When every mom I knew was slathering their children in thick pasty sunscreen for a two hour visit at the park, all I remember was my mom telling me, too much sunscreen would block their Vitamin D absorption.
Realistically though, parent’s nowadays are more informed about the effects of the sun, unlike our parent’s were. But do some parent’s take unnecessary precautions against the devastating sun’s rays? Is it possible that the media has hyped up the effects of exposure to the sun?
To investigate this, I turned to the National Institute of Health to get some answers. In a study where individuals of good health were asked to use different thickness’ of sunscreen periodically throughout the day over a 2-3 day period, their Vitamin D production was measured at the end of each day. Their levels were also tested 3 days after the experiment.
The results found that Vitamin D production increased dramatically with the individuals who used thinner layers of sunscreen. According to the US National Library of Health and Medicine,
“When the amount of sunscreen and SPF advised by the World Health Organization are used, vitamin D production may be abolished.”
Now I’m not saying that everyone should go throw out their sunscreen, clearly SPF helps to reduce and prevent skin cancer. But Vitamin D promotes healthy calcium absorption, it contributes to cell regeneration and can help to reduce inflammation. It can also help to improve mood and a variety of other health benefits.
So what can we do to get the healthy balance between getting our recommended Vitamin D intake and avoiding premature aging and skin cancer? According to Harvard Medical School, there are a lot more factors contributing to Vitamin D deficiency than just sun exposure. Factors like; the latitude on which you live, air pollution, the color of your skin, the temperature of your skin, your weight, age and even the health of your kidneys. This study also goes onto to indicate that many people actually do not use enough sunscreen to actually create a dramatic difference with their Vitamin D production.
According to a study done in Spain by Professor Antony Young, applying sunscreen in SPF 15+ or greater is recommended for adults. He conducted a similar study to National Institute’s, except he asked the participants to use SPF 15. He concluded that using SPF 15 or greater and reapplying every few hours based on how quickly you burn, is the best method of decreasing risk of skin cancer whilst still allowing Vitamin D production.
The point of sunscreen is to block UVB rays but not the necessarily to block UVA rays which can have positive qualities. Although, even that is controversial.
The bottom line is; when protecting children from the sun, always check with your pediatrician. But; just remember, using sunscreen is always recommended but perhaps talk to your doctor before globing SPF 90 sunscreen every day. Also, don’t buy into every news story you hear on the subject. Go straight for the facts.
Bakke, B. (2012, August 16). The relation between sunscreen layer thickness and vitamin D production after ultraviolet B exposure: A randomized clinical trial. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22512875
Teen, J. (2013, July 19). Does sunscreen block vitamin D? Retrieved March 12, 2015, from http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/does-sunscreen-block-vitamin-d-20130618-2odov.html
Simon, M.D., H. (2011, August 30). 9 things that can undermine your vitamin D level – Harvard Health. Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/9-things-that-can-undermine-your-vitamin-d-level