Sun Protection and Vitamin D
There’s lots of Vitamin D sunscreen controversy going on. You lather yourself with sunscreen, carry an umbrella and almost always make sure to walk in the shade. This is deemed critical for both men and women. But what is that men and women are protecting themselves from through these sunscreens? Is it the fear of having a darker skin complexion? Or is it because they know what sun damage could actually cause?
Sunlight is comprised of different rays, essentially, the light can be divided into UVA and UVB radiations. UVB radiations are necessary for vitamin D synthesis.
UVA radiation accounts for about 95% of the UV radiation that is reaching the earth. Despite being less intense than UVB these radiations are much more prevalent. These radiations can penetrate through clouds, smoke and even glass – so, they are present with more or less the same intensity throughout the year in daylight hours. UVA penetrates the skin deeply and is known to cause aging and wrinkling. This radiation also damages keratinocytes aka skin cells which is where most skin cancers occur.
On the other hand, comes UVB which adds to the Vitamin D sunscreen controversy. UVB is the main reason for sunburns and reddening of the skin. The intensity of this radiation depends on the season, location and time of the day. UVB can burn and damage your skin all year round though, especially if you are travelling to higher altitudes and soak up the sun for longer periods of time. Scientists say that UVB also has a role to play in the development of skin cancer. So, since both: UVA and UVB, are harmful, you need to protect from both kinds of rays.
But here is the dilemma. UVB is also known to produce vitamin D in the body and hence is known as the sunshine vitamin. We all are in dire need of vitamin D. It boosts our immune system and helps the bones grow. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your body, you are likely to develop immune as well as bone disorders.
So what do you do now? Do you let the sunshine in to help produce Vitamin D or do you keep it out so to keep premature skin aging and more importantly, skin cancer at bay?
Due to the Vitamin D sunscreen controversy, there are a lot of mixed views. In fact, many people have developed a theory that sunscreens and other methods of sun protection actually causes vitamin D deficiency, and to prevent it you must expose your skin to the sun without any protection for longer period of times. Well, guess what, this approach is totally WRONG!
According to dermatologists of The Skin Cancer Foundation, being in bright sunlight, that too without protection for longer periods of time is NOT the right way to maintain a normal vitamin D ratio. In fact, scientific studies report that exposing self to UVA and UVB will only help produce a limited amount of Vitamin, therefore suggesting that sunscreens do not lead to vitamin D deficiency. Roy Geronemus, MD Clinical Professor of Dermatology at New York Medical Center says that a few minutes of sunlight, midday is sufficient for most Caucasians. Do you know why this happens? Scientists tell that it really does not matter how much sunscreen you use or how high the SPF is, some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays are even able to penetrate to the skin. Adding to it further that after reaching the production limit, further exposure to UVA and UVB will actually cause destruction of the produced Vitamin D – therefore causing a decrease in Vitamin D levels.
Research also suggests that UV exposure in darker skin toned population, such as the Africans and dark-skinned Hispanics, will not produce enough Vitamin D to survive. They would need to seek other sources of Vitamin D, or be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
You can get your vitamin D from a combination of diets such as fish, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. Juices such as orange juice and milk are also known to have a significant amount of vitamin D. If necessary, you can take supplements too.
When it comes to Vitamin D sunscreen controversy, there is another important question that arises: what is the right amount of sunscreen to balance your vitamin D production and exposure to the sun to avoid skin damage? There is no fixed answer for this as majorly it depends on the sunscreen you are using and the blocker it has. Experts do suggest that it is very unlikely that you are applying too much sunscreen because most people actually don’t apply it enough! In general, higher the concentration of physical blocking ingredient is present, the more effective is sunscreen. It’s important to learn what sunscreen you are using, what blockers are present in it. In general, however, to gain the promised SPF as mentioned on the tube, try using 2mg of sunscreen per square centimeter of your skin. A more practical example states that 2 tablespoons of sunscreen need to be used on the exposed parts of your body, which includes a nickel-sized dollop for only the face.
Lastly, do not fall in another Vitamin D sunscreen controversy, which states that heading to tanning beds can help increase the production of Vitamin D. Tanning beds emit large quantities of Vitamin A which has absolutely no role in production of vitamin D. If you expose yourself to such radiations there are more chances of skin diseases and skin cancers.
Always remember: Make Vitamin D a priority, and not UV!