Did you know there’s more to vitamin D than just getting some rays?
Though sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, it must be “activated” with the help of one of our favorite minerals: magnesium.
The fact that certain nutrients depend on other nutrients to work within the body really shouldn’t come as a surprise.
After all, everything in nature is intricately connected.
So let’s see why prioritizing magnesium and other key nutrients is crucial for getting the most out of your time in the sun.
What is vitamin D exactly?
First things first…
It’s technically a fat soluble hormone– not a vitamin. (1)
Crazy, I know.
We often refer to it as a vitamin because it's an essential nutrient we cannot live without– “vita” is latin for life.
But it's also a hormone because, like all hormones, it acts as a messenger in the body to switch on certain processes.
So for the same reason we don’t supplement sex hormones willy-nilly– we should be careful when adding in a “hormone” D supplement. It’s usually better to encourage the body’s natural hormone production before turning to external supplementation.
What does vitamin D do for the body?
It’s long been known to support bone health thanks to its effect on calcium and phosphorus absorption and retention. (2)
But more recently, we’re finding out that vitamin D has its hand in more than just our bones.
In fact, it affects over 200 different genes in the body. (3)
Vitamin D is essential for
- proper immune function– it boosts the production of immune cells and reduces inflammation to control infections. (4)
- healthy cell metabolism– prevents problematic cell growth and tissue damage.
- thyroid health– prevents immune cells from attacking the thyroid gland and causing Hashimoto’s. (5)
- blood sugar stabilization– its effect on cellular calcium metabolism boosts insulin release and glucose tolerance. (6)
- adrenal gland function– essential for adrenal hormone production and stress management in the body. (7)
- gut microbiome balance– satisfies vitamin D receptors in the gut to maintain a healthy gut mucosal lining. (8)
- emotional regulation– helps synthesize serotonin in the brain for a more stable mood. (9)
Clearly, this is not a nutrient to ignore.
Why is vitamin D so important for skin health?
All of the most common skin issues are usually caused by an overgrowth of keratinocytes (skin cells) and excess inflammation.
Vitamin D tackles both of these concerns head on.
- Its regulating effect on the immune system brings down total inflammation on the skin.
- Controlled skin cell proliferation slows plaque growth and reduces the chance of clogged pores. (10)
It’s also really good at making protein and lipids in the skin for proper barrier function and water retention.
So it makes sense that low vitamin D is linked with inflammatory skin conditions like excess dryness, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
Now we know how vitamin D benefits our skin and overall health, but where does it come from?
How does the body make vitamin D?
You are a vitamin D making machine– well, your skin, liver, and kidneys are.
Pretty cool right?
Vitamin D is one of the only vitamins made in-house.
And it all starts with our skin.
Cholesterol in the skin cells turns UVB rays from the sun into a precursor form of Vitamin D called cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). From there it’s transported through the blood to the liver where specific enzymes convert it into calcifediol. It then moves onto the kidneys where other enzymes convert it into the bioavailable active form of vitamin D, calcitriol. (11)
All the enzymes involved along the way require a little something called magnesium to do their jobs. (12)
This means that not enough magnesium can seriously stall vitamin D conversion and activation.
“Vitamin D deficiency” might actually be low magnesium.
With 50% of the population not getting enough of the sunshine vitamin, this is truly an epidemic of darkness. (13)
No wonder we’re sicker and more depressed than ever before.
Low vitamin D can lead to a whole host of symptoms like
- Bone pains and muscle aches
- Fatigue and low energy
- Bone loss and osteoporosis
- Mood swings and depression
- Suppressed immunity and more frequent infections
- Slower wound healing
- Hair thinning
- Shorter sleep cycle duration
- Skin dryness, acne, psoriasis, eczema
Thankfully, over the last few years, we’ve finally started to realize the importance of upping vitamin D– but magnesium is still being overlooked.
And without this master mineral, our liver and kidneys simply cannot make enough active vitamin D.
Getting more sunshine or popping a supplement will only get you so far if your body can’t complete this conversion process.
Supplementing vitamin D without supporting the rest of your body can also mess with the delicate mineral ratios in your cells. This leads to more depletion, inflammation, and even calcification down the line.
If you live further from the equator and feel the need to supplement, taking vitamin D and magnesium together could help mitigate some of these risks.
