When skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D, which is essential to our bodies. Vitamin D supports bone growth and health and helps boost the immune system by regulating calcium. Even though soaking up the sun may be helping provide you with Vitamin D while giving your skin a natural glow, it’s important to remember that overexposure to the sun can be harmful and lead to devastating conditions such as skin cancer. We need to properly understand how to allow ourselves to enjoy our time in the sun while protecting our skin from damage.
The Benefits of Using Sunscreen
The regular use of an SPF of 15 or above sunscreen reduces chances of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40%. It also reduces the chances of developing melanoma by 50% and premature aging of the skin by 24%.
According to dermatologists, the sun’s UV rays have been proven to damage the skin’s cellular DNA, which can lead to skin cancer. The World Health Organization has linked about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanomas to damage caused by UV exposure. Using sunscreen will help prevent skin damage from solar UV, which will ensure your skin is protected from harmful rays, while still being able to enjoy the benefits of sunlight.
Does Sunscreen Lead to Vitamin D Deficiency?
Unfortunately, there seems to be some misconception about how sunscreen works. Many people opt to skip application because they believe it leads to Vitamin D deficiency and that the best way to absorb the vitamins from sunlight is through unprotected skin exposure.
Any dermatologist will explain high SPF sunscreens are formulated to filter out most of the sun’s UVB’s which radiation because this is what causes damage that can lead to skin cancer. UVB wavelengths are what triggers Vitamin D production in the skin. However, there have been no clinical studies that show the use of these sunscreens leads to a Vitamin D deficiency.
On the other hand, studies do show that those who wear sunscreen maintain their healthy Vitamin D levels. A low SPF such as 15 filters out about 93% of UVB rays. Higher numbers like SPF 50 filter out about 98%. This leaves anywhere from 2-7% of UVBs to still reach the skin and trigger Vitamin D production. It doesn’t take much solar UVB to help produce Vitamin D, so this is more than enough, while still protecting the skin.
Sun Damage and Your Skin
Even those in support of unprotected sun exposure state that the minor amount of just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure will help your body produce Vitamin D it needs. After it reaches its healthy amount, your body disposes of the extra to avoid overload. At that point, your skin is receiving nothing but skin damage with no additional benefit.
Unfortunately, dermatologists would still warn against even 10-25 minutes of unprotected exposure since just this little amount is enough to cause DNA damage that can cause cellular mutations and sunburn. Every little bit of damage adds up over time, and this can lead to conditions like skin cancer.
Contact the Our Dermatologist
While lying out in the sun in hopes of getting some good old Vitamin D and a summer tan is a great idea, only do this if your skin is being adequately protected by a sunscreen of at least SPF 15. If you’re in the Arlington and Stafford areas and want to keep your skin healthy, call us to schedule a consultation with Washington Dermatology Consultants today!