Every schoolchild learns that vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, but as we grow older, we don’t all remember why. We humans have the marvelous ability to create vitamin D in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
Of course, we need to be careful not to get sunburned and we also need to avoid getting so much sunshine that it increases our risk of developing skin cancers linked to sun exposure. Nonetheless, cautious sunbathing is an effective and inexpensive way of boosting body levels of this critical vitamin.
Does a Shower After Sunbathing Limit Vitamin Absorption?
It does lead to a thorny question, however: Will taking a shower after sunbathing wash away all the vitamin D your skin cells have just made?
Q. My vitamin D levels are not as high as I would like (under 30 ng/ml). I try to get at least 15 to 20 minutes of sun every other day and I do take a supplement occasionally.
I recently heard that if you shower after sunbathing you will wash the vitamin D off your skin before it can be absorbed. Is there any truth to this?
If so, how long do I need to wait before showering?
Vitamin D Expert Demurs
A. There is not much research on this topic. One of the leading vitamin D experts, Michael Holick, MD, PhD, suggests that vitamin D is made inside skin cells and therefore would not be washed off during a shower.
If you use sunscreen, that will keep your skin from making vitamin D. Try exposing your skin to the sun for 15 to 30 minutes before applying sunscreen.
If that doesn’t work, you may need to be more conscientious about taking vitamin D supplements on a daily basis. Most experts agree that if your blood test shows 30 ng/ml of 25-hydroxyvitamin D or less, your vitamin D level is suboptimal.
You can learn more about this crucial vitamin and why we need it in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.