The Importance of Vitamin D: Finding the Balance With Sunscreen

Numerous health outcomes have been associated with vitamin D, including bone health and resistance to diseases like cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, getting enough vitamin D requires a balance of safe sun exposure and sunscreen.

Sunscreen vs. Supplements

Many people have heard of vitamin D—mainly from the media, their physicians, and pharmacists. In a recent survey, 84% of people indicated that they were aware that vitamin D was important for skin health and bone health. People can also get vitamin D from dietary sources such as salmon, trout, and halibut. Vitamin D is naturally present in certain fruits and vegetables and fortified in most dairy products. Supplements are a way to get more vitamin D, but several things can limit their effectiveness. For one, sunscreen can block the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. UVB rays aid in the body’s production of vitamin D and can be blocked by sunscreen. Most people do not use enough sunscreen to halt the production of vitamin D. Clinical research hasn’t shown that regular sunscreen use causes vitamin D deficiency. Indeed, research indicates that regularly applying vitamin D sunscreen can sustain their levels. 
Additionally, some supplemental forms of vitamin D can be toxic. Those concerned about their vitamin D levels can be tested with a simple blood draw at a doctor’s office. People with low levels will benefit from supplemental vitamin D, while those with healthy levels can avoid supplementation.

Sunscreen vs. Sunlight

Our bodies need Vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin.” Our skin produces this essential nutrient by absorbing sunlight’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Vitamin D3 is produced when UVB rays interact with a protein in the skin, aiding calcium absorption. It is essential for bone growth and maintaining bone density, but vitamin D also has many other benefits. In addition to sunlight, you can get Vitamin D from certain foods and supplements. However, it is essential to note that too much Vitamin D can be harmful.

Vitamin D proponents suggest it decreases cancer deaths and heart disease and inhibits type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. However, these claims are based on observational studies that do not prove direct cause and effect. Moreover, people who use sunscreen frequently tend to stay out of the sun longer, increasing their risk for overexposure and skin cancer. So, while it is essential to prioritize Vitamin D in your diet, protecting your skin with sunscreen is equally important when you go outdoors.

Sunscreen vs. Diet

Many sunscreen ingredients absorb into the skin and can block your body’s vitamin D production. However, vitamin D can be obtained from food and supplements. You can keep your vitamin D levels in check with a well-balanced diet that includes foods high in nutrients and supplements that have been fortified. Calcium levels can be regulated by vitamin D, which is necessary for healthy bones. Low levels of the vitamin have been linked to higher rates of disease and death. Vitamin D also reduces inflammation and can decrease your risk of viral infections like influenza. Research has indicated that elevated levels of vitamin D are linked to a reduced occurrence and fatality rate from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. 

Sunscreen vs. Sunglasses

Sunglasses are a popular choice for eye protection, Whether out on the water, at the lake, or on the ski slopes. Sunglasses have become more than a fashion statement; they’re also a great shield against UV radiation, which can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma in your eyes. It’s important to remember that wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses that offer 99-100 percent UV protection can help decrease UVA and UVB rays. It’s best to choose oversized glasses and wraparound styles covering more skin around your face. In the summer months, it’s recommended that people spend a few minutes each day in mid-morning or mid-afternoon outdoor sun exposure to meet their daily vitamin D requirement. Sensible sun protection (clothing, sunscreen, hats, and shade) shouldn’t put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency. See your physician for a blood test if you’re worried about vitamin D levels.