Balancing skin protection with vitamin D absorption is a conundrum many health conscious people struggle with. As the weather warms and outdoor activities increase, this problem moves from a hypothetical one to a pressing, practical issue. We have summarized the latest research and recommendations from experts to help you make the best choices for you and your family. Taking advantage of the health benefits of sun can make you feel better mentally and physically.

If you are a person who spends significant time outdoors—even with a moderately strong sunscreen—your body will likely manufacture plenty of vitamin D.  In one study of people on a week long sun holiday, those who wore well-applied SPF 15 sunscreen increased their blood levels of Vitamin D and avoided sunburns. Most of the real world—non-laboratory—studies confirm these findings, that people who enjoy outdoor activity and wear sunblock generally have adequate levels of vitamin D. Further research is needed with newer, super high SPF sunblocks, as it is possible that these stronger products may impede vitamin D synthesis. 

If you are a person who spends most of their time indoors, a relatively short window of sunshine can help you get the vitamin D you need. Vitamin D is one of the biggest health benefits of sun, and most people can get adequate amounts by spending just 15 to 30 minutes outdoors several days a week. People who are older or with darker skin tones may need a bit more time. Mornings and early evenings provide the most gentle forms of sun exposure that is least likely to burn or damage your skin.

If you want to protect the environment as well as your skin, choose sunblocks made with non-nano zinc oxide and avoid products that include chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide, and nano zinc oxide, which have been linked to the destruction of ocean life including bleaching of coral reefs. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends protecting exposed skin with clothing, shade or a broad based sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or above.