There is a lot of information and misinformation circulating about Vitamin D. Can you be deficient because you wear sunscreen? Do you need to take a supplement? I will summarize some general info that can help you navigate the Vitamin D dilemma.
Our bodies need Vitamin D to maintain calcium absorption for strong bones. It’s also crucial for message delivery from our brain to our muscles, and for maintainence of our immune system. Pretty crucial stuff. We get vitamin D by eating it in our diet (eggs, fish, fortified milk etc) or absorbing through our skin via sunlight. As we get older (especially over 70) our Vit D requirement goes up, but we all need it.
So how does a Dermatologist get her Vitamin D? Very carefully… Seriously, it has to be a combination of diet and sun. I wear sunscreen and I’m careful about my sun exposure, but I probably get plenty of Vitamin D despite my attention to sun protection. Incidental sun exposure that a normally active person gets on a sunny day will provide all the Vitamin D you need, even if you are wearing sunscreen. If you cover your skin from head to toe in UPF protective clothing, never venture outdoors, or live in a less sunny environment (ex: Northeast US etc) then you could need significantly more supplementation to meet your Vitamin D requirements. Some other populations who might be deficient are people who are obese or suffer from certain liver or intestinal diseases , people with very dark skin, breastfed babies and older seniors.
The only way to know for sure what you need is to get a blood test to check your levels; something your physician can do for you. Significant deficiency will require taking a Vitamin D supplement. The dosing varies depends on your needs and your age.
One Vitamin D myth I want to be sure to bust is that tanning beds are a safe source of Vitamin D. People who own and run tanning bed salons will be quick to espouse the benefits of Vitamin D and link these benefits to using their beds. While the UV emitted form these beds will increase your Vitamin D levels, it also significantly increases your risk for Malignant Melanoma. The risks of this deadly disease significantly outweigh any benefits. Natural sunlight, in limited doses, is the safer alternative. Tanning beds cause cancer, period.
Ask about Vitamin D at your next annual check up or skin exam. It’s part of maintaining a healthy YOU.