Vitamin D increases bone strength, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attacks, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Even in most sunny places, Vitamin D is one of the most lacking nutrients in humans worldwide. It’s estimated that 40 percent of American adults have a vitamin D deficiency. The shortfalls in vitamin D stretch across all ages and ethnic groups. People are too worried about vitamin D, and the risk of skin cancer is SO much greater than low vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for our health and is most commonly made in the body when our bare skin is exposed to UVB radiation.
Does Sunscreen Affect Vitamin D?
People use sunscreen to protect their skin against sunburns and skin cancer. Most sunscreens contain chemicals that either reflect, absorb or scatter sunlight. When this happens, the skin is exposed to lower levels of harmful UV rays. Several studies have shown that wearing sunscreen only has a small impact on your blood levels during the summer. People usually think that sunscreen prevents us from getting the vitamin D that we need in our everyday lives. There have been studies done, and using sunscreen does not affect you getting your daily dose of Vitamin D.
The Sun is your BEST source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is usually called “the sunshine vitamin.” When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s UVB rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur. Vitamin D has many roles in the body and is essential for optimal health. For example, it instructs the cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus which are two minerals that are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones. If people use an SPF 15 sunscreen, then only 93% of the rays are blocked, and enough sun can get through to provide enough vitamin D.
Midday is the best time to get Vitamin D
As far as official sun exposure recommendations for the sake of vitamin D, expert opinions vary. The exact amount of sun and on how much skin depends on the person, and more specifically, on his or her skin tone. The darker the skin, the more sun exposure is needed. Age plays a role, too. The older the person, the more sun exposure is needed to reach vitamin D levels. Up to two hours of direct sun exposure a day is necessary in winter to absorb enough vitamin D, while just 30 minutes or less is needed in summer months.
Dangers of Too Much Sunlight
While sunlight is amazing for vitamin D production, too much can be dangerous. Some consequences include:
Sunburns: Which are the most common harmful effect of too much sunlight. Sunburns include redness, swelling, pain, tenderness or blisters.
Eye damage: Long term of UV light can damage the retina. This can increase the risk of eye diseases like cataracts.
Aging skin: Spending too long in the sun can cause your skin to age faster. Some people develop more wrinkled, loose or leathery skin.
Heat stroke: Also known as a sunstroke, this is a condition in which the body’s core temperature may rise due to too much heat or sun exposure.
Skin changes: Freckles, moles and other skin changes can be a side effect of excess sunlight exposure.
Skin Cancer: Too much UV light is a MAJOR cause of skin cancers.
Although sunlight is great for making vitamin D, too much sun exposure can be very dangerous. If you plan on spending a lot of time in the sun this summer, make sure to avoid getting sunburned. It is best to reapply sunscreen every one to two hours especially if you’re sweating or bathing.
What are other ways to get Vitamin D?
If you’re not getting enough sun exposure, the right foods and supplements can help boost vitamin D levels. Only a handful of foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. These would consist of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are especially good sources. Small amounts are also present in egg yolks, beef liver and cheese. And many common foods such as milk and orange juice are filled with vitamin D. That being said, you would need to eat them nearly every day to get enough vitamin D.
From one of our doctors here at Affiliated Dermatology, Dr. Newman explains the importance of sunscreen, “For general skin care in men: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, and sunscreen. Protect yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreens throughout the day and limit sun exposure. If you’re worried about your vitamin D levels, then be aware that the majority of our vitamin D comes from our diet rather than the sun. Many fishes and vitamin D-fortified foods are available. Plus, vitamin D supplements are readily available. Remember, the best anti-aging cream is sunscreen! That’s right, guys. Protecting your skin with sunscreens from the powerful radiation emitted by the sun will make you looking younger for longer.”
With that being said, Vitamin D can be obtained in many different ways. You can still get your daily dose of vitamin D with sunscreen on, and through the right foods and supplements. Remember to stay safe this summer and come into Affiliated Dermatology to meet with our team for a skin screening! Better to be safe than sorry.