My Top 10 Tips for Healthy Sun Exposure and Optimizing your Vitamin D Levels
1. Have a healthy respect for the sun. It is powerful medicine with potentially dangerous side effects on your skin. Treat it like medication, using the lowest dose necessary, but don’t avoid it completely. Never fall asleep in the sun without protection.
2. Always avoid sunburn. It is sunburn, not healthy sun exposure that causes problems. Repeated sunburns, especially in children and very fair-skinned people, have been linked to melanoma. Whereas there is no credible scientific evidence that regular, moderate sun exposure causes melanoma or other skin cancers.
3. Prepare your skin and build up tolerance gradually. Start early in the year (spring), or early in the morning before the sun is strongest and slowly build up the amount of time you spend in the sun.
4. Get 15-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure two to four times a week. Each of us has different needs for unprotected sun exposure to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D. Depending on your age, what type of skin you have, where you live and what time of the day and year it is, your need will vary. The farther you live from the equator, the more exposure to the sun you need in order to generate vitamin D. For instance, a fair skinned person, sitting on a New York beach in June, in the middle of the day, for about 10-15 minutes (enough to cause a light pinkness 24 hours after), is producing the equivalent of 15,000-20,000 IU’s of Vitamin D. But the same person living further north in the U.K, or Canada would need 20-30 minutes to get that light pinkness, which is all one needs. Also, people with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 – 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people, to generate the same amount of vitamin D. For more specifics, I recommend the tables in The Vitamin D Solution by Dr. Michael Holick.
5. Get frequent, short exposures. Regular short exposures have been found to be much more effective and safer than intermittent long ones. Note that you cannot generate Vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window, because the UVB rays necessary for vitamin D production are absorbed by glass.