The skin is our largest organ. It protects us, and in turn we need to protect our skin. Everything we put on our skin is absorbed. Period. I try not to put anything on my skin that I would not ingest. Sometimes this is easier said than done!
When it comes to sunscreen, I get questions all the time—about which type is best, whether sunscreen is really needed, whether it is ideal to NOT wear sunscreen in order to optimize vitamin D production. So, let’s talk skin, sunscreen and vitamin D. What’s a person to do?
Dr. Jennifer’s Rules for Safe Sun Exposure
Allow your body a little sun exposure without sunscreen.
Yup, a little sun is OK. Getting 20 minutes of sun a few times per week, without wearing sunscreen (and without sunglasses, for that matter), will allow your body to make vitamin D. However, your vitamin D production will depend on your geographic location, the time of day, and tone of your skin in addition to the length of sun exposure. To ensure you have an optimal vitamin D level for immune and hormonal health, get your level tested and take a high-quality vitamin D supplement. (Note: If you have strict instructions from your dermatologist to avoid sun exposure due to a history of skin cancer, you’ll need to supplement your diet with Vitamin D3.)
If you’re going to be in the sun more than 20 minutes, wear sun protection.
Sun protection can be a physical block, such as breathable clothing and a hat, or it can be a good-quality natural sunscreen. Or both, especially if you have fair skin, a history of skin cancer, or are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time. Remember that the sun can reflect off of surfaces onto your skin, so don’t plan on your clothing and hat giving you total protection, especially if you plan to be near water. Water reflects the sun, so protect your skin by applying a sunscreen! The Environmental Working Group is a great resource to help you choose a non-toxic, good-for-your-body sunscreen.
Get your skin checked by a dermatologist once a year.
Really! Have your skin checked by an expert. Skin cancer is on the rise, and not all skin cancers look scary—some can be tiny dots that you might not even notice. A dermatologist will look at your skin and map any moles or freckles that could turn into skin cancer. A dermatologist can compare how your skin changes from year to year, giving you the best preventative care possible.
Protecting Your Skin with Antioxidants
Did you know that maintaining proper antioxidant levels helps you to protect your skin from sunburn? While a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help us increase our antioxidant levels, often a good-quality supplement is needed to maximize antioxidant status. Grapenol, a grape seed extract, is my favorite option for increasing antioxidants and preventing sunburn. (Note: grape seed extract is different from grapefruit seed extract.) Two to three capsules twice a day is ideal.