Vitamin D and Soap

I've had this one hanging around for days and since I'm on a roll just now, and just got a question about D, here goes. I'm not going to dig up the many past posts, but you can find most of them here, or simply search vitamin d to the right.

The short version is that vitamin D is crucial for a host of processes and modern life has come to the point of shielding humans from receiving the vitamin as nature and evolution intended. The things we already know about are clothing, shelter, working indoors and sunscreen that keep us from the D we need. But here's another: soap. Yep, all you clean freaks: you're washing your vitamin D off before it gets absorbed.

It was an interesting discovery for me, as it has been a very long time since I've put soap to anything but hair, face, armpits and groin. I never use lotions or creams and I have wonderfully soft skin. Maybe that's one reason for my high levels of D, along with supplementation, of course (now 4k IU per day instead of 6, since I get sun about 4 times per week).

So, here's Dr. Mercola to explain, with a video and a write up.

I must say that I disagree with his hierarchy of the most preferred way to get D. I think you need to get tested and that your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels ought to be above 60 ng/ml. Unless you're living at a low latitude, I don't see how you're going to get that from sun exposure, at least year round. Tanning panels or beds are very expensive, and they strike me as rather like the treadmill in terms of eventual boring drudgery and something that ends up sitting in your house just taking up space. Supplementation is inexpensive, takes no time, is safe, and in the gelcap form is proven to get levels of D where they ought to be.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Karen on May 20, 2009 at 15:21

    I received my Grassroots Health vitamin D results. After about 2 months of supplementing with 6000 iu's of Vitamin D3, I was only at 41 ng/mL! I was a bit surprised but wonder if it is because I am still carrying around a good deal of fat. I was going to cut back for the summer but think I'll up it to 8000 iu's for a bit. Even though I live in the desert, I will probably not get much more midday sun exposure then I already have been getting.

    On a canine note, I am having several of my Goldens 25(OH)vitamin D levels tested. From a research paper I found, it appears that dogs are expected to have "normal" levels in a range similar to humans.

    Cancer is rather rampant in modern dogs (purebred & mutt). While most researchers are looking for genetic causes, can the answer be as simple as a Vitamin D deficiency? From what I can find, dogs, like most coated mammals, make Vitamin D in their hair. The theory is that licking the coat causes them to ingest the Vitamin D. Now my dogs do not sit around licking themselves, so this idea is a bit suspect to me. Perhaps the oil oozes down the hair shaft and is absorbed by the skin. My dogs are indoors while I'm at work so have limited sun exposure and if receiving regular baths for shows, then the Vitamin D will be removed from the coat. I have been supplementing my dogs with 1000 iu's Vitamin D3, along with vitamin D deficient cod liver oil for the Vitamin A, about once or twice a week. If they come back with low numbers, I will be upping their dosage and try to get them into the "good" range.

    Any input from someone with more info on Dogs and Vitamin D would be greatly appreciated!

    • Julie Lu on March 25, 2010 at 17:18

      Do you have a reference for ‘animals make D in their hair’? I understood that hair was dead stuff so maybe it is in the follicles where it is made..

      • Richard Nikoley on March 26, 2010 at 09:44

        Not at my fingertips and I’m headed out the door just now. I believe I found a number of sources at the time via Google so give that a shot.

      • Julie Lu on April 1, 2010 at 07:25

        My search results suggested that in birds and animals, Vit D can be made in the OILS that migrate down the fur/feathers where it is exposed to sunlight then reabsorbed via ingestion during grooming. This is not unlike the process whereby foods are exposed with U V light to boost vit D in those foods. So it is established that oils are required and the hair is simply the medium, and by implication if the creature was hairless it would have no reason to groom and therefore would need another source for D. We do not groom ourselves by mouth so this source of vit D oils would be an illogical adaptation for ‘hairless humans, hence the reason for humans making Vit D by UV action upon the ‘oils’ BENEATH the surface of the skin. If this is still the science, why then is Dr M. and others misrepresenting the role of human Vit D manufacture from UV exposure, which in moderation is the safest way to ensure s adequate stores without risk of overdosing? Please comment on the manufacture of Vit D gel capsules. what is their source of Vit D?

      • Julie Lu on April 1, 2010 at 17:16

        Please comment on the manufacture of Vit D gel capsules. what is their source of Vit D?

  2. Karen on May 20, 2009 at 16:25

    The research paper abstract is here:

    My vet friend who also shows/works/breeds Goldens will be doing the blood draw and sending to the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University ( Vets need to have an account setup with DCPAH. Possibly other labs offer the service also. Here is the page with the specific test info:

  3. Grok on May 20, 2009 at 14:35

    I knew there had to be a good reason why I usually only wash those same few (and one more) parts. I think I started when I was much younger and my folks bought "Irish spring." Multiple daily showers with that stuff made my skin itchy leather.

    I supplement with cod liver oil to get my D.

    • Julie Lu on April 1, 2010 at 07:33

      Cod liver oil apparently is a poor source of D and may cause toxic overload of Vit A. Please review this product in the light of recent Vit D research 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on April 1, 2010 at 11:12

        I don’t buy it, Julie, and neither do a lot of others.

        While I don’t think a lot of CLO is a good thing this stuff by Cannell and Mercola is nonsense in my view. Beef liver is huge in vitamin A so these guys don’t even get off square one in terms of evolutionary principles, in my opinion.

      • Julie Lu on April 1, 2010 at 17:13

        Cannot place your comment in context (?) what exactly dont you buy? That Vit A can be long term toxic? or that Vit D is low in cod liver oil? something else?

