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The Safe Way To Get Vitamin D From Sunlight

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin that most people don't get enough of.

In fact, it is estimated that more than 40% of American adults are vitamin D deficient.

This vitamin is made from cholesterol in the skin when you are exposed to the sun. That's why getting enough sunlight is so important to maintaining optimal vitamin D levels.

However, too much sunlight comes with its own health risks.

This article explains how to safely obtain vitamin D from sunlight.

The sun is your best source of vitamin D

There's a good reason why vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin.

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in skin cells, providing energy for vitamin D synthesis.

Vitamin D has many roles in the body and is essential for optimal health.

For example, it instructs cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus - two minerals needed to maintain strong and healthy bones.

On the other hand, low vitamin D levels are associated with serious health consequences, including:

  • Osteoporosis

  • Cancer

  • Depression

  • Muscle weakness

  • Dead

In addition, only a handful of foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D

These include cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, canned tuna, beef liver, egg yolks, and sardines. That said, you'll need to eat them almost every day to get enough vitamin D.

If you don't get enough sunlight, you should regularly take a supplement like cod liver oil. One tablespoon (14 grams) of cod liver oil contains more than three times the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.

It is important to note that the sun's UVB rays cannot penetrate windows. So people who work next to a sunny window are still prone to vitamin D deficiency.

SUMMARY Vitamin D is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Sun exposure is the best way to increase vitamin D levels, especially since very few foods contain significant amounts.

Contact your skin around midday

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

At noon, the sun is at its highest point and its UVB rays are strong. That means you need less time in the sun to make enough vitamin D


Many studies also show that the body is most efficient at making vitamin D at noon.

In the UK, for example, 13 minutes of midday summer sun exposure three times per week is sufficient to maintain healthy levels in Caucasian adults.

Another study found that 30 minutes of midday sun exposure in Oslo, Norway is equivalent to consuming 10,000,000,000,000 IU of vitamin D.

The commonly recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 600 IU (15 mcg.

Not only is getting vitamin D around midday more effective, but it may also be safer than sunbathing later in the day. One study found that afternoon sun exposure can increase the risk of dangerous skin cancer.

SUMMARY Midday is the best time to get vitamin D, as the sun is at its highest point and your body can produce it most efficiently around that time of day. This means you may need less time in the midday sunlight.

Skin color can affect vitamin D production

Your skin color is determined by a pigment called melanin.

People with darker skin tend to have more melanin than people with lighter skin. Moreover, their melanin pigment is also larger and darker.

Melanin helps protect the skin against damage from excess sunlight. It acts as a natural sunscreen and absorbs the sun's UV rays to fight sunburn and skin cancer.

However, that creates a major dilemma because darker-skinned people need to stay out in the sun longer than lighter-skinned people to produce the same amount of vitamin D.

Studies estimate that dark-skinned people may need anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours longer to get enough vitamin D, compared with lighter-skinned people. This is a major reason why dark-skinned people have a higher risk of deficiency.

For that reason, if you have dark skin, you may need to spend a little more time in the sun to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

SUMMARY Dark-skinned people have more melanin, a compound that protects against skin damage by reducing the amount of UVB rays absorbed. Dark-skinned people need more time in sunlight to make the same amount of vitamin D as lighter-skinned people.

If you live far from the equator

People who live far from the equator make less vitamin D in their skin.

In these regions, many of the sun's rays, especially UVB rays, are absorbed by the earth's ozone layer. So people who live further away from the equator often need to spend more time in the sun to produce enough.

Furthermore, people who live further from the equator may not produce any vitamin D from the sun for up to six months a year during the winter months.

For example, people living in Boston, USA and Edmonton, Canada struggle to make any vitamin D from sunlight between November and February.

People in Norway cannot make vitamin D from sunlight from October to March.

During this time of year, it's important that they get vitamin D from foods and supplements instead.

