At this point, it should go without saying that there’s no good excuse not to wear sunscreen every day. Yes, even if it’s cloudy. Yes, even if you have a dark complexion. Yes, even if you’re going to be inside. Still, people keep looking for excuses not to slather it on, and one of the standbys has been the need for vitamin D, which your body produces naturally when exposed to the sun. Now there’s a new sunscreen that claims it can allow your body to produce vitamin D while staving off the skin-damaging effects of UV rays. How does that work?
The sunscreen, Solar D, which is set to hit American shelves next month, claims that it can “let in some of the UVB light that your body uses to naturally produce vitamin D whilst also screening out the harmful rays,” according to the brand’s website. Dr. Michael F. Holick, an endocrinologist at Boston University School of Medicine, who helped develop the product, told the The New York Post that the sunscreen can allow up to 50 percent more vitamin D production than traditional sunscreen formulas.
That does sound pretty magical, considering vitamin D is essential in maintaining strong bones and up to three quarters of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Still, letting UVB rays through sounds like the opposite of everything we’ve ever been told about the importance of broad-spectrum sunscreen, so naturally we had to dig a little deeper.
“Although this concept sounds appealing and interesting, there is no research yet that has been published to show what a ‘safe’ amount of UVB exposure is, and whether this is truly adequate for the prevention of vitamin D deficiency,” says dermatologist Annie Chiu. “Clinical studies support UVB damage is cumulative, meaning even low-dose, intermittent exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.”
What about that vitamin D deficiency? Are you better off taking the skin risks for the good of your bones? “We can produce only a limited amount of vitamin D from UVB. Once the body has hit its production limit, further exposure will actually decrease the body’s vitamin D levels,” says Chiu. For the fair-skinned, a few minutes of sun exposure a day is plenty to fill your vitamin D needs, while those with darker skin are unlikely to be able to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone, Chiu explains. Either way, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends supplements as the safest way of seeing to your vitamin D needs.
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