Get your vitamin D safely this summer [column] – Reading the Eagle

Many people think that using sunscreen can lead to vitamin D deficiency, and that the best way to get enough vitamin D is through direct sun exposure. While sun exposure is the most important natural source of vitamin D, there are other ways for your body to get the levels it needs without compromising the health of your skin. As dermatologists, we always educate our patients on the best preventive measures to protect their skin from sun damage, but what do we tell patients who are concerned that a lack of sun will impair their body’s ability to produce vitamin D?

Sunscreen is always #1

Clinical studies have not shown that daily use of sunscreen can lead to vitamin D deficiency. Research does show that people who use sunscreen regularly can maintain vitamin D levels. Depending on the strength of your sunscreen, 2 to 7% of the sun’s UVB rays still reach your skin, giving your body a chance to produce vitamin D.

To use sunscreen correctly, it should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours of being in the sun. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so try to stay out of the sun during this peak time. The FDA recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher to all exposed skin. Regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by approximately 40% and the risk of melanoma by 50%.

Choose a facial moisturizer with sunscreen

We are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays more often than most people realize. I always recommend choosing a facial moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30 for daily use. This can be applied to the face and neck to protect against accidental sun exposure. Another benefit of having SPF in your facial moisturizer is that it also helps prevent collagen breakdown. In our 30s, we usually begin to notice the unwanted effects of sun exposure on our skin. Being active can help minimize additional damage as we age, and we can still get vitamin D from the small percentage of UVB rays that aren’t blocked by our sunscreen.

Keep your vitamin D levels up in other ways

Eating plenty of healthy foods can help you maintain your vitamin D levels. Including fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna in your diet, as well as foods such as egg yolks, yoghurt, cheese, orange juice and milk are great options . Vitamin supplements are also a good alternative, and if you decide to include them in your daily routine, you should talk to your doctor about the dosage level that is best for you. With these additional ways for your body to consume vitamin D, you don’t have to sacrifice skin health to maintain your vitamin D levels.

The bottom line? Damage caused by UV exposure is cumulative, meaning it builds up over a lifetime. There’s nothing we can do about our many teenage sunburns right now, but we can still protect our skin from future sun damage without sacrificing our vitamin D levels. Sunscreen should always be used when out in the sun, and even swapping your moisturizer for a sunscreen can make all the difference as we age. If you’re concerned about low vitamin D levels, try adding a few foods rich in vitamin D or taking a vitamin D supplement. As a preventative measure, I recommend seeing a dermatologist once a year for a full-body exam, and even more often if you’re at higher risk for skin cancer.

Our dedicated and passionate team at Dermatology Partners specializes in the detection and treatment of skin cancer, and many of our providers offer Mohs surgery. Our offices also offer immediate appointments, so you don’t have to wait when you discover a suspicious mole, freckle, or blemish on your skin. To schedule your annual skin cancer screening or to discuss a suspicious skin area with one of our providers, call 888-895-3376 or visit

Dr. Daniel Schurman is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO and co-founder of Dermatology Partners, which has 25 locations throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware. He completed his dermatology training at Thomas Jefferson University. He holds fellowships in Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Procedural Dermatology, and his research interests include medical genetics, antibiotics in dermatologic surgery, and wound healing.

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