        I am truly trying to get facts re Vit D manufacture in humans and had decided to do sunning regularly having religiously protected myself thru non-chemical means for twenty years!

        My understanding is that D is added to Cod liver oil these days and that it is much lower amount than in past.( less than 1:10 ratio to A) AND that it makes a negligible contribution to recently defined human needs. Therefore to get the kind of quantity of D required one would need to be consuming toxic quantities of CLO Vit A.

        The use of beef or other animal livers as food, may be problematic source since this is the detox organ. Having a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) i have been warned not to consume it (!)

        I do agree that in the light of continuing specialist type research (i.e. an absence of wholistic philosophy) which then heavily used for marketing, we are guinea pigs in the long term. To defer to traditional diets noting ALL the factors of that tradition is a sensible default.

        Since the discovery of its cure for rickets, for most diets CLO would have been a supplement based on marketing and and the low levels of D were not needed or questioned for its role in other human requirements: all it need to do was stop rickets…

        However recent tradition has seen a mass exodus from the sun so can that same supplement do the task for which it was promoted 80 years ago. Further, in recent tradition it seems there has been preference away from human consumption of animal offal with much going into the pet food industry.. i would want a confirmation of its long term suitability either as a frequent food or regular supplement with respect to Vit D as well as Vit A ; its possible toxicity or even with respect to new syndromes such as mad cow disease! Personally I am unable to trust any liver supplementation in this present era.

      • Julie Lu on April 1, 2010 at 17:14

        thank-you for the link I need to digest it now..

  4. justin on May 20, 2009 at 15:26

    This actually goes a long way to explaining why animals are licking themselves, and may also explain why my cat, who has had to stay indoors recently, has been licking off all his fur. Craving the Vitamin D, perhaps.

  5. Aaron Blaisdell on May 20, 2009 at 16:03

    I just happen to wash only those same areas on a regular basis. Also, my family has a genetic disorder that renders us photosensitive, and thus we aren't able to tolerate as much sun exposure as most. This definitely necessitates oral supplements. I've been taking 6k IU from the Carson drops daily. That's in addition to the 1/4 teaspoon of high-vitamin CLO which has about 500 IU of D3.

  6. DA on May 20, 2009 at 21:40

    A low altitude? Or do you mean low latitude?

  7. Richard Nikoley on May 20, 2009 at 15:52


    Near & dear to my heart as I have learned much the same things you have about fur and grooming and such. My two rat terriers do go out every morning and spend significant time laying in the sun. They like to expose the pink skin on their bellies, but they also groom themselves pretty well.

    They are only about 15 pounds each, so, once per week I put a Carlson 1,000 IU drop in food they will both consume over 2-3 days. I also divide one 1g Carlson high-potency CLO, and they get 2 mg of Thorne K2 MK4.

    They are in excellent health and the older one, a 10-yr-old male is more active and vibrant than when he was 5, and he has a bum leg owing to a break at the growth plate and failed operation as a pup. he still chases squirrels with everything he's got.

    They get walked about five miles every day.

    TW, do you have a link to that research paper, and also, where do you get D levels for dogs checked, at the vet?

    • Ben on August 19, 2009 at 03:09

      Hi Richard,

      I’m so happy to see this post on supplements you give to your pets.

      Is that 2 mg of K2 each, or divided?

      I use the fermented CLO that has 600 IU vitamin D per ml and I give 1/2 ml to each of my 12 pound maltese’s (once a week). Is that enough vitamin D or should I buy some vitamin D drops as well?

      Many thanks!

      • Ben on August 19, 2009 at 03:11

        Forgot to say, they don’t get alot of sun, they only sit in the sunshine for about 10 minutes a day 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on August 19, 2009 at 13:16

        It’s usually 2mg mixed in food that will be divided by both over a few days.

        Not sure about dose. I split one Calson high potency CLO between them (about 15 lbs each) per week, and I usually put 1000-2000 IU via drops in their food along with the K2, but not always. Usually, every other can of food or so.

  8. Joe Matasic on May 21, 2009 at 05:31

    My skin is also super soft and my wife comments on it all the time. I keep telling her to quit using those lotions and moisturizers. I'm sure genetics is a part of it, but I can't stand those things on my skin. I do shower every morning though. Solely using Dr Bronner's these days. Have used other junk in the past. Plus I eat plenty of fat and protein.

    Our lab mix has been licking herself obsessively lately. I've been wondering if its instinct. She's tumor ridden at 14.5 years old. I've been wondering if she's trying to get more vitamin D. I tried to switch her to a grain free higher protein food Wellness Core, but wife thinks it messed with her digestive system too much. I think she's gotten used to it but we've already started going back. Next dog will be either on their natural diet or a food like Wellness Core/Evo and supplements.

    @Karen, maybe they're not licking themselves because, like humans, they don't show the outward signs in the short term? Only over the long term? I've always put our dogs tumors down to diet but didn't think about Vit D. My brother had to put his lab down two days ago and it also was tumor ridden.

  9. Richard Nikoley on May 21, 2009 at 07:02

    Latitude. Thanks for the catch. Will fox.

  10. Toban on April 27, 2010 at 06:49

    Kurt Harris ridiculed Mercola on this. He wrote: “Unless you are showering and using a belt sander on your skin, you cannot possibly “wash off” the vitamin D.”

  11. Ken on October 3, 2010 at 19:11

    This is pure nonsense. Vitamin D is synthesized inside skin cells, and directly enters the bloodstream. It is not produced on the surface of skin, which is comprised of dead skin cells, nor is it excreted to the surface of the skin by the living cells underneath.

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