Purity Bridge Aesthetic Physician, and practising GP, Dr Roxy Belpassi, explains how to get the balance between avoiding sun damage whilst ensuring you have enough vitamin D
So, we have had the hottest, sunniest summer I can ever recall in this country. Whether you are going away, or just enjoying the odd day off in the UK, we are all aware of the dangers of the sun, and the damage it does to our skin. Or are we? Well, if you’re not, here it is in a nutshell; the sun’s rays, also known as ultraviolet radiation induces the skin changes common to ageing, so promote wrinkling, skin thinning and loss of collagen, as well as changes in skin pigmentation, brown spots/age spots, freckles and the like. Now for just a touch more science, the UVA and UVB radiation causes the production of free radicals and can change the DNA in the skin cells. This happens when more free radicals are produced than our natural antioxidants can mop up, and is linked to the 3 main skin cancers; basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and the scary one we have all heard of malignant melanoma.
The best advice, cover up, stay out of the sun between 11 and 3, and when outside apply a high SPF sunscreen, and ideally reapply every 2 hours.
But what about your vitamin D? How will we get enough if we use a strong sunscreen? This is something I get asked so often. It is true, ultraviolet radiation also has a very positive effect on the production of vitamin D, a vitamin that is vital for our wellbeing. A vitamin that isn’t in many foods, but is more commonly being added to fortify some foods, cereals for example. It helps regulate the calcium and phosphate in our body, and is therefore important for the health of our bones, teeth and muscles.
And did you also know that we are so far north in the hemisphere that the radiation reaching our skin between October and April is of the wrong wavelength for us to be able to absorb any vitamin D at all during this time?
As a GP I come across vitamin D deficiency all the time. It is so common that many areas now refuse to test vitamin D in a lab unless there are specific symptoms of deficiency. Instead, it is recommended by Public Health England that EVERYONE is on a vitamin D supplement between the months of October and April, and those at risk individuals should stay on a supplement all year round. Those at risk include people who cover their skin, people who don’t see much sun (for example, house bound), and dark skinned ethnic minority groups. Public Health England also recommends that infants and children take a daily supplement up to the age of 4, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. The recommended dose suggested at present is 10 micrograms, or 400 iu (international units).
So in summary, use sunscreen, even add in a vitamin C serum (available from Purity Bridge), also known as ascorbic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help mop up those DNA damaging free radicals as well as many other wonderful skin boosting properties. And take it from me, just as the safest way to tan is out of a bottle, so too is the best way to get your dose of vitamin D.