September 13, 2022

Safe Sun Exposure For Vitamin D

Safe Sun Exposure For Vitamin D
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Vitamin D deficiency is a common disorder in people across the globe. It is one of the essential vitamins necessary for the body's functioning. 

However, you can obtain vitamin D in sufficient amounts only from a few sources. For instance, food items like egg yolk and fish, vitamin D supplements, and the sun are the sources of this nutrient.

While the most natural and abundant way of receiving this vitamin is through the sun, you still need to watch out because UV rays can harm the body. If you are wondering how to safely get vitamin D from sunlight, you are in the right place. Keep reading to know everything you need to learn about this sunshine vitamin.  

Why Is The Sun The Best Source Of Vitamin D? 

As soon as the skin gets exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D from cholesterol. The UV-B rays of the sun hit the cholesterol in the skin cells. Sun rays provide energy for making vitamin D synthesis possible. 

Vitamin D is important for many functions in the body and is essential to keep an individual healthy. It enables the gut to absorb calcium as well as phosphorus. Both of these elements are significant for maintaining healthy bones. 

Also, low vitamin D levels in the body can be the reason behind several diseases. Osteoporosis, depression, and muscle weakness are some of the illnesses that get associated with vitamin D deficiency. 

Furthermore, only a few food items contain this vitamin. Cod liver oil, salmon, canned tuna, swordfish, egg yolk, sardines, and beef liver are items that you can add to your diet. You need to eat such food daily to get a sufficient amount of this nutrient. 

People who cannot get regular sunlight can take one tablespoon of cod liver oil to fulfill their vitamin D requirements. It contains three times the amount of vitamin D you need daily.

Note that UV-B rays cannot penetrate through windows, so you can still be deficient in vitamin D even if you sit near sunny windows.  

Midday Sunlight Is The Best

Midday is the best time to get sunlight exposure, especially in the summer.

The sun is at its highest point around noon, and the UVB rays are the most intense. Even less sun exposure during this time can make enough vitamin D for the body. Studies also show that our bodies are the most efficient at noon to make vitamin D.

Catching the sun rays around midday is also safer than in the evening because studies show that evening sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancers.

Distance From The Equator Matters 

Living away from the Equator makes you less likely to produce sufficient vitamin D from sunshine alone. In such areas, the UV-B rays get absorbed by the ozone layer. Hence, you require more sun exposure to receive adequate vitamin D. 

People farther away from the Equator may not produce vitamin D for around six months in a year. During the winter season, they won't receive enough sun rays. During such times, they must complete their vitamin D dose with food and other supplements. 

How Does Skin Color Affect Vitamin D Production?  

Melanin is a pigment that decides the color of the skin. It assists in protecting the skin from sun damage. It is a natural sunscreen and absorbs the sun's rays to protect against skin damage.

People with dark skin tones have more melanin, whereas those with lighter skin tones have less of this compound. Darker-skinned people need to spend more time in the sun than people with lighter skin tones to produce the same amount of vitamin D. 

Studies show that dark-skinned people may require anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours longer in the sun than people with light skin tones. Because of this, individuals with darker skin tones are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. To get a sufficient amount of the vitamin, you need to be in the sun longer if you have a darker skin tone. 

How Much Skin Should You Expose? 

Cholesterol in the skin cells makes vitamin D when they come in contact with the sun's rays. It means that the larger area of skin you expose, the more vitamin your body will produce. 

Some studies illustrate that exposing one-third of your skin to the sun is enough. According to this study, you could wear a t-shirt or a tank top with shorts. 

Stay in the sun for around 10-30 minutes, three times a week during summer. However, this time duration is for people with lighter skin tones. You may have to stay longer in the sun if you have dark skin. 

We suggest you wear sunglasses and even a hat to protect yourself. Covering the head will shield your energy and save you from sun damage.

Sunscreen And Its Effect On Vitamin D

While out in the sun, you need to take special care of yourself. Applying sunscreen is one way to protect the skin against skin cancers and sunburns. But sunscreen will not allow sufficient production of vitamin D. The best solution for this issue is to first stay in the sun for 10 to 30 minutes without any sunscreen. When your skin starts burning, apply sunscreen.

Remember that sunscreen has chemicals that reflect, absorb, or scatter sunlight. That is how it reduces the generation of vitamin D in your body. Studies reveal that SPF 30 or higher hinders the production of the vitamin by about 95%-98%. It is still unclear if frequent usage of sunscreen for long has any impact on the blood vitamin D levels.

The Ill Effects Of Over-Exposure To Sunlight

While sunlight is essential for us, too much can be dangerous for the skin. Below are a few ill effects that come from overexposure to the sun.

  • Changes to the skin - Excess exposure to the sun can lead to moles, freckles, tan, and other skin changes.
  • Fast aging of the skin - Spending more time in the sun can lead to the skin aging fastly. Some people even develop wrinkles and loose and leathery skin.
  • Sunburns - They are the common side effect of too much sun exposure. Its symptoms include blisters, redness, pain, swelling, etc.
  • Skin cancer - Too much exposure to UV light is considered a promim]cause of skin cancer.
  • Damage to the eye - Long exposure to UV light can damage the retina. It can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Heat stroke - It is also called sunstroke and increases the body temperature due to too much heat or sun exposure. 

Remember to time your sun exposure and decide on the duration of exposure depending on the sensitivity of your skin. Also, keep in mind to reapply sunscreen every few hours in case you are bathing, swimming, or sweating.

The Bottom Line

Consistent exposure to sunlight is the best way to get sufficient vitamin D. Try to get a minimum of 10 to 30 minutes of midday sun exposure a few times a week. 

A few factors such as your skin color, the time of the day, the distance of your location from the Equator, amount of skin exposure to the sun play a role in deciding how much sun exposure you might need in a day. Also, remember to be careful and not overexpose yourself to the sun to prevent skin cancer and sunburns.

You can also take vitamin D supplements or eat vitamin D-rich foods during winters when there is only minimal sunlight. But consult your healthcare provider before taking them.

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