vitamin D: can you wear SPF and still get enough?

Let’s talk about the so-called “sunshine vitamin” or vitamin D. Why do you need it and how does your body use it? What happens if you don’t get enough of it? 

what exactly is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is often compared to a hormone instead of an actual vitamin. This is because the human body CREATES vitamin D when the skin comes into contact with sunlight, or more specifically, UVB rays.

how does the body make vitamin D?

When UVB rays from the sun interact with cholesterol in skin cells, they begin vitamin D synthesis. 

Vitamin D undergoes numerous chemical processes before the body can use it. First, it’s converted into a chemical called 25(OH)D and then into “active vitamin D” or calcitriol. It is activated vitamin D specifically that your body needs to stay strong and healthy.

why is vitamin D important?

Glad you asked! Activated vitamin D helps your cells communicate with each other; for example, your body absorbs calcium and phosphorus, minerals that help keep your bones strong and healthy, because vitamin D sends a signal to the cells in your gut prompting them to.

Vitamin D is also great for the immune system, helping the body defend itself against common illnesses and infections. It also helps support muscle function and brain development.

what if I’m not getting enough vitamin D?

Living in a polluted area, living in a city with high buildings that block sunlight, or spending too much time inside can keep you from getting your recommended vitamin D dosage. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to numerous health issues, including fatigue, muscle aches and pains, stress fractures, and a general feeling of ickiness!

how does SPF affect vitamin D levels?

In theory, since sunscreen blocks UV rays from reaching the skin, it should get in the way of vitamin D production. However, studies (Young, 2019, Neale, 2019) have shown that sunscreen use does NOT lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, many sources (Time, Skin Cancer Foundation) state that the risk of skin cancer is far greater than the risk of a vitamin D deficiency, meaning that protecting your skin should take precedence over trying to get enough vitamin D.

Basically, there’s really no excuse to skip your daily SPF

Additionally, there are other ways to get vitamin D besides the sun - fatty fish like tuna or salmon, some mushrooms, fortified tofu, cheese, egg yolks, and more, are rich in vitamin D and easy to incorporate into your diet. You can also try taking vitamin D supplements, but we recommend consulting your doctor first to make sure you’re getting the right dosage. 

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