vitamin d tan

Nature’s Gift: A Vitamin D3 Tan

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Since I live in a desert and visit tropical places, I am thrilled to enjoy yet another benefit of vitamin D3: a natural tan!  For many years, the sun acted as my nemesis. I was born with fair skin, blue eyes, and light-colored hair. Despite my mom’s best efforts to protect me from the sun (including lots of sunscreen lotion), our family trips to the beach usually resulted  in sunburn for me. “Lobster red” burnt skin continued to plague me following direct sun exposure until I discovered the benefits of vitamin D3. Now that my levels have reached a significant level on the testing spectrum, I noticed that my skin no longer burns! In fact, for someone as light-skinned as me, I often sport a bit of a tan, at least on my arms and face. Why the dramatic change?

Scientific studies1 over the past 17 years have indicated that vitamin D3 may protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) sunlight damage. This occurs when adequate levels of activated vitamin D3 in the skin’s cells increase the skin’s ability to withstand UV exposure. However, when UV light strikes the skin of people who are low in vitamin D3, high levels of nitric oxide, a free radical, are released in the body, causing potential DNA damage.

Thus, a natural vitamin D3 tan can only occur when your vitamin D3 levels are optimal. How do know if your vitamin levels are adequate? Get your blood tested by your healthcare practitioner (or via reputable on-line pharmacies). The name of the test is 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D. A number of experts believe that a healthy level of circulating vitamin D3 is between 50-80 ng/mL. Personally, my vitamin D3 level hovers around 100 ng/mL.

So, by increasing your vitamin D3 levels through supplementation, not only will you significantly improve your overall health and well-being, you also may get a great tan!

1Feldman D, Pike JW, Adams JS. Vitamin D (Third Edition), Volume II.  Academic Press.  2011.

Author’s Note: This article, posted on Hormones Matter website, is the fifth in Sue Ryan’s series about vitamin D3.  To read other articles about Vitamin D, click Here.

Additional information about vitamin D3’s benefits is available in Sue’s book, “Defend Your Life.” Follow Sue’s commentary on vitamin D3 and other health topics on Twitter @VitD3Sue.

Copyright ©2012 by Susan Rex Ryan

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Image by StarFlames from Pixabay.

This story was published originally on Hormones Matter in July 2014.

Susan Rex Ryan is the author of the award-winning book “Defend Your Life” about the amazing health benefits of vitamin D. Drop by Sue's website and blog at Follow Sue’s commentary on vitamin D and other health topics via X @VitD3Sue. Like Sue's Defend Your Life page on Facebook


  1. I’ve long theorized that plentiful vitamin D levels would probably help to increase tanning better, since one of the reasons that lighter skinned people are lighter skinned, is to deal with an environment with lack of less direct sunlight/UV (our ancestors evolved further away from the equator, often spending a lot of time in darker forests/woods, etc).

    A co-worker of mine, who is about a 2 on the Fitzpatrick scale, told me that she started supplementing with a lot of vitamin D3 and after awhile, with just a small exposure to the sun, she started to get a lot darker than she used to. The darker you are, the harder it is to convert UV into vitamin D efficiently and quickly, so it may be a self protective mechanism that guards against too much vitamin D production.

    Very interesting stuff, and thank you for sharing your experience as well.

  2. I just found out my vitamin D levels are too high. Supplements are fat soluble and can be stored in the blood which can cause too much calcium to be absorbed and can lead to kidney failure. I am deeply concerned and you should research this.

  3. Sunburn is caused by too steep of a gradient. A person can gradually get more sunlight as their skin gets darker. Here are examples of too steep a gradient. Lifting weights is healthy. So after a person can lift 50 pounds over his head, he then tries lifting 250 pounds over his head and breaks his back.

    A person starts running and can run 2 miles a day. Then he enters a 10 mile marathon and tries to run that. A child graduates second grade and knows his basic math. Then in the next year they try to teach him advanced calculus and he fails.

    So do you conclude that you have a stupid child that can never learn or is it too steep of a gradient? I do not take vitamin D and live in the Arizona Sonoran desert. I am white (half Irish). In the summer I can hike on mountains without a shirt at around midday.

    Others wear a shirt and hat. I am white but I sunbathe all year round including in the winter. UV-B light creates vitamin D. UV-A light creates nitric oxide that relaxes artery walls. This lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health.

    I have done babysitting for a newborn baby with Irish parents. I made sure that the baby was just wearing a diaper in warm weather and got out in the sun.

    Of course, I was careful. If I were to have that baby out in the sunlight long enough to get a bad sunburn, the parents would call the police and have me locked up for child abuse and child endangerment.

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