There’s something about the summer that just makes things feel better, isn’t there? Lighter mornings, longer days and warmth somehow allow us to deal with things in a different way.
Scientifically, there is some truth to the fact that sunlight helps to lift our mood. Studies show that SAD, or seasonal affective disorder hits sufferers once the levels of natural daylight begin to drop in the autumn.
But sunlight isn’t just about our mood. When sunlight hits our skin, our bodies manufacture vitamin D. In fact, this is our primary source of vitamin D. Some foods, such as egg yolks, oily fish and fortified cereals are good sources of vitamin D. But in the main, we actually make most of our vitamin D by exposing our skin to the sun.
During the summer, we generally get enough, unless we cover the majority of our skin with clothing all year round (for example for religious or cultural reasons) or we tend not to go outside much.
However, when the days get colder and shorter, we can struggle to get enough vitamin D. It's thought that the majority of us in the UK develop a vitamin D deficiency during the autumn and winter months. So for this reason, the NHS recommends that we all take a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement each day from October to March.
Vitamin D is essential for strong teeth and bones. But a deficiency is also linked with SAD, and is linked with a reduction in daily sunlight hours.
But, is there also a link between vitamin D supplements and a darkening of the skin? Does taking vitamin D supplements make your skin darker? Could vitamin D help us tan more easily since there’s a link between sunlight (which definitely does darken exposed skin) and vitamin D production? Let’s find out…
Does Taking Vitamin D Help You Tan?
It’s an interesting question isn’t it? Does taking vitamin D make you tan more easily? Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one. Here at Sönd we like to give definitive answers to the questions our lovely fans have, but sadly this time, the science is sketchy.
We also like to provide links to scientific studies, but alas, the ones we found simply weren’t up to scratch to pass the critical eye of our resident writer and scientist.
What does seem to be the general consensus though in answer to the question, does taking vitamin D help you tan, is that whilst it’s probably unlikely that vitamin D supplements darken the skin, being exposed to sunlight helps us to manufacture vitamin D, and in this process, we may also get a tan.
We told you it was sketchy science!
More sketchy science surrounds the role of vitamin D as an antioxidant. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E help to neutralise free radicals, nasty unstable chemicals in the body that can cause inflammation and disease. Free radicals are created by eating a poor diet high in fried and processed foods, smoking and breathing in environmental pollutants and toxins.
We can’t escape them though by living virtuously and ‘clean’ because they’re also created as a by-product of normal biological functions such as breathing and digestion.
Free radicals are also created by UV light from the sun hitting our skin. So antioxidant vitamins help to prevent free radical damage caused by exposure to sunlight. Some sources say that vitamin D also has an antioxidant effect. But the scientific consensus is that more studies are needed into whether or not vitamin D is a true antioxidant.
However, vitamin D does play an important role in the modulation of the inflammation process by helping to regulate the cells and molecules called cytokines that are part of the immune system. This is fundamental in the control of chronic inflammation that can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Vitamin D for the Skin?
Aside from discussing the question of does vitamin D make you tan, it’s also worth pointing out that vitamin D does have other benefits for the skin.
The skin requires vitamin D for its overall health, keeping it hydrated, fresh and youthful. The essential cellular repair and growth processes that go on in our skin at a cellular level as we sleep also require vitamin D. Without it, our skin would just be a collection of dull, dead skin cells.
If you’re experiencing dry, itchy, irritated skin, then you may be deficient in vitamin D. This is because vitamin D also helps to strengthen the natural barrier function of the skin. If this barrier becomes compromised, we can experience inflamed, irritated or infected skin and even become more prone to skin conditions such as eczema.
Is There a Vitamin That Makes You Tan?
Since we’re talking about vitamins for tanning, we thought we’d mention that vitamin D isn’t the only vitamin that can help you tan.
A supplement that contains skin nourishing vitamin E, the mineral selenium and the vitamin A derivative, beta carotene, can help to strengthen your skin against the sun and potentially help you tan more easily, and safely. But you still must be conscious of sun protection!
Vitamin D and Tanning: the Bottom Line
In terms of taking vitamin D, look for supplements that contain vitamin D3, as this is the form of vitamin D that the body manufactures when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D3 has been found to be the most beneficial, not just for the skin, but for our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.
As you can see, the science isn’t really conclusive enough to say one way or the other whether vitamin D supplements help to darken or tan the skin. Does vitamin D help you tan? The truth is, we’re not sure.
But either way, our advice is to always be mindful of the effects of the sun on your skin, even on a cloudy day.
We’ve chosen not to add sunscreen to our range of alkalising skin care products. We made this decision because we have concerns over the safety of using sun protection ingredients (both chemical and mineral types of sunscreens) on our skin. We go into much more detail on this topic in our blog, SPFs: Should we wear them every day?
Also, we ultimately believe that it’s up to all of us as individuals to decide whether or not we want to use SPFs. If we choose to, we can add them to our skin as an additional product to our normal skin care.
If we choose not to, we can opt for other sun protection measures such as wearing a wide brimmed sun hat, good quality sunglasses and long, loose fitting clothing when the UV light from the sun is at its strongest. (Which is generally between 11am and 3pm, from March to October in the UK.)
The advice from the NHS to take a vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months makes sense. There’s certainly no harm or danger from sunlight caused by taking them, so we should all do so.
It’s also now advised that if we’re spending more time indoors due to illness, incarceration or any other reason, that we continue to take a 10mcg vitamin D supplement during the spring and summer.
If you’re going abroad or enjoying some staycation sun, be sun sensible. And don’t be tempted by sunbeds, your skin in later years really won’t be happy with you!
As for whether or not taking vitamin D helps you tan,, well it may or may not. But be sun sensible, take your vitamins and drink plenty of water. Stay safe and keep those around you safe. We’ve all got this!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.