A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Found that taking high doses of vitamin D3 one hour after sunburn may significantly decrease skin redness, swelling, and inflammation. 

Th double-blind, placebo-controlled interventional trial conducted by researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center randomized 20 subjects to receive 50,000 IU, 100,000 IU, or 200,000 IU vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) or placebo one hour after a small “experimental sunburn” via a UV lamp on their inner arm.

Study participants were checked at 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, and 1 week after the experiment; skin biopsies were also performed for further testing. 

The study found that subjects who took the highest doses of vitamin D had long-term benefits, including reduced skin inflammation 48 hours after the burn. The 200,000 IU group showed reduced expression of pro-inflammatory mediators TNF-alpha (P=0.04) and iNOS (P=0.02) in skin biopsy samples after the sunburn.  

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Moreover, subjects with the highest serum vitamin D3 levels after treatment (P=0.007) exhibited reduced skin redness (P=0.02) and increased expression of arginase-1, indicating a boost in their skin barrier repair process. Upregulation of arginase-1, an anti-inflammatory enzyme, is presumed to be a new mechanism by which vitamin D helps tissue repair after damage and activates other anti-inflammatory proteins. Subjects with lower serum vitamin D3 levels exhibited significant levels of pro-inflammatory genes. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently recommends vitamin D 400 IU daily for adults but the doses evaluated in the study were much higher than the recommended allowances. Based on these findings, study author, Kurt Q. Lu, MD, does not recommend that “people start taking vitamin D after sunburn based on this study alone. But, the results are promising and worthy of further study.”

For more information visit jidonline.org.