Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is usually associated with the sun, and not much else. Turns out, vitamin D is MUCH more complicated than we could’ve imagined… and it may not even be a real vitamin at all! Today, we’re focusing on vitamin D: what it is, why you need it, and how your body uses it.
First of all – what is vitamin D?
Vitamin D has been compared to more of a hormone than an actual vitamin! This is because our body actually MAKES vitamin D when the skin comes into direct contact with sunlight. Typical vitamins that we take – think vitamin A, C, K, etc. – need to be included in our diets and consumed. Very few foods actually contain vitamin D naturally, so, our body makes it for us!
How does the body create vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a compound that your body can make on its OWN. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is created and sent to the liver. It then undergoes numerous chemical processes before the body can use it. After those chemical processes, the vitamin becomes a chemical known as 25(OH)D – weird name, we know! THIS chemical is then sent to tissues around the body that turn it into what is sometimes referred to as “activated vitamin D,” or “calcitriol.” It is the activated vitamin Dthat your body uses in multiple ways, but especially to help strengthen your bones.
Here’s the breakdown: sunlight –> chemical 25(OH)D –> activated vitamin D –> strong bones!
Why is vitamin D important?
Glad you asked! Activated vitamin D helps to manage calcium levels in the blood, gut, and bones, and help your cells communicate with one another (communication is KEY between different body parts, like any relationship). It helps the body properly absorb calcium and phosophorous – the actual minerals that develop strong and healthy bones!
Vitamin D has also been shown to aid the immune system, defending the body against common illnesses and infections, as well as improving muscle function and brain development.
Some studies have even shown there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression, anxiety, and inability to lose weight. As we can see, not having enough vitamin D can impact you in so many ways.
What is the recommended amount of vitamin D per day?
People tend to assume that they need to spend hours laying out in the sun to soak up vitamin D benefits. However, depending on your skin tone, your body can actually produce your daily requirement of vitamin D pretty quickly!
For lighter skin folks, you probably only need about 5 minutes or so of sunshine per day to achieve the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. For others, the more melanin that is present in your skin, the more difficult it will be for your body to absorb enough sunlight to make vitamin D! If you have a richer skin tone, you may need up to 15-20 minutes of sunshine a day.
How does SPF affect my vitamin D levels?
While you’d think that wearing SPF could potentially block the absorption of vitamin D, studies have actually never found that sunscreen leads to a Vitamin D deficiency. So you really have no excuses now to not be wearing a daily SPF!
And what if I don’t get enough?
There are a few causes of a lack of vitamin D:
- Living in a polluted city
- Living in a city with high buildings that block sunlight
- Spending too much time inside
- High levels of melanin
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to numerous health concerns, including fatigue, muscle aches and pains, stress fractures, and a general feeling of ickyness! If you aren’t getting enough sunshine, you can easily take vitamin D supplements.
Now that you’ve got the know-how on vitamin D, you need the best skincare routine for sunny days! Check out our Spring / Summer Skincare Routine, and stay cool, friends!