we need are the starting 25(OH)D level.
The amount of vitamin D3 used daily (it would be helpful if latitude and weight were also provided as both affect vitamin D response)
The method of application.
The 25(OH)D level at end of trial period.

If anyone in the UK would like to do this trial then I'll be pleased to supply the 25(OH)D tests at cost price (£20 + £1.20 postage) and the Vitamin D drops at cost price. £4.50, if required I'll even put some Coconut oil in the package as well, it shouldn't melt in the winter.

Report post

It's possible the constipation issue is a result of greater calcium uptake enabled by increased vitamin D intake.
The answer isn't to avoid the vitamin d but to reduce calcium intake. No one should be taking more than 600mg/daily calcium in supplemental form. Most calcium should be sourced from diet or water or other beverages.

It's important to increase MAGNESIUM intake when raising vitamin d levels as the effect of increased absorption of calcium can precipitate magnesium deficiency (your body has used up available magnesium dealing with increased calcium availability)
400mg magnesium daily from magnesium malate, citrate or an albion mineral patent magnesium chelate may be useful. Magnesium Oxide is often used to treat constipation as this is the least well absorbed magnesium form (maybe as little as 4% bioavailable) so more magnesium remains in the digestive tract absorbing water and making stools softer, easier to pass.

Many people find TRANSDERMAL magnesium uptake, soaking 20mins in a hot bath of Dead Sea Salts (magnesium chloride) or Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) is helpful, others have found using a food spa with magnesium salts is adequate.

Vitamin C is often used to resolve constipation. Most people reach bowel tolerance between 2,000 and 4,000 mg.

Report post

@ "others have found using a food spa with magnesium salts is adequate. "
misspelled food spa I meant a FOOT spa
Basically a bowl of warm water with magnesium chloride/sulphate salts added will do the trick.

If you sit with your feet in a bowl of magnesium rich water while working at the computer at night don't forget to move it when you go to bed.

It's a nasty surprise to get you feet soaked with cold water when you return in the morning having forgotten you'd left the bowl under the desk.

Report post

Thanks Ted for the helpful information.

Report post

Thank you Ted and Dxaguru

My Mum has tried Vitamin D liquid drops, but they also gave her constipation. Very badly. She is naturally constipated anyway. She has a lot of trouble with her digestive system: she has had a nissen fundoplication (an anti-reflux operation) where they may have cut part of the vagus nerve (unsure). She has also had her gall bladder removed. So she has great problems digesting fat.

She takes no extra calcium, just what she gets in her diet. She has a lot of dairy, mostly cows, though she is now switching to goats, to see if this will help her stomach digest better. She is going to try a FODMAP diet for a few weeks to see if this helps the IBS with constipation and then turn her attention back to Vitamin D again when hopefully she will be less constipated.

I appreciate your information about the Vitamin D3 cream, however Ted, there is no FDA approval to any of these creams. Now that doesn't mean they don't work, but it also doesn't mean that they do. And without real evidence, I am concerned to send her on a wild goose chase, when she already has so many other health issues. I guess also, I am concerned about putting Vitamin D directly on the skin, in such a concentrated dose in case it could be harmful/carcinogenic - I realise that is unlikely - but we just don't know if it's not supposed to be applied topically like this. I appreciate your suggestion of mixing it into a carrier oil like coconut, that makes sense so as to increase the square area of absorption and make it more like a sunbathing session.

The Dovonex lotion - I looked that up, but nowhere on the site could I see a warning of it raising Vitamin D levels - but perhaps I missed that section - please excuse me if I did, though you are absolutely right - I have read other Psorasis medications indicating that Vitamin D levels may be raised.

The thing that drew my attention on the Dovonex product site was that it showed 1 in 10 people had a reaction in their skin (and this is what made me more hesitant about putting Vitamin D on the skin....) and it made me worried about my Mum getting a reaction.

Thank you for the suggestion of the footbath. This is certainly a more convenient way of getting the magnesium and one I will suggest. She tried the spray but it made her skin itch constantly until she washed it off.

I also appreciated your evidence of transdermal uptake of magnesium in a previous post, in a report from a UK hospital, I forget which one.

If only someone could provide one for transdermal Vitamin D! And strontium - that's my next quest.

I did find this clinical trial about transdermal strontium (sorry going off topic here) carried out by a Norwegian company Santosolve that was developing a patch of strontium chloride hexahydrate for osteoarthritis which had good results in 2010, however I couldn't work out if strontium was actually being absorbed by the body, or if it was simply working as an analgesic on the nerve endings, so no actual blood absorption. Any scientists out there able to give an answer on that I wonder?

I did try phoning the company this week but there was no answer and I wondered if perhaps they were no longer in operation... shame, as it looked like a good product.

Report post

I suspect that any/every way your mother improves her vitamin D3 level inevitably means she will absorb more calcium from diet/water and so the problem of excess calcium (constipation) remains the same.

Even a Vitamin D lamp would raise vitamin D3 25(OH)D and enable higher calcium absorption so the constipation issue would recur.

Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker that counterbalances the actions of calcium.

The way to get higher 25(OH)D and at the same time control the excess calcium that's causing constipation is to increase MAGNESIUM intake.
When you have increased magnesium to bowel tolerance (showing the body has more than sufficient available) surplus magnesium will remain in the digestive tract, attract water, making stools softer and easier to pass.

While I understand your concerns about experimenting on your mother, you may want to try on yourself first by massaging vitamin D mixed with coconut oil into your own skin so you find out for yourself that it works.
Having similar DNA it's likely the same effect will occur in your mother's skin.

We sometimes have to apply a little common sense.
Vitamin D is made naturally just below the surface of your skin.
Given energetic exercise (sufficient to cause sweating) some of that vitamin D is brought to the surface of the skin where it is lost by swimming/showering/towelling (which is why many performance athletes, marathon runners/cyclists, are vitamin d deficient)
In order to reduce the loss of vitamin D caused when sweating the advice generally given is to delay showering for as long as possible after being in the sun to enable the greatest re absorption of the vitamin D that sweat has brought to the skin surface.
It takes about two days before your skin will re-absorb the majority of vitamin D on your skin.
Water from a shower probably won't wash away the vitamin D (it's fat soluble) but soap/shower gels can.
In normal energetic people it's typically the case that vitamin D3 will be found on skin surface. It therefore seems to me reasonable to assume that vitamin D in a form that is biologically identical to that make in human skin is non toxic to human skin.
So I think if you found out how much coconut oil was required to massage a back or tummy and dissolved your vit d drops in that amount of coconut oil you would not be concentrating the vitamin d drops on just one spot.

It seems improbable a natural substance know to be totally safe orally would be dangerous if used externally.
It's generally the other way round, substances that are generally safe for external use may be toxic when swallowed.

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Things you can do

Support NOF

Help the National Osteoporosis Foundation reach its goals and support people like yourself by making a donation today.

Donate to the National Osteoporosis Foundation

Learn more about osteoporosis awareness and prevention

Discussion topics

Links and resources from NOF

Community leaders

Disclaimer

The National Osteoporosis Foundation would like to remind visitors and community members that the views and opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of NOF. Please consult your personal healthcare provider regarding any medical information that is shared on this site.