Vitamin D Based Topicals

Vitamin D derivatives come in gel, ointment, lotion and scalp solution applications. They act by encouraging normal skin cell growth and preventing the excessive growth rate that we see in psoriasis.

What are Vitamin D treatments?

Topical Vitamin D treatments are often one of the first topical treatments to be prescribed to people with psoriasis. Topical means to apply to the skin and topical Vitamin D treatments can come in ointment, lotion, gel and foam formations.

With the exception of Dovonex ointment, topical Vitamin D treatments are only available on prescription and cannot be bought from a pharmacist. If you have a confirmed diagnosis of psoriasis (by a GP or Dermatologist) then it is possible to buy Dovonex ointment from some pharmacies. However the cost is significantly more than if you receive the same treatment with a prescription.

These treatments act by slowing down the production of skin cells and have an anti-inflammatory effect. This leads to an improvement in psoriasis symptoms for some people.

Topical Vitamin D treatments are not the same as Vitamin D supplements that you might take orally in tablet or liquid form.

When should vitamin D treatments be used?

Topical Vitamin D treatments may be used separately, or in combination with topical steroid treatments. (See separate information sheet on Topical Steroids)

It is recommended that a review appointment is arranged four weeks after starting any new topical treatment (two weeks for children), so that your doctor can assess what the results of the treatment are so far, and to check if you need any help with using the treatment.

As with all topical treatments, it may take a number of weeks of use for a Vitamin D treatment to become fully effective.

How should topical vitamin D treatments be used?

Vitamin D treatments are easy to use and, when used properly, are unlikely to cause any side effects. As with all treatments, however, they should not be overused – too much topical vitamin D could interfere with the body’s absorption of calcium. It is thought that topical vitamin D can make the body more sensitive to UV light, and so people using these treatments might be advised to limit time out in the sun – check with your doctor or refer to the enclosed patient information leaflet for further advice.

It is thought that ‘active’ topical treatments, including topical vitamin D treatments, work better when the skin is well moisturised. Therefore, it is recommended that an emollient (moisturiser) should be applied and allowed to sink in about half an hour before using a topical vitamin D treatment.

It is recommended that if applying treatments once a day, to apply them at night in order for them to work most effectively.

Types of topical vitamin D treatments

There are four vitamin D treatments available in the UK – calcipotriol (Dovonex), calcitriol (Silkis) and tacalcitol (Curatoderm), and a calcipotriol and steroid combination treatment that comes in different formulations (Dovobet and Enstilar). More information about each of these treatments can be found on our vitamin D information sheet.


The information on this page is also available in our vitamin D information sheet

February 2024 (Review Date: February 2027)