How does skin produce vitamins?

Woman with orange near face.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Citrus fruits can give your skin necessary vitamins, but your skin also produces its own important nutrient: vitamin D. See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
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If you're trying to get enough vitamins in your diet, you may pay careful attention to what you eat or take a vitamin supplement. Your body is doing its bit to help where it can too, by producing a couple vitamins on its own. You may think that your skin is just there to make you look good, but while you're going about your day, your skin goes to work creating vitamin D [source: Medline Plus].

There are 13 vitamins that your body absolutely must have, and vitamin D is one of them [source: Medline Plus]. Having enough vitamin D is important for your health because without it your body wouldn't be able to keep up proper levels of calcium and phosphorus. That means you need vitamin D if you want to have healthy, strong bones and teeth. If you don't have enough, you're looking at bones that break easily, are too thin or can be become misshapen [source: National Institutes of Health]. New research shows that vitamin D might provide protection from several diseases, including cancer [source: Mayo Clinic].


To make vitamin D, your skin needs adequate exposure to the sun. Your skin contains a cholesterol substance called provitamin D3 that reacts with the ultraviolet-B (or UVB) rays in sunlight to form vitamin D3. From there, the body takes over, first passing the vitamin D through the liver and then through the kidneys, converting it along the way into the form that the body needs [source: National Institutes of Health].

Wanting to increase your vitamin D levels doesn't mean that you should give up on sunscreen or head for the tanning beds. Some research says that as little as 10 minutes of fun in the sun is enough to let your skin do its vitamin D magic. If you're inside all day and not able to get even the 10-minute minimum sun exposure, you can find another form of vitamin D in some foods such as fish and eggs, or you can take a vitamin D supplement [source: Mayo Clinic].

For more information on vitamin D and others that can benefit your skin, keep reading.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Brett, Jennifer, ND. "How Vitamin D Works." (Accessed Sept. 18, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Vitamin D." Sept. 1, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 18, 2009)
  • Medline Plus. "Vitamins." (Accessed Sept. 18, 2009)
  • National Institutes of Health. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D." (Accessed Sept. 18, 2009)