Is sunblock preventing me getting vitamin D?

Dr David Roche / 04 November 2014

Saga's Dr Roche answers a reader's question about whether sunblock prevents vitamin D production.

Q: As I have very fair skin, I apply factor-30 sunblock every day come rain or shine, as my dermatologist suggested. But what about getting enough vitamin D, for which I believe you need sunlight? Is solving one problem just going to result in a different one?

A: Fortunately you only have to have a short exposure to the summer sun to develop sufficient vitamin D; about 15 minutes a day is thought to be enough.

In addition those with fairer skins, such as you, convert vitamin D faster than those with darker skins.

Even with your diligent application of sunscreen, as long as you spend a reasonable time outdoors each day in the summer, you should have sufficient exposure.

Some vitamin D can be obtained from diet (eg eggs, dairy products and  oily fish), but it is thought that at least 90% of it comes from sun exposure in the summer months. There is not enough UV light in the winter to do the job so in high latitude countries we rely on body stores to get us through to spring.

If you are very concerned about your vitamin D levels you can have them measured on a blood test and take a supplement if the levels are low.

Read more about staying safe in the sun

Read our guide to vitamin D

Don't take risks with the sun

Vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.