Is your body craving a dose of vitamin D? If you always wear sunscreen and are careful to protect your skin, it might be!
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because being out in the sun literally helps your body produce the vitamin D it needs. Vitamin D is critical because it helps your body use calcium to build strong bones.
If you are low on vitamin D, you may have bone pain or muscle weakness, or you may not feel any symptoms at all.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to increased risk of heart disease, severe asthma in children, problems with brain function in older adults and increased risk of cancer. Vitamin D may also adversely affect both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, blood pressure and multiple sclerosis.
Getting enough vitamin D is so important that some scientists have suggested that people should deliberately go out in the sun without sunscreen or other protection for limited amounts of time. Sunscreen is designed to block UV rays, including the UVB rays in sunshine that produce vitamin D.
Most dermatologists and cancer groups oppose this idea because unprotected exposure to UV rays in sunlight is known to damage skin including making us look older and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
On the flip side, you may be getting more vitamin D due to sun exposure than you realize, even if you use sunscreen.
A report from the Harvard Medical School points out that while sunscreen does block UVB rays and could limit vitamin D production, the reality is that most people who use sunscreen don’t put on enough sunscreen or don’t apply it regularly enough to make a real difference.
Other environmental factors that affect how much vitamin D your body can produce include:
The amount of melanin in your skin determines how dark or light your natural skin color is. Melanin also soaks up UVB rays, limiting the amount of UVB light available to produce vitamin D. So people with darker skin need more exposure to sunlight in order to produce vitamin D than people with fair skin.
Where you live plays a big part in how much UVB light reaches your skin.