Can Sunscreen Affect Your Vitamin D Levels?
It is no secret that the warm light of the sun helps your body synthesise Vitamin D. But what actually happens when you protect your skin against the one thing that gives you this essential vitamin?
The answer is not that straightforward. That's why we decided to break down the data and science on everything vitamin D, sunlight and sunscreen, to help you decide if it is really worth it to skip the SPF.
Why Does Your Body Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that is converted by the body to support bone health, hormonal balance, and the healthy turnover of cells. However, our diet and lifestyle make it that up to 40% of adults are deficient in Vitamin D.
When your body lacks Vitamin D, it can make you feel achy, sore and weak. It can also increase your is risks of osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. But while this data may seem scary, it is fairly easy to maintain your Vitamin D at a healthy level through supplements, food, and the sun.
How Do You Get Vitamin D From The Sun?
Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because when you expose your skin to sunlight, the UV rays supercharge its cholesterol to synthesise vitamin D.
It is estimated that people with light skin tone can expose themselves to sunlight for just 30 minutes, 3 times per week, to get enough vitamin D. Alternatively, some studies have also noted that people with dark skin tone might need to expose themselves longer to receive enough vitamin D. This is because a dark skin tone contains melanin, which act as an extra protective layers against UVs.
Exposing yourself to sunlight is an effective way to get vitamin D. However, it isn't the only way, as this vitamin can also be synthesised through food. A diet rich in fatty fish, mushroom, milk or soy can replenish your body just as effectively.
Can You Synthesise Enough Vitamin D By Wearing Sunscreen?
Unprotected sun exposure and lack of vitamin D can be both detrimental for your skin and overall health. Not wearing sunscreen will let your skin synthesise vitamin D, but not without exposing you to sunburn premature ageing, heatstroke and potential melanomas.
But as experts have found, it seems that wearing sunscreen doe NOT prevent your body from getting enough vitamin D from the sun.
In fact, In an Australian study, researchers asked 113 participants to use various levels of SPF sunscreens. After monitoring their vitamin D levels over the summer, the study showed that no SPF variation made participants deficient in Vitamin D.
The data suggests that in Australia, our bodies are sufficiently exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen offers a 95 to 98% UV coverage, even when applied properly, which allows for up to 5% of UV rays to go through and synthesise Vitamin D. On top of that, we naturally wear airy clothing that exposes parts of our skin throughout the day.
All in all, sunscreen layer can do its protective job without preventing Vitamin D from synthesising. And if you ever notice a strong deficiency, it is best to supplement through food and speak with a healthcare provider rather than expose yourself without protection under the sun.