How much sun do I need to get enough vitamin D?

How much sun do I need to get enough vitamin D?

Basking in the sunlight isn't just a mood lifter; it's also a natural source of vitamin D, a crucial nutrient for your overall health. But how do you strike the right balance between sun exposure and protecting your skin? In this article, we'll explore the magic number of sun minutes needed to ensure you're getting enough vitamin D, all while keeping your skin safe.

Understanding vitamin D and sun exposure

The sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D, often dubbed "the sunshine vitamin," is unique because your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. This essential vitamin plays a vital role in bone health, immune function, and more¹.

How does sunlight produce vitamin D?

When UVB rays interact with the skin's cholesterol, vitamin D synthesis begins. It's a delicate dance – enough exposure to produce vitamin D, but not so much that it leads to sunburn or increases the risk of skin cancer².

Balancing sun exposure

Optimal sun exposure time

The general guideline is to aim for 10 to 30 minutes of sunlight on exposed skin several times a week. This can vary based on factors like your skin type, geographical location, and the time of day. Midday sun exposure is often recommended for optimal vitamin D synthesis³.

Vitamin D for those with pigmented skin

Individuals with pigmented skin often require more sun exposure to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. Melanin, the pigment responsible for darker skin tones, acts as a natural sunscreen by absorbing UVB rays, which reduces the skin's ability to synthesise vitamin D⁴. Studies suggest that people with darker skin may need up to three to ten times more sun exposure than those with lighter skin to generate the same amount of vitamin D⁵. This increased need for sun exposure must be balanced with skin protection strategies to minimise the risk of skin damage. Therefore, integrating vitamin D-rich foods such as fortified dairy products, fatty fish, and egg yolks into the diet, or considering supplements, can be especially beneficial for maintaining optimal vitamin D levels⁶,⁷.

Skin cancer risk

While sunlight is essential, it's crucial to balance it with the risk of skin cancer. Prolonged, unprotected sun exposure, especially during peak hours, can increase the risk of skin damage. Using sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is advisable if you plan to stay in the sun for an extended period⁸.

Dietary sources of vitamin D

Fatty fish

Incorporating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna into your diet provides a natural source of vitamin D.

Egg yolk

Including egg yolks in your meals contributes to your vitamin D intake.

Fortified foods

Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as certain dairy products, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.

Signs of vitamin D deficiency


Feeling unusually tired and fatigued could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency.

Bone pain

Deficiency may cause bone pain and muscle weakness.

Mood changes

Vitamin D is linked to mood regulation, and low levels may contribute to mood swings and depression⁹.

The role of genetics in vitamin D absorption

Genetic Variations in Vitamin D Metabolism

Certain genetic variations, particularly in genes like CYP2R1 and GC, can impact vitamin D metabolism and absorption. Understanding your genetic predisposition can provide personalised insights into your vitamin D status¹⁰.

Finding your sunlight balance

Achieving the right balance of sun exposure for optimal vitamin D levels is a personalised journey. Tailor your approach based on factors like skin type, location, and lifestyle. If sunlight alone isn't sufficient, consider incorporating vitamin D-rich foods into your diet or consulting a healthcare professional about supplements.

Take control of your vitamin D health

Interested in learning more about your genetic predisposition to vitamin D deficiency? Explore MyHealthChecked's Vitamins & Minerals DNA Test to gain valuable insights and take proactive steps toward optimal health.


  1. Holick, M. F. (2007). "Vitamin D Deficiency." New England Journal of Medicine.
  2. Lucas, R. M., et al. (2011). "Sun Exposure and Vitamin D Sufficiency." American Journal of Public Health.
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2021). "Vitamin D."
  4. Clemens, T. L., Adams, J. S., Henderson, S. L., & Holick, M. F. (1982). Increased skin pigment reduces the capacity of skin to synthesise vitamin D3. The Lancet, 319(8263), 74-76.
  5. Holick, M. F. (2004). Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(3), 362-371.
  6. Looker, A. C., Dawson-Hughes, B., Calvo, M. S., Gunter, E. W., & Sahyoun, N. R. (2002). Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status of adolescents and adults in two seasonal subpopulations from NHANES III. Bone, 30(5), 771-777.
  7. Wacker, M., & Holick, M. F. (2013). Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-Endocrinology, 5(1), 51-108.
  8. American Academy of Dermatology. (2021). "Vitamin D."
  9. Aranow, C. (2011). "Vitamin D and the Immune System." Journal of Investigative Medicine.
  10. Manousaki, D., et al. (2017). "Genome-Wide Association Study for Vitamin D Levels Reveals 69 Independent Loci." American Journal of Human Genetics.