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What everyone needs to know about vitamin D and sun protection

Discover how to naturally produce enough vitamin D from sunlight without causing damage to your health.
What everyone needs to know about vitamin D and sun protection

No matter the weather forecast, be it rain or sunshine, you should always wear sun protection. Applying (and reapplying) sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s powerful UV rays, minimising your risk of painful sunburns, skin cancer, and skin irritation.

While too much exposure to the sun’s rays is harmful to your skin, the sun is crucial for making vitamin D.

Why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D is vital for your health and wellbeing. It helps to keep your bones, teeth, and muscles strong. Recent observational studies also suggest that vitamin D can decrease heart disease, boost your immune system, inhibit type 1 diabetes, and prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

While it is true that some foods, such as oily fish and egg yolks, help the body produce vitamin D, the best source of vitamin D is UVB radiation from the sun. UV radiation levels vary depending on location, time of year, the time of day and the environmental factors around you.

To get the right level of sun exposure to produce vitamin D, most only need 15 minutes of sun a day. However, not everyone gets the level they need. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, 1 in 5 people in the UK have low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D and sun protection

Sun protection is designed to block out the sun’s rays to protect your skin. But by blocking out the sun’s rays, are you missing out on the benefits of the sun and harming your vitamin D protection?

The short answer is no.

In a recent study published by the British Journal of Dermatology, they found that you can get protective benefits of sunscreen without compromising your vitamin D levels.

We further proved this to be correct during the Brazil trial of our Sun4Health app. For the trial, volunteers were divided into three different groups:

  1. Sun4Health app by itself
  2. Sun4Health app with a wearable
  3. No app

Of the three groups, those who regularly applied sun protection did not see a decrease in vitamin D levels. You can read the full case study of the trial here.

Why did we see these results? No SPF screen filters all the UV rays. Even if you apply, and regularly reapply, an SPF factor 30 or higher, about 2-3% of the sun’s UV rays will reach your skin. This minimal amount of sun exposure produces enough vitamin D for most people. Once your body has produced enough vitamin D, it automatically starts to dispose of it to avoid vitamin d toxicity, which can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination.

Conclusion

The important message to take away is that doses for vitamin D production are much lower than for sunburn. That means you can still get enough sun exposure to trigger vitamin D even when you wear sun protection.

If you think you are deficient in vitamin D or any other nutrients, despite getting enough sun exposure, you can make changes to your diet or start taking supplements. However, before you make any adjustments, consult your doctor or pharmacist first.

Want to know more about how to protect yourself from sun exposure, while still leading an active, healthy lifestyle? Sign up to our newsletter.

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