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Does sunscreen block Vitamin D?

We all know that sun cream protects us from harmful sunlight but how does sunscreen affect Vitamin D production? Here we look at the evidence and show you how to support your Vitamin D levels while staying safe in the sun.

By Hannah Mepham

6 Minute read

Can you get Vitamin D through sun cream? Is it safe to be exposed to the sun for Vitamin D? We all know that sun cream protects us from harmful sunlight but lots of us have questions about how sunscreen affects Vitamin D production.

Here we look at the evidence and show you how to support your Vitamin D levels while staying safe in the sun.

Why is Vitamin D known as the sunshine vitamin?

Vitamin D supports healthy bones, muscles, nails and teeth and in the UK you can find Vitamin D in dietary sources such as oily fish, red meat, eggs and supplements.

Vitamin D can also be generated through sun exposure and this has given Vitamin D the nickname ‘the sunshine vitamin’.

Does sunscreen block Vitamin D?

One question that we get asked a lot is "Does sunscreen block Vitamin D?" The simple answer is no, not entirely.

Sunscreens are made with filters that either reflect or absorb sunlight, stopping it from reaching and potentially damaging living cells.

When applied correctly, high-factor SPFs such as SPF30 block a very high percentage of UVB rays. SPF30 shields against 97% of UVB, while SPF50 offers marginally higher protection and shields against 98%.

This means that while sunscreen does reduce Vitamin D production, it does not block it entirely,

In the next section, we'll explain what this means for your skin and share tips for getting a good dose of Vitamin D without sacrificing your sun protection.

Is it safe to be exposed to the sun to get Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is vital to our wellbeing, and getting outdoors regularly during the summer months gives you plenty of opportunities to increase your levels of Vitamin D.

As sunburn has been linked to many skin concerns, including skin cancer, it is essential that when you expose your skin to the sun, you do so safely.

Charlotte Vohtz says:

“Most people can synthesise enough Vitamin D during the summer by spending a short time in the sun without sunscreen, with hands, forearms or lower legs uncovered.[i]

This should only ever be done safely, and great care should be taken to ensure your sun does not redden or burn.”

Did you know? The face produces very little Vitamin D and you are more likely to develop Vitamin D by exposing your arms or legs to sunlight.

How to get Vitamin D through sun exposure

While it remains important to apply sun cream regularly and liberally during the hottest hours of the day, exposing your skin to sunlight for a brief period of time can help support your Vitamin D levels.

If you decide that this is the right thing for you, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid sitting in the sun during the hottest hours of the day, around 11-3pm
  • Wear facial sun cream and a hat.
  • Avoid sitting in direct sunlight, consider going for a short walk instead
  • Keep hydrated and wear loose, light clothing to stop the skin from overheating
  • Seek shade after a short time and then apply sun cream before you return outside

You can also allow a little more Vitamin D to reach your skin by switching to a medium-factor sunscreen such as SPF15. This is a good choice for summer evenings and for UK autumn winters when the UV levels are not so strong. 

Shop natural and organic sunscreen

Our easy-to-apply, natural and organic sun creams can be used on your face and body, and we also have some dedicated SPF moisturisers for face and neck.

Here are some of our top-selling SPF15 sunscreens:

Our high-factor SPF30 Scent Free Sun Creams are clinically proven to be kind to sensitive skin and are the best choice if you are prone to prickly heat or find that your skin burns easily.

Shop the full organic sun care collection.

More ways to get Vitamin D in the UK

According to Gov.co.uk, approximately 1 in 6 people living in the UK has low levels of vitamin D and 1 in 5 children have lower levels of vitamin D than the government recommends[i].

Exposing your arms to the summer sun for a short time can be enough to stimulate Vitamin D synthesis in the body but it is nigh on impossible to rely on the British weather to get all the Vitamin D you need for 365 days a year.

That’s why the NHS suggests taking a Vitamin D supplement[i], especially during the autumn and winter months. Supplements can be purchased in health stores and pharmacies and it is especially important that you take the right amount for your age and needs.

Some groups can be particularly vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency and if you fall into one of the following categories identified by the NHS website, it is a good idea to talk to your GP or pharmacist about supporting your Vitamin D intake through dietary sources:

  • Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding
  • Infants not consuming more than 500ml of infant formula daily
  • Children aged 1 to 4
  • Those who spend a lot of time indoors
  • Those from Black and South Asian communities

The NHS has special guidelines for supplementing Vitamin D needs during infanthood, childhood and pregnancy[ii] and also advises those with very dark skin to consider supporting their Vitamin D intake from other sources than sun lighti.

Have you tried our SPF finder yet? It helps you find the perfect SPF moisturiser for your skin in moments.

Would you like to find out more about our natural and organic sunscreen collection? Our UK customer care team can also help you to find you the best sun cream for your skin type and can be contacted on 01403 740350 or on organic@greenpeople.co.uk


[i] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/

[ii] https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/


If you wish to republish this content, please credit Green People as the original creator with a link to "Does sunscreen block Vitamin D?" Please do not use an affiliate link.

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