Celebrate the Sun

By Melaina Juntti

Summer’s here and you’re ready to hit the hiking trails, read novels poolside, and frolic in the fields. By now you know to pull on a visor and slop on sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s pulsing rays. But wait—while limiting sun exposure can spare you a stinging burn, stave off wrinkles, and lower skin cancer risk, it can also keep you from getting enough vitamin D, which is crucial to bone health, immunity, and cancer prevention. Research shows that since Americans have smartened up about sun care over the past two decades, the number of people who get enough vitamin D has dropped by half. So should we cover up head to toe or bask in the rays? It depends on skin type, where you live geographically, and the amount of vitamin D in your blood, says Susan Brown, PhD, director of the Center for Better Bones in Syracuse, New York. If you’re fair skinned, freckled, and prone to burning after 15 minutes outside, Brown recommends supplementing with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Meanwhile, darker-skinned people who can withstand 30 minutes in the sun without burning can probably get by with less. But regardless of skin type, Michael Holick, MD, PhD, author of The UV Advantage (ibooks, 2004), says that every person needs at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.