We Are Sunshine

HEADLINE STORY: Cosmetics industry in full denial about ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

A cosmetics industry on-line news magazine reported this month that the chemical sunscreen industry might be worried that public knowledge of the fact that sunscreen blocks vitamin D production will hurt sunscreen sales.

2009-06-23-sun-screen-sales-copy.jpgAccording to a story in, a survey conducted by multibillion-dollar chemical sunscreen giant Neutrogena revealed that nearly one-third of Americans are somewhat concerned that sunscreen usage will block natural vitamin D production and lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Despite the fact that sun exposure to the skin is indisputably the only natural source of vitamin D — all dietary sources ultimately get their vitamin D from sun exposure — the industry web site characterized UV light’s relationship with vitamin D merely that “sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D.”

“That’s like saying that breathing helps the body get oxygen, or that drinking helps the body get water,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “It’s a gross misrepresentation through understatement.”

The web site reported that “In a position statement, The American Academy of Dermatology warns that although exposure to sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D, the vitamin should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation.”

The story quotes London-based dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, who spoke at a recent Cosmetics Industry convention as admitting that humans need “an equivalent level of vitamin D” — presumably meaning that the body needs the levels that the sun provides naturally, but that she would not be exposing herself to sunlight when she can take a supplement.

The body makes 10,000 – 25,000 IU of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Supplements typically contain just 400 – 1,000 IU of the vitamin, although prescription vitamin D can contain higher doses. Williams did not explain in the article how much vitamin D she takes.

The story also pointed out that more than half of all Americans rarely or never use sunscreen. “Neutrogena said that this under-application of sunscreen could explain why 70 percent of adults reported getting sunburned last year,” wrote. “The brand, which offers a SPF 100+ product, suggests that applying very high SPF products is a way of compensating for this under-use.”