Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a major role in the body’s overall health. It helps to regulate calcium and phosphate in the body, contributing to the health of our bones, teeth and muscles. A lack of vitamin D can lead to various health problems, including bone deformities.
As implied by its nickname, the “sunshine” vitamin, one of the best sources of the nutrient is light. Exposure to UVB – whether from direct sunlight or indoor tanning – enables the body to convert a compound in the skin into vitamin D3. It can also be found in various foods, as well as dietary supplements.
There are many widespread myths surrounding vitamin D and tanning. In this post, we’ll explore and demystify 7 of the most common misconceptions.
Myth 1: You can get all the vitamin D you need from the sun
It’s true that the body does produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. In spring and summer, spending around 9 minutes per day in the sunshine (with some skin exposed) should be sufficient to prevent deficiency.
However, this is not the case all year round. During autumn and winter in the UK, the sun’s UV levels are much lower. From late September to early March, the body cannot produce enough vitamin D from sunlight alone – even if you spend all day sunbathing.
Myth 2: You don’t need vitamin D in the winter
Vitamin D is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. Your body needs this nutrient year-round to absorb calcium and build strong bones. So, even in the colder months, it’s still important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. It is estimated that around 1 in 6 UK adults are deficient in vitamin D during winter.
During the colder months, when the sun’s UVB rays are not strong enough, you can take vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiency. Safe, moderate use of indoor sunbeds can also help your body to produce vitamin D naturally.
Myth 3: You cannot get vitamin D from tanning beds
Many people think that the body can only produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, it is not the sun itself that triggers vitamin D production – but rather, the presence of UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation.
While the levels of UVB you’ll get from a sunbed are not quite as high as the sun, sunbed lamps do emit both UVA and UVB radiation. This means that indoor tanning, whether in a lie-down sunbed or stand-up booth, can help your body to produce vitamin D. It’s important to use caution and tan safely, as overexposure to UV rays can have harmful effects.
Myth 4: It’s easy to get enough vitamin D from diet alone
While it’s not impossible to get all the vitamin D you need through your diet, it is extremely difficult. That’s because very few foods are rich in vitamin D. The only foods that contain high levels of the nutrient are oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, liver and certain fortified products (e.g. cereals).
Unless you’re eating plenty of these foods on a daily basis, it’s unlikely you’re getting enough vitamin D from your diet. In particular, people who follow a plant-based diet may struggle unless they are exposed to enough UVB, or take dietary supplements.
Myth 5: Everyone needs the same amount of vitamin D
It’s true that every adult requires the same amount of vitamin D – however, some people’s bodies are not as efficient at absorbing or producing it. These individuals may need to take more frequent supplements to ensure they get enough.
People who may be at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Babies and children under the age of four
- Older adults (65+)
- People with darker skin
- People with certain disorders such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- People taking medicines that affect vitamin D metabolism (e.g. some anti-seizure drugs)
Vitamin D supplements should also be taken during pregnancy to ensure normal foetal development.
Myth 6: You don’t need to worry about vitamin D if you have dark skin
People with darker skin are less likely to experience certain forms of sun damage, such as sunburn. This is because darker skin contains more melanin – a type of pigment that provides protection from UV rays.
This leads some people to assume that people with dark skin don’t need to worry about vitamin D. In fact, the opposite is true. Melanin reduces the harmful effects of the sun, but it also limits the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. So, if you have darker skin, you may need to take a supplement, or spend more time exposed to UVB rays (safely).
Myth 7: You can’t overdose on vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for good health. However, while vitamin D deficiency can be dangerous, the opposite can also be harmful.
As with other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D accumulates in the body’s tissues so that it can be used when needed. If you take too many supplements, it can build up in your body over time, leading to vitamin D toxicity (also called hypervitaminosis D). This can cause symptoms such as vomiting, weakness and kidney problems.
Fortunately, it’s almost impossible to overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight or tanning alone.
It’s hard to know what to believe when it comes to vitamin D. We hope that this post has helped to demystify some of the most common vitamin D and tanning myths.
Loukas has been a part of the tanning industry since 2013; what he doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing! As a Director of SolarTrack Systems, his responsibilities don’t just include ActiveSalon, but a variety of different tools and packages.