Nowadays, there seems to be so much misconception regarding the sun and vitamin D. There’s been a lot of misinformation from the media which has caused many Americans to believe that they should avoid the midday sun completely and should never step outside without sunscreen. People seem to believe that if they’re outside even for a little bit without proper protection, that they will get sun cancer.
Truth is, studies suggest vitamin D (produced by sun exposure) actually plays a huge role in bone health and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more. Many researchers believe that far more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much. According to one large-scale study, optimal Vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent.
UVB & UVA Rays
It is important to understand the difference between sunlight’s UVB and UVA rays. UVA actually destroys vitamin D, is one of the primary culprits behind skin cancer, and it increases photo aging of your skin. Unfortunately, UVA has a longer wavelength and therefore penetrates through materials more easily, such as a glass window (which blocks UVBs). Therefore, it’s important to determine the ideal times of year for safe sun exposure, and avoid exposure during times and conditions where UVB rays are not present.
Only UVB will produce vitamin D when hitting unexposed skin. UVB is strongest during midday and during the summer months. Please note: UVB rays are not present in the northern states during the winter months, therefore if you live in northern states like the Midwest, it’s important to take vitamin D supplements during that time of year.
I wish there was a sunscreen that only blocked UVA but unfortunately nothing like that exists. So if you use sunscreen, please understand that you are also blocking out UVB and the chance of getting any Vitamin D.
I believe we all need a little unprotected time in the sun during the middle hours of the day when the sun is at its highest and UVB rays can penetrate the atmosphere. However, it is important not to get too much (meaning don’t get sunburned). There is no magic formula for how much time that is since it depends on many different factors. For some this could mean 10 minutes outside or an hour for those with darker skin. Just make sure to use caution and don’t get sun burned.
- The time of day – your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
- Where you are – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight all year round. If you’re on top of a mountain in the summer (or anywhere at higher altitude), you’ll make more Vitamin D than if you were at sea level.
- The color of your skin – pale skins make vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
- The amount of skin you expose – the more skin your expose the more vitamin D your body will produce.