Unsurprisingly, many women wear a daily SPF moisturiser during the summer to protect skin from the damaging effects of the sun. But could sticking to this same regime in the winter also damage our skin, and our general health?
The sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays are an important source of Vitamin D.
As they are absorbed by the skin, they form the essential building blocks the body needs to manufacture its own Vitamin D supplies.
SPFs stop this absorption process as they filter out the crucial UV elements, and can potentially cause Vitamin D deficiencies.
Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D boosts the immune system and enables it to function properly.
In the winter months Vitamin D deficiency is very common as people spend more time indoors. This problem is compounded by the prevalence of cold and flu bugs at this time of year, which increases the chance of illness that much more.
Vitamin D also has tangible benefits for the skin, particularly for psoriasis sufferers. It is a powerful antioxidant so can play a role in preventing premature ageing and damage to the skin structure.
During the summer the benefits of sun protection may well outweigh the risks, but during the winter that may not be the case.
What constitutes a safe level of sun exposure?
Sun exposure does need to be carefully limited as too much can damage the skin and, in extreme cases, cause skin cancer. So, it’s a case of striking a finely tuned balance. Don’t go for the burn just to get your Vitamin D fix!
Rosacea sufferers should be cautious as sunlight is a trigger of the condition, so you may want to consider Vitamin D supplements.
It is thought just 5-10 minutes of daily sun exposure on unprotected skin on the face, hands and arms is sufficient for the body to produce the level of Vitamin D it requires.
In the Summer months it is wise to get this exposure early in the morning or evening and stay in the shade in the middle of the day (from 12-3pm) as this is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Is the sun our only source of Vitamin D?
No, but it’s the easiest to come across! Unfortunately there are very few foods rich in Vitamin D (oily fish and egg yolks are the most notable sources). And no food provides enough to boost the immune system to a sufficient level to protect against viruses.
There are some Vitamin D supplements available which can be useful for some people as an immune booster during the Winter. They’re available in most good health food shops and you should seek advice on the right dosage for you.