It’s essential to always follow proper measures on how to get vitamin D from the sun while trying to avoid skin damage. The best way to do that is by wearing sunscreen in order to protect your skin while still getting those much-needed rays. (In fact, sunscreen doesn’t inhibit you from getting your daily dose of vitamin D – it’s like the best of both worlds when it comes to skin health.) Read on to learn about the appropriate amount of sunlight you need, the safest ways to go about getting your daily dose of vitamin D (a.k.a. the “sunshine vitamin”), why it’s so important, and more.
Ways To Get Vitamin D From The Sun, Safely
While vitamins, supplements, and even adding plenty of certain foods to your diet are a great way to ensure that you’re getting plenty of vitamin D, regular sun exposure is the most natural way of getting this essential vitamin that helps support your overall health.1
However, because everyone’s different, there are certain factors to consider before frolicking outside sans sunscreen. No matter your skin type, you should aim to get about ten to 30 minutes of midday sunlight each day. Of course, those with sensitive skin, or those who easily burn, may want to consider less exposure times to protect the skin barrier.2
It’s also important to note that actual exposure to the sun is necessary, as you can’t typically absorb vitamin D through a window.3 Whether this means taking your pet for a quick, 15-minute walk or lounging outside with a good book, summertime is the perfect time to ensure that you’re spending some time in the sun.
(Note: Make sure to wear sunscreen EVERY DAY, even on days when it’s cloudy or chilly.)
What’s The Best Time To Get Vitamin D From The Sun?
The best time to absorb that coveted vitamin D is around noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.4 This is good news for office workers, as it can be harder to sneak some sun into a daily routine if you find yourself stuck in an endless loop of indoor meetings. Take your lunch outside.
If you find that getting out and about is a little more difficult for you during the workday, try taking a quick walk around your office building, or in a nearby park if it’s easily accessible. It’s no secret that endorphins work wonders. Some studies have even found that a lunchtime stroll may help improve your mood and, in turn, make you feel a little more enthusiastic about going back to work.5
Be sure to pack your favorite sneakers in your work bag and slip them on next time you have to work through lunch. Even just ten minutes can make a difference.
Are There Side Effects Of Too Much Sunlight Exposure To Skin?
Yes. If you’ve ever suffered a sunburn after a day of sun-filled activities, you know that uncomfortable burning sensation can make it hard to fall asleep, shower, or even get dressed. So, while sun exposure is a great way to naturally create vitamin D in your body, it’s evident that too much time in the sun allows UV rays to reach your inner skin layers (sunburn). Too much of this over time may cause permanent skin damage and potentially serious illness.6
Skin damage from sun exposure can also cause premature aging of your skin, including fine lines and wrinkles. This is why paying attention to how long you spend in the sun is so important. Sun damage can begin seconds after spending 30 minutes outside, depending on how fair your skin is.7 To help combat skin damage when spending time outside, bring sunscreen with you and apply it liberally (and often), and try to find shady areas when you can or wear a wide-brimmed hat.
If you’re looking for ways to prevent aging due to too much sun, consider looking into skincare and makeup products that provide SPF coverage to the skin.
The good news is that, as previously mentioned, you can still absorb the correct amount of vitamin D while wearing sunscreen in order to protect your skin against sun damage. This is because sunscreen is used as a filter for UVB rays, which happen to be the same rays that trigger vitamin D production in the body. Nevertheless, studies have not found any correlation between wearing sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency since it doesn’t take much sun exposure to kickstart vitamin D production, so there’s plenty to gain from keeping your skin safe and healthy when spending time out in the sun.
Factors That Prevent You From Getting Enough Vitamin D
One factor that’s been previously discussed is how sitting in front of a window doesn’t allow you to get the necessary vitamin D nutrients that the sun provides. There are a few others that are important to note:
- Time of day: As you learned earlier, your skin tends to produce more vitamin D when the sun is at its highest point. This makes the early afternoon the best time to get the vitamin D you need as opposed to going outside at, say, dusk.
- Amount of skin exposed: It stands to reason that the more skin exposed to the sun, the more vitamin D your body may make. For instance, exposing your back produces significantly more vitamin D than just exposing your hands or face.
- Skin color and location: Lighter skin colors create vitamin D more quickly than darker skin tones because of the amounts of melanin found in skin. Similarly, one’s geographical location to the equator also has an impact on how much vitamin D their bodies can create.8
Tips For Low Levels Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some groups are more at risk of low vitamin D production or vitamin D deficiency, including:
- The elderly
- Those who don’t eat much oily fish, fatty fish, or dairy
- Those who are overweight or obese
- Those who stay indoors often9
If you’re someone who does have a vitamin D deficiency, low vitamin D levels, or just needs help in the vitamin D production department, getting outdoors for the recommended time may be imperative. However, if you find yourself not able to get outside as much as you’d like, here are a few other great alternatives (like adding some foods to your diet) that might help.
- Try to incorporate more healthy fat, magnesium-heavy, and fortified foods into your diet (like egg yolks, mushrooms, fish, and dairy products). These are great sources of vitamin D3 or vitamin D2. Magnesium also helps activate vitamin D production.10
- Take a vitamin D supplement. This is a good way to ensure you’re getting your recommended daily dosage, especially if you find yourself largely spending time indoors. Always talk to your doctor first to see what they recommend.
- Try a UV lamp. These lamps mimic the action of the sun by emitting UV-B radiation (which boosts vitamin D levels), which can be especially helpful for those stuck indoors for prolonged periods.11
Again, always check with your doctor before making any major changes. Your physician can tell you if you have a vitamin D deficiency. You should also consult with your dermatologist regarding how much sunlight exposure and what type of sunscreen is right for you.
Get Out In The Sun To Rev Up Vitamin D Levels (But Don’t Overdo It)
However you slice it, it’s no secret that vitamin D is a necessary, essential nutrient that your body needs (just like vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant). Spending time in the sun is the best way to guarantee your body is creating an appropriate amount. In turn, it can help support your overall health.
Take care of yourself, and make sure you’re getting plenty of that sunshine vitamin. Again, make sure to wear sunscreen every day no matter the weather.