It’s no accident that vitamin D is known as the “sun vitamin”, since when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. But how long and at what time should we be exposed to the sun?
When the sun’s ultraviolet B rays (UVB) reach the cholesterol present in the skin’s cells, it provides
energy for the synthesis of this vitamin, which plays many roles in the body and is essential for good health.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones as it helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus that are
consumed through the diet and are important minerals for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Check
out in detail all the benefits of vitamin D.
On the contrary, low levels of vitamin D are associated with serious health consequences, such as:
- Muscle weakness.
Also, only a few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D , such as cod liver oil, salmon,
swordfish, canned tuna, egg yolk, beef liver, and sardines, and to get vitamin D, you would need
to eat almost all of them. days.
If you don’t get enough sunlight, it’s usually recommended to take a cod liver oil supplement .
One tablespoon (14 grams) of this oil contains more than three times the recommended daily amount.
It’s also important to note that the sun’s UVB rays cannot penetrate windows, so if you, for example,
spend the day working next to a window that gets in the sun, you are still likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency. .
How long should you stay in the sun to get vitamin D
Most people can make enough vitamin D by spending short periods of time each day in the sun with
their forearms, legs, or hands uncovered.
Exactly how long it takes in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s requirements
remains to be seen. This is because there are several factors that can affect how this vitamin is produced
, such as the color of your skin or the amount of exposed skin.
However, you must be careful not to get burned in the sun. To do this, cover or protect your skin with
sunscreen before it starts to turn red or burn, and remember that the longer you stay in the sun, especially
for prolonged periods without sun protection, the greater your risk of cancer of skin.
If you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun, wear appropriate clothing, wear sunglasses, look for shade,
and apply at least one SPF15 sunscreen.
The ideal time to go out in the sun will depend on each country. In countries where the sun is very strong,
such as Brazil, especially during the summer, it is recommended to expose yourself at times when the sun
is not so strong, such as before 10am and after 4pm.
Sunscreen and the Sun Vitamin
People use sunscreen to protect their skin against burns and skin cancer because sunscreens contain
chemicals that reflect, absorb, or scatter sunlight.
When this happens, the skin is exposed to lower levels of harmful UV rays, however, as these rays
are essential for the production of vitamin D, sunscreens can impede the production of the vitamin
from the sun through the skin.
In fact, some studies estimate that sun protection of SPF 30 or more reduces the body’s production
of vitamin D by as much as 95-98%. However, several studies have shown that using sunscreen has
a small impact on blood levels during the summer.
One possible explanation is that, although the person is using sunscreen, staying in the sun for a
long period of time can cause enough vitamin D to be produced in the skin.
However, most of these studies were conducted in a short period of time, so it is still unclear whether
frequent sunscreen use has a long-term impact on blood vitamin D levels.
Skin color can affect vitamin D production
Your skin color is determined by a pigment called melanin, and people with darker skin often have
more melanin than those with lighter skin. Its pigments are also bigger and darker.
Melanin helps protect the skin from damage from too much sunlight as it acts as a natural sunscreen
and absorbs the sun’s UV rays to protect against sunburn and skin cancer; however, this poses a big
dilemma, because darker-skinned people need to spend more time in the sun compared to lighter-skinned
people to make the same amount of vitamin D.
Studies estimate that people with darker skin need 30 minutes to three hours longer to get enough vitamin D,
compared to people with lighter skin. This is one of the main reasons people with darker skin are at
increased risk for vitamin D deficiency.
For this reason, if you have dark skin, you may need to spend a little longer in the sun to get your daily
dose of vitamin D.
Dangers of long sun exposure
While sunlight is great for vitamin D production, overexposure can be dangerous.
Here are some consequences of too much sunlight:
- Eye damage: Prolonged exposure to UV light can damage the retina, which can increase the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts.
- Skin Cancer: Too much UV light is one of the main causes of skin cancer.
- Heat stroke: This is a condition in which the body’s core temperature can increase due to excessive heat or exposure to the sun.
- Skin Changes: Blemishes, freckles, and other skin changes can be a side effect of overexposure to sunlight.
- Sunburn: The most common harmful effect of too much sunlight is sunburn. Symptoms of a sunburn include redness, pain, swelling or blisters, and tenderness.
- Aging skin: Being exposed to the sun for a long time can cause the skin to age more quickly, and some people develop more wrinkled or saggy skin.
If you plan on spending a lot of time exposed to sunlight, avoid getting burned. Apply sunscreen
after about 10 to 30 minutes of unprotected exposure to avoid the harmful consequences of too
much sunlight. Your exposure time should depend on your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Note that experts recommend re-applying sunscreen every two to three hours you spend in the
sun, especially if you’re sweating or showering.