Snowbirds are getting into formation and are ready to head south. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen.
Sunscreen is great at keeping skin protected from harmful UV rays, but it doesn’t come without controversy. For example, by blocking the sun’s rays, is it also blocking your ability to absorb valuable sun-sourced vitamin D?
The sun is the best source of vitamin D around. When it hits your skin, the body starts manufacturing vitamin D, which helps keep bones strong and dense. For some, the risk of osteoporosis and weak bones can be enough to leave the sunscreen at home.
But new data suggests that sun-shielding behavior, like wearing sunscreen or long sleeves, is not associated with lower bone mineral density or an increased risk of osteoporosis-related bone breaks.
Researchers examined federal government data on more than 3,400 U.S. adults with an average age of about 40. They all completed questionnaires about sun-protecting behavior.
The data published online at JAMA Dermatology found no significant difference between sun-protective behavior and weak bones.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with weak bones and a host of other health conditions.
Other experts, however, do suggest spending some time in the sun without protection to optimize absorption. The amount of time depends on skin complexion and can range anywhere from about 5 minutes for fair-skinned individuals and 30 minutes for darker-skinned folks.
Applying sunscreen just before heading outdoors or after leaving will allow you to absorb vitamin D and keep skin protected.
Remember to keep applying sunscreen once you’re outdoors. If you swim or sweat, re-apply more frequently. If you’re not sweating, it’s still recommended to re-apply a layer every few hours.
If you’re heading to brighter, warmer, and sunnier destinations this winter and are worried about trading skin health for bone health, let your mind rest. You can have both.