Sunlight, Vitamin D and Sunblock. What to do?

Sunlight, Vitamin D and Sunblock.  What to do?





We all know that the suns UV rays are a risk factor for developing skin cancer and there is a seemingly never-ending stream of advice to keep out of the sun, cover up our skin and wear sunblock.

However, we also know that 80% of the Vitamin D that the body needs is manufactured in the skin by the action of the suns UV rays on the skin, particularly UVB.

A sunscreen with SPF 30, properly applied, can be expected to block out at least 97.5% of the suns UVB rays and therefore, in theory at least, could reduce the capacity of the skin to manufacture Vitamin D by 97.5%.

So how do we combine these two facts to ensure that on the one hand we are adequately protected from the sun whilst on the other hand, we are getting sufficient quantities of Vitamin D?

  1.  Continue to use sunscreen.  Although sunscreen blocks UVB absorption into the skin, the fact is that most people don’t apply it thickly enough, or frequently enough, to fully block UVB.  Moreover, most people forget to apply sunscreen to every part of exposed skin and usually miss an area, so there is a good chance that some, possibly enough, UVB rays are getting to your skin in spite of your best efforts.
  2. Blame our climate.  The UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence states that in the Northern Hemisphere (that’s where we live!) it’s almost impossible to get enough sunlight from the months of October through March.   That’s a substantial chunk of every year when we simply cannot manufacture enough Vitamin D to meet our body’s needs, irrespective of whether we wear sunblock.
  3. Diet:  Take a good look at your diet.  Are you eating enough oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines)?  If you really can’t bear to live on sardines, try to eat fortified cereals and other fortified foods.
  4. Supplement:  We know that parents of all new-born babies are advised to give their babies Vitamin D supplements.  Ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels to see whether you too require Vitamin D supplementation.

Finally, always remember that there is no substitute for professional advice.  If you have any questions, always ask your doctor.