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Can you really add Vitamin D to your sunscreen and expect it to get to work?

January 22, 2013

In short I’m not sure that anyone knows really as while we do understand a fair amount about where this vitamin comes from and goes to I feel we are far from having all of the answers. But as usual, that doesn’t stop skin care brands taking a punt and why shouldn’t they……

Anyway, I recently purchased this:

Vit D Sun Front

Vitamin D3 is the stuff that the skin makes upon UV irradiation.  I didn’t know this until May 2012 when I researched it a whole lot for a talk I gave at a Malaysian University gathering.  Part of that research is available here.

As you would have noticed if you flicked to the link, our skin doesn’t have a vitamin D3 reservoir, instead it makes 7-Dehydrocholesterol in the basal layer which, when irradiated forms Vitamin D3 which then goes into the bloodstream and does its stuff.

That is one reason why I have my doubts about topically applied Vitamin D3. Maybe the conversion is significant and it is the conversion that kick starts the biological conveyor belt rather than assuming the presence of the ‘key’ which in this case would be Vitamin D3 produces the ‘door’ or transport mechanism?  At this point in time I have no idea how significant or not that subtle detail is.

Another of my reservations centres on the fact that vitamin D3 has a short half-life and therefore must may hay while the sun shines so to speak! Transdermal delivery can take time.

A third centres on the fact that I haven’t been able to find any scientific paper as yet showing that topically applied Vitamin D3 will increase circulating Vitamin D levels and while that doesn’t mean that none exist it does add to my doubtful state of mind.  What I did find were a few papers outlining D3’s topical effectiveness on psoriasis and dermatitis which is, in its self interesting but probably not relevant in this regard due to the high likelihood that different targets and reactions are probably involved.

My fourth niggle centres on my doubt over about adding vitamins such as this into otherwise traditional sunscreens. Vitamin D3 works  deep down at the skins basal layer and while it is absolutely possible to reach that trans-dermally given the right vehicle I am not sure that a traditional sunscreen qualifies.  That is because a sunscreens actives need to be on the surface to work whereas the vitamin active needs to be delivered deep into the skin.  Yes differently phased emulsions can be made to do this job in theory but in practice I imagine that this would be really, really hard. Especially given an SPF 50 pack rating.

That said , this is not a dig at the Ocean Potion sunscreen more that it has acted as a trigger for my thoughts.  I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that the Ocean Potion product wouldn’t do some Vitamin D good and I do have anecdotal evidence from myself and my family that this is a good sunscreen. Further I haven’t contacted the manufacturer to see if they have efficacy data supporting the inclusion of Vitamin D and its efficacy and neither have I carried out any analytical tests.  So on balance I’d be happy to keep on using this little baby as it feels good, smells good and works as a sunscreen should. I just probably wouldn’t rely on it to top me up with the sunshine vitamin at this point in time.

In any case I’ll definitely be popping this on my ‘must do more research’ list.




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