How The Sun Can Actually Improve Your Hair & Skin

by Miki Hayes

The sun tends to get a bad rap for all of the damage it can cause. Sure, those UV rays are harmful without the right protection. But catching some unfiltered rays can actually be good for you— as long as it's in moderation. When exposed to the sun, our skin produces vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, which helps with a number of bodily systems. But how exactly does it help, and how much vitamin D do you actually need each day? To find out, I emailed with USANA's Dr. Brian Dixon and Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor for the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center.

Both Dr. Dixon and Dr. Tanzi recommend getting anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. And although the sun can be unpredictable, and factors like how dark your skin tone is (fair skin reaps more vitamin D from the sun) or how much skin you can expose affect how much vitamin D your body produces from sunshine, 15 unprotected minutes in the sun can contribute anywhere from 300 to 15,000 IU vitamin D, says Dr. Dixon. Yeah, that's a pretty wide range. So if you're concerned about ensuring you get your daily amount of vitamin D, try incorporating a supplement or foods like fatty fish or fortified milk and yogurt to your diet.

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Try: USANA Vitamin D, $21, USANA

But even if you end up needing to supplement your time in the sun to get enough vitamin D daily, spending a few unprotected minutes outside may still benefit you more than you realize. Here are four reasons to spend some time outdoors and reach your daily recommended value of vitamin D:

1. It Keeps Your Hair Healthy

To maintain healthy hair, Dr. Tanzi says it's important to get the proper levels of vitamin D every day. Dr. Dixon explains that vitamin D is actually found inside the follicles of healthy hair, but is absent from follicles of unhealthy hair. So if you want your locks to look healthy and grow strong, make sure you're getting enough vitamin D whether from the sun, your diet, or a supplement.

2. It Improves Your Mood

Another thing vitamin D helps with is improving your mood, says Dr. Dixon. So if your stress levels are a little high, go outside for a few minutes. Especially if you also experience hair loss due to stress, managing your vitamin D levels can help your tresses by strengthening them and alleviating some of that stress.

3. It Strengthens Your Teeth

"There are only so many ways that you can get stronger teeth once you're an adult, and tending to your vitamin D intake is one of them," says Dr. Dixon. For the best results, he recommends combining your vitamin D intake with calcium-rich foods.

4. It Keeps Your Skin Healthy

Turns out your vitamin D intake can be just as important as your skin-care routine in maintaining healthy skin. According to Dr. Dixon, some studies have shown that vitamin D can help protect the skin from the sun's damaging effects, keep inflammation under control, and even help with cell renewal and tissue repair. And if that's not a reason to catch a few, quick rays, I don't know what is.