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 - including a global viral pandemic.
In the long, hazy days of the summer (now but a distant memory), social media was awash with jokes and memes making a little bit of light out of an awful situation. But now autumn is here, and we’re faced with the possibility of another full lockdown or we’re dealing with the reality of a local lockdown and tightened restrictions, things don’t seem quite so light.
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.
So, is there a link between vitamin D supplements and a darkening of the skin? 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…
Do vitamin D supplements help you tan?
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, 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 an antioxidant effect.
Vitamin D and tanning: the bottom line
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. 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 separately from our normal skin care. And if we choose not to, we can opt for other sun protection measures such as wearing a wide brimmed sun hat or loose fitting clothing when the sun is at its strongest.
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 since we’re all spending more time indoors, that we continue to take a 10mcg vitamin D supplement during the spring and summer until restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted.
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 supplements can darken your skin, well they may or they 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!