SUMMARY People who live further away from the equator need more time in the sun, as more UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer in these areas. During the winter months, they can't make vitamin D from sunlight, so they need to get it from food or supplements.

More skin exposure to make more vitamin D

Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin. That means you need to expose a lot of your skin to sunlight to do enough.

Some scientists recommend exposing about a third of your skin to the sun.

According to this recommendation, wearing a tank top and shorts for 10–30 minutes three times per week during the summer is enough for most people with lighter skin. People with dark skin may need a little longer than this.

Just make sure to avoid getting burned if you're going to be in the sun for a long time. Instead, try going without sunscreen for just the first 10 minutes, depending on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight, and apply sunscreen before you start burning.

It is also good to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect the face and eyes while exposing other parts of the body. Since the head is a small part of the body, it will only produce a small amount of vitamin D.

SUMMARY You need to expose enough skin to sunlight to maintain healthy blood levels of vitamin D. Wearing a tank top and shorts for 10 minutes 30 minutes three times per week is enough for people with lighter skin, while those with darker skin may need longer.

Does sunscreen affect vitamin D?

People use sunscreen to protect their skin against sunburn and skin cancer.

That's because sunscreen contains chemicals that reflect, absorb, or scatter sunlight.

When this happens, the skin's exposure to harmful UV rays is lower.

However, because UVB rays are essential for making vitamin D, sunscreen can prevent the skin from producing it.

In fact, some studies estimate that sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher reduces vitamin D production in the body by 95.98%.

However, some studies have shown that wearing sunscreen has only a small impact on your blood volume during the summer.

One possible explanation is that even though you're using sunscreen, staying in the sun for longer periods of time can cause enough vitamin D to be made in the skin.

That said, most of these studies were done over a short period of time. It is not yet clear whether regular sunscreen has a long-term effect on blood vitamin D levels.

SUMMARY Wearing sunscreen could, in theory, reduce vitamin D production, but short-term studies show it has little or no effect on blood levels. That said, it's not clear whether regularly using sunscreen will lower your vitamin D levels in the long run.

Dangers of too much sunlight

While sunlight is great for vitamin D production, too much can be dangerous.

Here are some consequences of too much sunlight:

  • Sunburn: The most common damage of too much sunlight. Symptoms of sunburn include redness, swelling, tenderness or pain, and blistering.

  • Eye damage: Long-term exposure to UV rays can damage the retina. This can increase the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts.

  • Skin aging: Spending too long in the sun can make your skin age faster. Some people develop more wrinkled, loose, or wrinkled skin.

  • Skin changes: Freckles, moles, and other skin changes can be a side effect of excessive sun exposure. Heatstroke: Also known as heatstroke, this is a temperature condition. body may increase due to too much heat or sun exposure.

  • Skin cancer: Too much UV light is the main cause of skin cancer.

If you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun, be sure to avoid sunburn.

It's best to apply sunscreen after 10 to 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to avoid the harmful consequences of sun exposure. Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight.

Note that experts recommend reapplying sunscreen every 2-3 hours you spend in the sun, especially if you sweat or shower.

SUMMARY Although sunlight is great for making vitamin D, too much sunlight can be dangerous. Some consequences of too much sunlight include sunburn, eye damage, skin aging and other skin changes, heatstroke, and skin cancer.

Key point

Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D.

To maintain a healthy blood count, aim for 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week. People with dark skin may need a little more than this. Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. Just make sure not to burn.

Factors that can affect your ability to make vitamin D from sunlight include the time of day, the color of your skin, the distance you live from the equator, how much your skin is exposed to sunlight weather and whether you are using sunscreen.

For example, people who live further from the equator often need more sunlight because the sun's UV rays are weaker in these areas.

They also need to take vitamin D supplements or eat more vitamin D-rich foods during the winter months, since they can't do it from sunlight.

If you plan to be out in the sun for a while, it's best to apply sunscreen after 10–30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.

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