How Much Sun for Vitamin D?

It is winter and some of us don’t spend much time outside. While, here in Queensland, our winter is our dry season and we often have lovely sunny days – it can still be hard to get adequate vitamin D.

So many patients that I have tested have come back deficient for vitamin D, even when they are apparently getting lots of sunshine.  With vitamin D being a very important nutrient for a whole range of health issues, in particular a strong and healthy immune system,  it is important that we get enough.

The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer when the sun is directly overhead. The angle of the sun to your skin determines whether vitamin D can be made efficiently or not. This is why in winter, when the sun is lower and closer to the southern horizon, we find it harder to get enough UV rays.

You don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn. It is important to always avoid getting sunburnt as this is damaging and is linked to some skin cancers.

But just how much vitamin D is produced from sunlight and how long do you need in the sun to get your daily intake? Well this depends on the time of day, where you live in the world and the color of your skin. Also, remember that the more skin you expose the more vitamin D is produced.

Winter exposure must occur during midday hours to maximise the sun’s UV rays.

Darker skins and southern latitudes require increased time.

The table below shows the different skin types *:
Skin Type Skin color Skin characteristics
I White; very fair; red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles Always burns, never tans
II White; fair; red or blond hair; blue, hazel, or green eyes Usually burns, tans with difficulty
III Cream white; fair; with any eye or hair color; very common Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans
IV Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin Rarely burns, tans with ease
V Dark Brown; mid-eastern skin types Very rarely burns, tans very easily
VI Black Never burns, tans very easily

sunD

Winter Sun Exposure for Optimal Vitamin D in South East Queensland **
  • Fair Skin – around 7 mins each day during midday
  • Dark Skin – 30-60 minutes each day during midday

So remember to grab some extra sunshine and be sure to not wash the precious oils of your skin with body soaps and washes and just wash the dirty bits. The oils in your skin which trap the UV rays and make vitamin D will be easily washed away with soap and water…along with over use of sunscreen, this is another reason why we have low vitamin D levels in this modern era of obsessive hygiene!  If you are unable to get enough sun due to your work or activities being based indoors, a supplement is normally required to maintain good vitamin D levels.

* Source: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

** information from “Vitamin D and Health in Adults in Australia and New Zealand: Position Statement 2012″