As the days get warmer and longer, many people will be spending more time outdoors. This means more exposure to sunlight. Sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is necessary for good health. However, sunlight can also damage our skin and cause skin cancer, which is why it’s important to wear sunscreen. Some people wonder if you can still get vitamin D while wearing sunscreen.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D helps ensure proper bone health. It helps your body regulate calcium levels, which strengthens your bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps strengthen your immune system, and is necessary for many functions within the body. A vitamin D deficiency can cause bones to become brittle and weak, and can lead to a weakened immune system. In extreme cases, a vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets.
How do you get vitamin D?
Few foods – such as fatty fish like tuna and salmon, and mushrooms – naturally contain vitamin D. Some foods and beverages are fortified with vitamin D. Common fortified foods and drinks are fortified milk and orange juice and cereals. Vitamin D can also be taken as a supplement.
Of course, sunlight can also help us get vitamin D.
Vitamin D and sunshine
Sunlight does not contain vitamin D. Sunlight helps turn vitamin D into its usable form in our bodies.
Your skin contains vitamin D precursors. UVB radiation turns a protein called 7-DHC in the skin into vitamin D3, which is the active form of vitamin D. The amount of time it takes for your skin to produce enough vitamin D for your needs depends on your skin color, your age, the time of day, the place, and how much of your skin is exposed. For the average person in Northwest Arkansas, 15 minutes of midday sunshine is enough to produce the vitamin D you need for a day. After 15 minutes, get into the shade or put on sunscreen.
UV radiation from the sun’s rays causes genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. You must protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. It’s important to wear sunscreen or clothing with a high UPF rating to protect your skin from harmful solar radiation.
Can you get vitamin D while wearing sunscreen?
While sunscreen does help block UVB radiation, it’s virtually impossible to block 100% of the suns’ UVB radiation. If you spend time in direct sunlight, your body will produce vitamin D3.
If you don’t spend times outdoors in the sun, make sure to get vitamin D in your diet. Ask your doctor about supplements if you’re not sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.