Using sunscreen will help reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration, but there are concerns that it may increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Today we are going to ‘break the vitamin D gap’ to educate and encourage rich complexions on maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels whilst using sunscreen. Let’s find out…

The issue

Rich complexions have a high risk of vitamin D deficiency. The reasons may be complex but we need to dig deeper into the factors… first of all, we know skin of color holds more melanin which produces more pigment than lighter complexions- this means having more melanin can reduce the ability to synthesize Vitamin D levels. This can be worrying for most people; as we know the importance of taking Vitamin D including; bone health, regulate calcium and phosphate, supporting the immune system and supporting some chronic health conditions. 

Another factor affecting the amount of Vitamin D in the body is the presence of Vitamin D Binding Proteins (DBP), These transport nutrients through your bloodstream to various organs. As well as needing more sun to synthesize Vitamin D, rich complexions could have different Vitamin D Binding Proteins that might make them more vulnerable to variations in sunlight.

Considering these factors above, most of us with melanin-rich skin would automatically think not to wear sunscreen, so we could benefit from the full amount of vitamin D our body needs. But will we get more vitamin D if we don’t wear sunscreen? Will sunscreen reduce Vitamin D synthesis?

Is It True?

A study that was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical University of Łódź, Poland, assessed the ability of two intervention sunscreens to inhibit vitamin D synthesis during a week‐long sun holiday. This was measured for 1 week in Tenerife at 28° N.

*To clarify- this study was taken to specifically test if sunscreen does reduce Vitamin D synthesis with two different types of factors*.

Comparisons were made between two formulations, each with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 with the UVA Protection Factor (PF) low in one and high in the other. Healthy Polish volunteers were given the sunscreens and used correctly. As a result, both groups equally inhibited sunburn. However, the high UVA‐PF sunscreen enables significantly higher vitamin D synthesis than a low UVA‐PF sunscreen.

So back to the question, will sunscreen reduce Vitamin D synthesis? This study clearly proves otherwise. Sunscreens with a protection factor of 15, applied at sufficient thickness to inhibit sunburn during a week‐long holiday with a very high UV index still allow a highly significant improvement of Vitamin D synthesis.

In fact, an SPF 15 formulation with high UVA protection enables better vitamin D synthesis than a low UVA protection product.

Sun Protection

It cannot be stressed enough…sunscreen is so important especially for our rich complexions. It is the main product to prevent and reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration which is the main skin concern we battle with. When we apply an SPF (preferably factor 15) to our skin daily and regularly throughout the day, we are protecting it from UV damage, increased photoaging, increased pigmentation, skin cancer and simultaneously we are still receiving sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. I repeat, we are still receiving Vitamin D synthesis for our skin… therefore, SPF should not be an option, but a daily priority to maintain healthy skin. 

Take charge of your rich complexion

There are other ways of getting enough Vitamin D in our bodies. These include Vitamin D supplementation. It is generally recommended for adults aged 19–50 need 600 IU daily, children aged 1-18 should take 600 IU daily and infants aged 0–1 should take at least 400 IU daily. The strength and amount can vary depending on the individual and what your doctor prescribes.

There are certain foods and beverages high in Vitamin D including; salmon and sardines, eggs with the yolk, and mushrooms exposed to UV light. Fortified foods such as plant milk, cereal, and some orange juice. However, it can be difficult to get a good amount of Vitamin D from food alone- a cup of vitamin D–fortified low-fat milk will give you only 100 IU, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet when vitamin D supplements are factored in, the average daily intake rises to 796 IU in people ages 2 and older, says the ODS. All in all, it really depends on how much your body needs.

Also not to completely avoid the sun…we still need a little sun exposure while taking protective measures like wearing an SPF15 or higher and wearing a sun hat and sunglasses.

Breaking The Vitamin D Gap

Sunscreen does not increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency. We just have to be smart with it and take the knowledge we have learnt today and manifest it into practice- using sunscreen in our daily routines- making sure we protect our rich complexions and reducing discoloration while feeding our body sufficient Vitamin D.

It’s time to embrace safe and healthy skin…