Sunscreen dilemma: Are you getting enough Vitamin D if you wear sunscreen?

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by Nate Kuester

MILWAUKEE -- Healthcare professionals have warned us all for years that you simply have to protect yourself from the sun's damaging UV rays.   

That often means wearing sunscreen, or protective closthing to shield ourseves from the harmful effects whenever we spend any time outdoors. That still applies even if the exposure is only for a few minutes. While many of us are not as diligent as we ought to be, a great many do make the effort to safegaurd their skin when spending significant time outside at the beach and in the water.

"If I know I'm going to be outside, I always put it on," pediatrician Dr. John Cox told us of his sunscreen-wearing habits as he spent some time on the beach of Lake Michigan.

Some dispute the merits of wearing sunscreen all the time though, suggesting the checmicals used to make sunscreen could be dangerous and that you might be better off not using the UV-blocking agent.

Even a national fitness clothing retailer, with a store located in the Milwaukee area received a great deal of attention due to a claim printed on its shopping bags. The advice -- found on Lulu-Lemon bags -- stated, "Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine."

That landed the yoga pants maker in hot water, and the company later admitted the claim was not based upon any research.

Besides the benefits of a nice tan, or the happiness we get from sunlight exposure, we also get another great benefit from the big ball of fire in the sky -- Vitamin D. There are those who claim the use of sunscreen can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. There are articles posted online discuss the subject at at great leangth.

Still, plenty subscribe to the idea it is best to protect your skin, and sales of sunscreen products spike because of our need to get outside and soak up some sunshine. It is important to note that, even though temperatures have not been all that hot so far, sun damage to your skin is not tied to the mercury. You simply need to have it on whenever you go outside.

"I put it on under my makeup, and I put it on when I go out," local Milwaukee beachgoer Kristi Cellitti told us. She said she does so at the suggestion of her dermatologist, because she has a fair complexion.

We spoke with a local pediatrician, who just happened to be on the beach. He quickly disspelled the myth that it is better to avoid the use of sunscreen for the sake of getting the vitamin in your system.

"You don't need all that much sunlight to get the required amount of vitamin D," Dr. Cox asserted.

If you are conconcerned about getting enough of it, consider giving yourself a milk moustache and eat more dairy in your diet. We also spoke with a registered dietitian from the Quad Medical Group, who offers another suggestion.

"You can try to get your vitamin D through dietary sources," shared Registered Dietitian Jennifer Harnack. "But to make sure you're getting enough, it would be good to take a Vitamin D3 supplement."

So when in doubt, slather on the sunscreen. You can always get what you need elsewhere. However getting new skin, that is not so simple.

"It's best to just protect your skin with sunscreen and supplement," said Harnack.

In 2013 researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reported the benefits of using sunscreen far outweigh any risks. The follow up study, performed this year, came to the very same conclusion. It was also concluded that there is no evidence that wearing sunscreen can lead to a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.

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