August 7, 2011

The Answer to the Vitamin D and Sunscreen Controversy


There has been a lot of debate regarding sunscreen and vitamin D recently. Let me give you the quick run down. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for the body. Deficiencies in vitamin D are suspected to lead to osteoporosis, high blood pressure and some cancers. There are two ways for your body to increase its levels of vitamin D: through diet, and through sun exposure. The first method can consist of supplements, food rich in vitamin D and food fortified with vitamin D. However, it is suspected that the most efficient method of vitamin D production is through exposure to sunlight. The dilemma is, how do we get enough vitamin D while not risking melanoma?


There are a couple different philosophies. Some think that you should wear sunscreen all the time, everywhere, and reapply every 2 hours, in order to prevent skin cancer. This camp thinks that you should obtain your vitamin D through food and supplements rather than sun exposure, even though it has been shown to be less effective. Others, such as Dr. Mercola, who wrote The Vitamin D Solution, think that vitamin D deficiency can be caused by a sun-phobic society. This camp thinks you should seek sun exposure so that your skin can synthesize vitamin D.

I have a different philosophy:

Bare your legs!


We get way too much incidental sun exposure on our faces, hands and necks. Because sun exposure and the risk of melanoma is cumulative, it is especially important that you protect the skin that sees sun on a regular basis. Your legs, however, glimpse the sun much less often. Because all you need is 15-30 minutes of sun exposure a day (depending on your skin type, fair skinned people need less), this is simple to do. Wear a skirt! Throw on some shorts! Roll up your pants! Problem solved.

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Images courtesy of Getty Images

7 comments:

  1. You bare your legs. :-) I am taking a pill! Can you get Vit D from sun exposure through a window? That would cut most of the UV.

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  2. You can't get vitamin D through a window. Sadly, UVA only makes it through glass windows, and you need exposure to UVB for your body to create vitamin D. So regular exposure on average of 20 minutes per day of non-sunscreened skin must be outdoors.

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  3. I agree with both you and Dr. Mercola, the only problem is the cold/winter season when we (or at least me) are packed up with clothes from head to toe. I guess the supplements will do by then.

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  4. Not only are you in your warm woolens in the wintertime, but the UV index is actually lower. That means there's even less UVB available to soak up. In winter, especially if you're in northern climates (maybe not so much my sunny California) you're right, a supplement is necessary.

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  5. Anonymous11/19/2016

    Yeah that's true you need a vitamin D supplement if you live in high latitudes i mean if you're in northern climates. Also it's a really good idea bare your legs but i keep saying if there's not much sun in your city you must take supplements. I am a nutrition student and that's what i was told. Pd. Sorry 4 my english, it's not native language. I am Colombian (south america) and here there's so much sun we don't need supplements but i would love know the snow, it's one of my dreams.

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