How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D and Protect Your Skin?

Vitamin D capsule against the sun

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and muscles. It’s also widely known that your skin makes it naturally when exposed to sunlight.

Sometimes dubbed “the sun vitamin,” vitamin D supports your body’s absorption of calcium, which can reduce your risk of osteoporosis and fractures. If you don’t get enough, it may lead to muscle weakness or cramps, fatigue and bone pain. 

The National Institutes of Health recommends that healthy people between 1 and 70 years old receive 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Infants 12 months and younger should get 400 IU, and adults over 70 need about 800 IU. 

But how can you get the vitamin D you need without increasing your risk of skin cancer?

Vitamin D and Sunlight

The sun produces two types of ultraviolet light that increase your risk of skin cancer. UVA rays promote premature skin aging, while UVB rays cause sunburn.

UVB radiation also has the added effect of promoting vitamin D production. When UVB light hits your skin, it interacts with a cholesterol called 7-DHC, which is then converted into vitamin D. It only takes about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure to produce all of the vitamin D you need for one day. 

Unfortunately, that’s also enough time to damage your skin’s DNA, which raises your risk of skin cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization recognize UV light as a carcinogen. It is a factor in 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas

The Skin-Safe Way to Get Your Vitamin D

Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend against getting your vitamin D from unprotected sun exposure or tanning beds.

Instead, look for the following dietary sources:  

  • Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel
  • Mushrooms, egg yolks, beef liver and cheese
  • Fortified dairy products, orange juice or cereals
  • Supplements such as cod liver oil

To reduce your risk of skin cancer, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Even though SPF 30 sunscreen filters out 97% of UVB rays, the light that still reaches your skin is enough to produce vitamin D. 

Other ways to protect your skin include staying in the shade between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the UV radiation is most intense. Wear sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UV-filtering sunglasses to protect your skin and your eyes.

At Cayce Dermatology, we understand that healthy skin is an important part of overall wellness. Contact us today for comprehensive dermatology services from our caring medical team!