Today, I’d like to bust a myth. This particular myth is not only completely detached from any kind of clinical evidence, but it’s also very dangerous. If you believe it, you could end up with serious skin damage or disease.
The myth: SPF lotions stop you from absorbing vitamin D through your skin
This is not true. It’s an idea that’s shared on social media; on YouTube channels; and in everyday conversation. And it puts people off using sun screen — because we know vitamin D is essential for our health, so we want to make the most of our time in the sun and soak up those rays.
Several studies have proven that wearing high SPF sun screen doesn’t stop you from topping up your dose of vitamin D. Just last year, scientists tested vitamin D levels in a study group during a week of wearing high SPF in cloudless weather; and found that vitamin D levels increased at a steady rate in all participants.
Using SPF protection whenever you’re in the sun comes with lots of benefits. Such as…
- Vital protection against skin disease, including life-threatening skin cancer
- Less skin damage, so your skin stays healthy for longer
- Reduced wrinkles, marks, and other signs of ageing
- An overall clearer, fresher and younger complexion
There is some evidence that some people with darker skin types may be more prone to vitamin D deficiency if they always use sun screen. But even in those cases, a high SPF doesn’t stop the absorption of vitamin D completely; it just reduces it.
Why the SPF myth is dangerous
But there’s another important angle here. Even if sun screen did prevent the absorption of vitamin D (which it mostly doesn’t), the risk of skin cancer would still be higher than the risk of becoming slightly more vitamin D deficient.
New Zealand currently has the world’s highest rate of skin cancer*, including melanoma. At least 82,000 New Zealanders get skin cancer every year, including melanoma.
And while vitamin D deficiency does carry health risks, it’s also easily solved with a daily vitamin D supplement, cheap and easy to find at any pharmacy.
So this is me, asking you to look after your skin and look after yourself. It’s not just about beauty (although of course, too much sun without SPF protection will speed up your skin’s ageing process). This really is about staying well.
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