Skin, Skincare 20.09.2021

The eternal discussion: sun protection and vitamin D

Author: Dr. Inja Allemann

Often and especially in the winter time I am asked: What about my vitamin D level if I apply sunscreen every day? Will I not get a vitamin D deficiency this way?

Although it is good for us and feels pleasant, the sun is still the biggest enemy of our skin. UV radiation is the main culprit when it comes to skin aging, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and pigmentation spots. But even more important is the role of UV radiation in the development of skin cancer. With 1900 new cases of melanoma and about 12,000 new cases of white skin cancer every year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in Switzerland. Every year, 350 deaths can be attributed to solar radiation.

For this reason I explain to all my patients that daily sun protection is obligatory. Be they young ladies coming to me for aesthetic treatment or older gentlemen coming for skin cancer screening. In the absence of a history of skin cancer, with a sun protection factor of 30 on days with overcast skies and 50 when the sun is shining. Patients with a history of skin cancer should protect themselves daily with a sun protection factor of 50.

Often, and especially in the winter time, I am then asked: What about my vitamin D level if I apply sunscreen every day? Will I not get a vitamin D deficiency?

Here is what you need to know: It is actually the case that the sun is our most important source of vitamin D, because sun exposure causes vitamin D to be formed in the skin. However, in order to trigger the body’s production of vitamin D and get the required dose, all you need to do is expose your bare arms and legs to the sun for 15-30 minutes a day. In summer and around noon, even 10 minutes is enough. So sun protection around the face and décolleté is harmless and should not reduce or even prevent your vitamin D biosynthesis. If vitamin D levels are still too low during the winter months, vitamin D can also be supplemented in tablet form. There are different recommendations for this, ranging from 800 to 1000 international units per day. Last but not least, it makes sense to eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as milk, fish and mushrooms.

In my opinion, the advantage of consistent sun protection, especially by preventing the development of skin cancer, clearly outweighs a possible vitamin D deficiency. This can be supplemented if necessary.

So don’t forget to apply your sunscreen and regularly add fish to your menu.

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