Darkness at noon: sunscreens and vitamin D3

Photochem Photobiol. 2007 Mar-Apr;83(2):459-63. doi: 10.1562/2006-06-29-RC-956.


We are assured by responsible scientific and governmental organizations that sunscreens should be routinely worn to reduce skin cancer risk. We are also advised that wearing sunscreens will not hinder our ability to produce sufficient previtamin D3 (preD3) from casual sunlight exposure. We report the examination of a series of 166 solar spectra, obtained on different days throughout a year, evaluated for erythemic and preD3 effectiveness and the relative effects of recommended Sun protection factor (SPF) 15 sunscreen. The results show that the sunscreen is much more effective in blocking the formation of preD3, than its labeled SPF for preventing sunburn. In fact with sunscreen applied only miniscule amounts of preD3 are predicted to be made outdoors even with extensive exposure. This raises important questions regarding the safest way to use sunlight exposure to promote healthy vitamin D3 levels and suggests the need to modify the public safety "Safe Sun" messages.

MeSH terms

  • Cholecalciferol / analogs & derivatives
  • Cholecalciferol / biosynthesis
  • Cholecalciferol / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kuwait
  • Photobiology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage*


  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Cholecalciferol
  • previtamin D(3)