5 ways to restore vitamin D levels without supplementation.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly to naturally increase vitamin D.
Just focus on the basics:
- Get outside– unobstructed sunlight is the best (and most natural) source of true vitamin D.
- Don't overuse sunscreen– let your skin soak up the sun’s vitamin D producing rays for at least 20 minutes a day. (Read our thoughts on too much sunscreen here.)
- Lower inflammation– take a deep breath and swap highly oxidative foods like seed oils for more nourishing animal products and antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies.
- Eat vitamin D rich foods– fill your plate with things like beef liver, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, and dairy products.
- Increase magnesium– stress quickly depletes mag so try to chill, cut back where you can, and consider adding in a bioavailable supplement.
How to get more magnesium in your cells for vitamin D activation.
Magnesium is a trace mineral humans traditionally absorbed through nutrient-rich soil and natural springs.
We used to play in the dirt, grow our own food, and collect water straight from the source.
But our modern, fast-paced culture is making these two resources increasingly hard to come by.
With overworked soil, ultrafiltered water, and stressed out nervous systems– supplementing magnesium may be more essential than ever before.
Though it’s always a good idea to take your own situation into context here and even consider getting an HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) to see where your levels are at before making any changes.
Here are a few different forms of bioavailable magnesium worth taking a look at:
- magnesium bicarbonate: a liquid form of magnesium easily absorbed by the small intestine.
- magnesium glycinate: another ingestible option that's available in capsule form.
- magnesium chloride (our favorite): usually applied to the skin as a spray, lotion, or bath salts. Topical magnesium is perfect for those with sensitive stomachs as it goes into the bloodstream right through the skin. Fatskn Magnesium Body Lotion blends genuine Zechstein magnesium chloride flakes with 100% grassfed suet tallow to moisturize the skin so it fully absorbs this master mineral.
More ways to support healthy sun absorption.
While magnesium plays a major role in bringing the body into balance, there’s always more to the story— isn’t there?
Keep these other nutrients in mind as you bask in the sun to avoid oxidative stress, promote vitamin D activation, and repair cellular damage all year round.
- Vitamin E: acts as an electron donor in the cell and prevents iron accumulation in the tissues to protect against oxidative damage on the skin. (14) It’s found in things like jojoba oil, cacao butter, and, of course, grassfed suet tallow. This is the entire recipe for our Purist Whipped Body Butter.
- Vitamin A: activates signaling proteins that help vitamin D move calcium where it needs to go in the body. Found in beef liver, fatty fish, eggs, and grassfed suet tallow. (15)
- Vitamin K: acts synergistically with vitamin D from the sun to regulate calcium absorption in the body. This fat-soluble vitamin is found in leafy greens, eggs, cheese, blueberries, avocado, and, you guessed it, grassfed suet tallow. (16)
- Methylene blue: works with redlight from the sun to support skin integrity, prevent oxidative stress, and even repair DNA damage. (17, 18) We blended this therapeutic dye with protective jojoba, nourishing tallow, non-oxidizing vitamin C, healing beeswax, and a touch of vanilla oleoresin in our all-new Fatskn Pre-Sun— the ultimate bioenergetic suncare tool.
The moral of this story is that you are more than just one isolated nutrient.
You live in an intricate system of minerals, enzymes, bacteria, hormones, and beautiful reactions.
So take a step back and admire the whole picture with full-body support.
As always, while we hope to be a no-nonsense resource, we encourage you to do your own research to find the healthiest options for you and your family.
You can check out our collection of good-for-you, tallow skincare products by clicking the link below. We hope to see you there!
- Ellison DL, Moran HR. Vitamin D: Vitamin or Hormone? Nurs Clin North Am. 2021 Mar;56(1):47-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cnur.2020.10.004. Epub 2020 Dec 28. PMID: 33549285. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33549285/
- Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018 Mar 1;118(3):181-189. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.037. PMID: 29480918. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29480918/#:~:text=Magnesium%20assists%20in%20the%20activation,in%20the%20liver%20and%20kidneys.
