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The New Sunscreen That Lets You Absorb Vitamin D

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You know that sunscreen is totally necessary for both skin cancer protection and anti-aging. But one of the downsides of traditional SPF is that it also blocks your body's ability to soak up the vitamin D you get from the sun. (Make sure you're not falling for these SPF myths you need to stop believing.) Until now.

Researchers from Boston University Medical Center have created a new way to develop a sunscreen that will both protect you from harmful rays while still allowing your body to produce vitamin D. Their approach is outlined in the journal PLOS One. Most sunscreens currently on the market protect against ultraviolet A rays and ultraviolet B rays, the latter of which you need to produce vitamin D.

By changing the chemical compounds, the researchers created Solar D (which is already sold in sunny Australia) with the aim of helping people get more natural vitamin D daily. (Approximately 60 percent of us are currently vitamin D deficient, which puts us at risk for depression and even ups our odds for getting certain types of cancer.) The formula for Solar D—which is currently SPF 30—strips out some of the ultraviolet B-blockers, allowing your skin to produce up to 50 percent more vitamin D.

Problem is, blocking UVB rays is a very, very good thing. UVB rays are the reason you get sunburns, and they also cause premature aging and skin cancer. Solar D still protects you from most of the sun’s UVB rays but does allow one specific wavelength of the light to reach your skin to start the process of vitamin D synthesis. 

Some experts are skeptical. "It only takes a few minutes of sun exposure for your body to produce the vitamin D it needs daily," says Sejal Shah, M.D. a dermatologist in New York City. "Too much ultraviolet exposure can actually break down the vitamin D in your body."

Is getting a few more vitamin D producing rays worth the risk of more sun damage when you're out catching rays all day? Probably not, according to Shah. "Ultimately it's safer to take a vitamin D supplement rather than expose yourself to too much sunshine," she says. Find out how to pick the best vitamin D supplement. If you're really worried about being vitamin D deficient, talk to your doc.

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