Can Sunscreen Affect Your Vitamin D Level?
The answer is not that simple.
You might be generally aware that we get vitamin D from the sun. But if you stumbled on this blog, it’s probably because you’re wondering what happens when you actually protect your skin against the one thing that helps make vitamin D.
Thankfully, we’ve 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 sunscreen to boost your vitamin D. But first…
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 the body lacks Vitamin D, it has shown to cause aches, soreness, and bone weakness in mild cases; along with increasing the risk of osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, and 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 we expose our skin to sunlight, the UV rays supercharge the skin’s 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. However, this research was done in northern countries that receive limited sunlight year-round.
Other studies also noted that people with dark skin tone might need longer exposure to synthesise vitamin D, as the skin’s melanin acts as an extra protective layer to the UV rays.
Vitamin D can also be synthesised through food such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mushrooms, milk, and soy. So while exposing yourself to the sun is an effective way to get Vitamin D, it is important to note that it is not the only way, as sun exposure can also come with many downsides.
Can You Synthesise Enough Vitamin D By Wearing Sunscreen?
It is no secret that unprotected sun exposure can lead to sunburn, premature ageing, heatstroke and risk of skin cancer. But not having enough vitamin D can be detrimental in other ways.
That said, many studies have observed that applying sunscreen does NOT influence Vitamin D deficiency.
In fact, In an Australian study, experts 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, it is best to still wear sunscreen, no matter where you live. A sunscreen layer can protect your skin from various damage 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.