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How Long to Stay in the Sun for Adequate Vitamin D Levels?

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Summer is here and so are the bright and beautiful sun rays.  During this time, especially in June, the sun is at the strongest on June 21st.  Why is it so important to get proper sunlight each day?

Besides the production of Vitamin D, which we are going to get into, your eyes and brain also need the rays of the sun.  The light triggers serotonin production in the morning which helps you wake up and alerts the brain, time to get up.

In today’s society, we utilize so much artificial light that we don’t spend time getting sun at all.

One of the things that you want to focus on when it comes to sun exposure, is finding out how long and how much sun you need each day to produce adequate levels of Vitamin D.

Before we get into times and all the fun info I have in store for you, first, we need you to determine, what is your skin type.  This is very crucial because the darker the skin, the more time you need to spend in the sun while the fairer the skin, the less time you need to be in the sun.

Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick at Harvard Medical School created this categorization of skin types in 1975:

  • Type 1 skin is extremely fair, pale white skin. Eye color is usually blue or hazel, and hair color is often red or blond. These types have numerous freckles; they never tan, but just burn. These people have the highest risk of skin cancer. The group includes true redheads and albinos.

  • Type 2 skin is fair, and the eye color is blue. These people may tan a little but usually burn. This group includes Northern Europeans and some Scandinavians. Hair color is usually brown although blond hair isn’t uncommon.

  • Type 3 skin is a darker shade of white. These people are sensitive to the sun and burn sometimes. They can tan to a light brown. This group includes darker Caucasians. The hair color is brown, as is eye color.

  • Type 4 skin is light brown. It doesn’t burn easily but instead tans to a medium brown. This group is the largest and includes American Indians, Hispanics, Mediterraneans, and Asians. These people have brown or black hair and brown eyes.

  • Type 5 skin usually isn’t sensitive to the sun. This type doesn’t burn easily but instead tans to a medium or dark brown. This group also contains Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and some African Americans. They have black hair and brown eyes.

  • Type 6 skin isn’t sensitive to the sun and rarely burns. Pigmentation is very dark. This group includes African Americans and dark-skinned Asians. These people have the lowest risk of skin cancer. Their hair is black and eyes are brown.

For example, I am a type 5 skin type.  I don’t burn much at all in Chicago (maybe after 4-6 hours in the sun) and when I go to tropical climates, there is a level of how much sun I can take before I start to burn.

Once you know your skin type, now we can talk about how long you need to expose yourself to the sun, how much Vitamin D you will produce at each given time, and how long it would take for you to get your full dose of vitamin D per day.

***Time to 1,000IUs is based upon 25% of skin exposure (full arms).  If you are a male in a bathing suit, multiple by 3.  I would recommend the same for women just to keep the numbers simple.

Skin Time to 1,000 IU(on June 22) Time to MED (Produce a Sunburn) Time to 1,000 IU (on December 22)
Type 1 4 min 16 min 37 min
Type 2 4 min 20 min 46 min
Type 3 5 min 25 min 55 min
Type 4 8 min 37 min 1 hr, 24 min
Type 5 11 min 50 min 1 hr, 55 min
Type 6 19 min 84 min 3 hr, 39 min

So, basically, you have time to 1,000 IUs of Vitamin D column showing you, on the day the sun is at the strongest, how long you would need to be outside at the peak time between 12p – 1pm.

The middle column just shows how long before you start to sunburn but I will share with you some truth on sunburns and what actually causes them.

The last column just shows you how less effective the sun is in the winter and why I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin D3, all year but more importantly, in the winter.

When it comes to how much Vitamin D you need your body to produce from sun exposure is the following:

(Your Weight) divided by (25lbs) x 1,000 = total Vitamin D Levels needed daily.

Example – if you weigh 200lbs here is what the equation looks like

200/25 = 8, times by 1,000 = 8,000 IUs per day.

This is your maintenance level so if you are under 70-80 on your Vitamin D, you will need more in order to help support the body for what it needs.

Remember, if this seems high to you, before computers and industrial age, we spent most of our days outside in the sun.  The body needs sun just like a plant does.  It is a requirement for good health.  Why do you think so many of us are less sick during the summer vs the winter?

So, for an individual with a type 4 skin who weighs 200lbs, it will need to be in the sun with 25% skin exposure for 64 minutes.  If the same person is wearing a bathing suit, the time is cut down to 21 mins in the sun.  More skin exposure, less time in the sun.

There are many apps on the market to download that will tell you the best times to sunbathe or get sun exposure and all of this.  There is one app I use that helps remind me to get out in the sun called, “DMinder.”

I love this app as it will remind me when to get out in the sun and will tell me how much my body created Vitamin D today and so much more.

There are so many benefits to having sun exposure.  I highly recommend being exposed to the sun as much as possible without burning yourself.  And if you are going to the beach and know you will be spending more time in the sun than what your body can tolerate, a good organic sunscreen is always recommended.

Now, before I end this blog post, I wanted to share one tip that many don’t know about when it comes to sunburns.  The reason why you become sunburned has nothing to do with the sun and more to do with your antioxidant levels.  Individuals with higher antioxidant levels built up in the cells can stay in the sun longer than those who have lower antioxidant levels.  I have friends who are fairer skin than me and can be exposed to the sun for the same amount of time or even longer.

The reason why this is true is that the sun creates free radicals but if you have enough antioxidants in the cells, the free radicals will be neutralized by the antioxidants.  Hence, why you can spend more time in the sun.

I will have a future post about what antioxidants to take, the highest ORAC level, what is ORAC and so much more…

In the meantime, enjoy your time in the sun and continue producing that healthy Vitamin D that is crucial for us to be healthy.

Dr. Vic

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