Summer Sun, Vitamin D and Sunscreen

Much has been said about summer sun, Vitamin D absorption, and sunscreen use

Vitamin D performs many important functions in the body, from helping keep our bones strong to enhancing immune function and reducing inflammation. For many of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere or who spend much of our time indoors, we may suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be responsible for everything from depression to asthma to osteoporosis. Luckily, our doctor can order a simple blood test to check our Vitamin D levels.

If we’re found to be deficient in Vitamin D, we can increase our exposure to the sun by about 20 minutes/day. We can also take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Of course, it’s best to get one’s Vitamin D from whole foods. Some foods rich in Vitamin D include Shitake mushrooms, oily fish, eggs and fortified milks and grains.

But shouldn’t we wear a sunscreen when we’re out in the sun? We’ve been told to always use a sunscreen if we’re spending significant time outdoors. Using sunscreen can help lower the risk of skin cancer, and that’s a good thing. A recent study has also demonstrated that, depending upon the application, the body can still enough sun to produce Vitamin D, which is also a good thing.

This is particularly significant when we consider that children who get sunburned are at higher risk for developing skin cancer later in life. The type of sunscreen one uses is also important. There are two types of sunscreen – chemical and physical. An example of a chemical sunscreen is one that contains Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, or Helioplex. An example of a physical sunscreen is one containing Zinc and/or Titanium Oxide.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens have been known to cause allergic reactions and other adverse affects in and on the skin. They can be less stable than physical sunscreens, as well. Zinc oxide is a safe and effective physical sunscreen that works by blocking the sun’s rays from reacting with skin. It sits on the skin and is not absorbed, unlike chemical sunscreen ingredients, which are. Talk to a Dermatologist about the best sunscreen and SPF level for your skin type based on your health history and personal preferences.

So do use a sunscreen if you are going to be exposed to the sun. You can also wear hats and protective clothing if your skin is sensitive to a sunscreen’s ingredients. Finally, eating a well-rounded diet and taking a Vitamin D3 supplement will help you to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, regardless of your sunning habits.

References:
ACJN information about Vitamin D
Women’s Health article on sunscreen and Vitamin D production
Skinacea.com’s comparison chart on physical vs chemical sunscreen

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