- khan, B., Shafiq, H., Abbas, S. et al. Vitamin D status and its correlation to depression. Ann Gen Psychiatry 21, 32 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12991-022-00406-1
- Konijeti GG, Arora P, Boylan MR, Song Y, Huang S, Harrell F, Newton-Cheh C, O'Neill D, Korzenik J, Wang TJ, Chan AT. Vitamin D Supplementation Modulates T Cell-Mediated Immunity in Humans: Results from a Randomized Control Trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Feb;101(2):533-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-3599. Epub 2015 Dec 14. PMID: 26653112; PMCID: PMC4880125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880125/#:~:text=Prior%20experimental%20studies%20have%20shown,responses%20(18%2C%2019).
- Mackawy AM, Al-Ayed BM, Al-Rashidi BM. Vitamin d deficiency and its association with thyroid disease. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2013 Nov;7(3):267-75. doi: 10.12816/0006054. PMID: 24533019; PMCID: PMC3921055. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921055/#:~:text=Importantly%2C%20both%20vitamin%20D%20and,Graves%27%20disease%20and%20Hashimoto%27s%20thyroiditis.
- Foroughi M, Maghsoudi Z, Askari G. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on blood sugar and different indices of insulin resistance in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016 Jan-Feb;21(1):100-4. doi: 10.4103/1735-9066.174759. PMID: 26985230; PMCID: PMC4776554. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4776554/
- Al Refaie A, Baldassini L, De Vita M, Gonnelli S, Caffarelli C. Vitamin D and adrenal gland: Myth or reality? A systematic review. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Oct 13;13:1001065. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.1001065. PMID: 36313775; PMCID: PMC9606701. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9606701/
- Akimbekov NS, Digel I, Sherelkhan DK, Lutfor AB, Razzaque MS. Vitamin D and the Host-Gut Microbiome: A Brief Overview. Acta Histochem Cytochem. 2020 Jun 26;53(3):33-42. doi: 10.1267/ahc.20011. Epub 2020 Jun 16. PMID: 32624628; PMCID: PMC7322162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7322162/
- Guzek D, Kołota A, Lachowicz K, Skolmowska D, Stachoń M, Głąbska D. Association between Vitamin D Supplementation and Mental Health in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review. J Clin Med. 2021 Nov 3;10(21):5156. doi: 10.3390/jcm10215156. PMID: 34768677; PMCID: PMC8584834. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8584834/
- Bikle DD. Vitamin D and the skin: Physiology and pathophysiology. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2012 Mar;13(1):3-19. doi: 10.1007/s11154-011-9194-0. PMID: 21845365; PMCID: PMC3687803. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3687803/
- Bikle DD. Vitamin D metabolism, mechanism of action, and clinical applications. Chem Biol. 2014 Mar 20;21(3):319-29. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2013.12.016. Epub 2014 Feb 13. PMID: 24529992; PMCID: PMC3968073. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3968073/
- Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018 Mar 1;118(3):181-189. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.037. PMID: 29480918. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29480918/
- “Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15050-vitamin-d-vitamin-d-deficiency#:~:text=Vitamin%20D%20deficiency%20is%20a%20common%20global%20issue.,States%20have%20vitamin%20D%20deficiency.
- Burke KE, Clive J, Combs GF Jr, Commisso J, Keen CL, Nakamura RM. Effects of topical and oral vitamin E on pigmentation and skin cancer induced by ultraviolet irradiation in Skh:2 hairless mice. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(1):87-97. doi: 10.1207/S15327914NC381_13. PMID: 11341050. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11341050/
- Vitamin A. (2019, January 2). Vitamin A. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A
- van Ballegooijen AJ, Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Grübler MR, Verheyen N. The Synergistic Interplay between Vitamins D and K for Bone and Cardiovascular Health: A Narrative Review. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376. doi: 10.1155/2017/7454376. Epub 2017 Sep 12. PMID: 29138634; PMCID: PMC5613455. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5613455/
- Xiong ZM, O'Donovan M, Sun L, Choi JY, Ren M, Cao K. Anti-Aging Potentials of Methylene Blue for Human Skin Longevity. Sci Rep. 2017 May 30;7(1):2475. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02419-3. PMID: 28559565; PMCID: PMC5449383. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449383/
- Xiong, ZM., Mao, X., Trappio, M. et al. Ultraviolet radiation protection potentials of Methylene Blue for human skin and coral reef health. Sci Rep 11, 10871 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89970-2