Does sunscreen lead to a Vitamin D deficiency?


Sunscreen and Vitamin D | Supriya Tomar MD | West Palm Beach Dermatologist

No, but it hasn't stopped this dangerous myth from causing many to forego sun protection for the sake of their daily vitamin D dose. 

Vitamin D is essential to bone health. People need to get enough vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures in older adults, and it doesn't take much sun for our bodies to make enough vitamin D to meet our daily needs. However, adequate protection from UV rays is also essential to keeping your skin safe and preventing skin cancer, particularly melanoma. So where is the balance, and how should you apply sunscreen so that you keep your skin safe and vitamin D levels up?

Since getting vitamin D from diet alone can be a frustrating exercise in futility, supplements are always a safe option (just be sure to follow the recommended dose on the bottle). But if you're hoping to get your vitamin D from some good old fashioned sunshine, it's still very safe to do so. But like everything in life, moderation is key.

First of all, sunscreen will not hurt your body's ability to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D as it is only intended to block UV rays, and there are studies to back this up. At most, just a mere 10 minutes a day in the sun can give you all the sun exposure you need to produce your daily dose of vitamin D. However, that doesn't mean we're recommending you head out the door without sunscreen and wait a little bit before you apply it. 

Whether it's cloudy or sunny, or you're planning to be in areas where you might find shade, your face should always have a protective layer of SPF before you step foot outside. Skin cancer aside, you're subjecting your face's sensitive skin to an enormous amount of unnecessary photoaging. And by skipping sunscreen on your face, you aren't really doing yourself any favors with vitamin D absorption since your face is such a relatively small part of your body and doesn't absorb enough anyway. Allowing a small amount of exposure to the rest of your body for 10-15 minutes will be more than enough.

However, if you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight, you can eat more foods that contain vitamin D or take vitamin D as a supplement. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, egg yolks, spinach, and vitamin D–fortified milk. Our recommendation is that you use a supplement to guarantee you're getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D to keep your bones and immunity strong.

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