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6 Tips For Using Sunlight To Boost Your Vitamin D Levels

To boost your vitamin D levels, your best bet is to go out and get some sunlight – instead of just turning to your diet (since most foods don’t naturally have vitamin D).

That also means that if you’re not regularly getting very much sunlight, you could very well be vitamin D deficient (which you can detect with EverlyWell's at-home Vitamin D Test).

If so, you aren’t alone:

Researchers estimate that about 40% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient [1], which can lead to symptoms like fatigue, depression, and joint pain.

With that in mind, here are 6 tips for using sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels.

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Tip #1: It’s a good idea to check your vitamin D levels in the winter to make sure your levels don’t get too low.

Here’s Why: Less sunlight (and less UVB rays) reaches the surface of the Earth – and your skin – during winter. (That’s due to the fact that the Earth is tilted on its rotational axis.) And with less sunlight comes less vitamin D production in your body.

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Tip #2: To actually take advantage of the sun’s vitamin D-producing effect, spend good time outdoors – instead of only getting sunlight exposure while in a car, office, or in your home.

Here’s Why: It might seem like glass lets all the sun’s rays get through to you, but that’s just an illusion: glass – as well as plexiglass and plastic – absorbs all UVB radiation. Thus, even if sunlight is streaming through the windows of your car or home, your body won’t produce any vitamin D in response.

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Tip #3: Check the amount of air pollution in your city by visiting AirNow.gov.

Here’s Why: Air pollution – the byproduct of massive amounts of traffic and more – absorbs UVB rays from the sun, leaving less of it to be absorbed by your own skin. So even though cities like Los Angeles and San Diego – for example – get lots of sunlight year round, there’s nevertheless a relatively high risk of vitamin D deficiency in these cities because of fairly high levels of air pollution.

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Tip #4: If your vitamin D levels are too low, your altitude could be a contributing factor.

Here’s Why: Imagine you live at the top of a tall mountain, where the air is crisp and thin. In this scenario, chances are you’re getting a lot more direct sunlight than someone living in a deep valley. The reason why? At higher altitudes, the atmosphere is thinner – so sunlight isn’t blocked out as much. So you face a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency the lower your altitude.

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Tip #5: If you tend to wear a sunscreen whenever you step outside, and you’re really good at using it to cover up all areas of your skin that sunlight lands on, then allow yourself 10 minutes of sunlight exposure a few times a week – without any sunscreen on.

Here’s Why: Most people don’t apply sunscreen in a way that completely blocks out UVB rays. However, if you’re very effective at using sunscreen to cover up all parts of your body that would be exposed to sunlight, then you’re at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency (assuming you wear sunscreen just about any time you go outdoors).

This is because sunscreen formulas generally block out the sun’s UVB rays. For example, a sunscreen with SPF 30 will absorb up to 98% of the UVB rays from the sun.

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Tip #6: The darker your skin color is, the greater your risk of vitamin D deficiency – making it especially critical that you monitor your vitamin D levels.

Here’s Why: Skin color is largely determined by melanin, a natural pigment that acts as a sunscreen. In short, melanin absorbs UVB rays before they can reach deeper into your skin and trigger vitamin D production. If your skin is relatively dark, then you have more melanin – which can put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency, particularly if you don’t spend much time outside in the sun.