The amount of UV exposure needed to maintain vitamin D levels depends on the time of year, location, skin type, day-to-day activity and individual circumstances.
Vitamin D levels can naturally vary throughout the seasons. Most Victorians will produce enough vitamin D in summer, when UV levels are higher. However, most Victorians' levels will be lower in winter, when UV levels are low, as people tend to cover their skin and stay indoors. Our bodies only store enough vitamin D to last between 30 and 60 days.
May to August in Victoria
From May to August in Victoria, sun protection is not recommended unless:
- you are near highly reflective surfaces such as snow
- you are outside for extended periods, or
- the UV levels reach 3 or higher.
During winter it is recommended that people be physically active outdoors in the middle of the day, with some skin exposed, for most days of the week to help generate vitamin D.
Watch this short video to find out how much sun you need to maintain healthy vitamin D levels in winter.
September to April in Victoria
From September to April in Victoria, UV levels regularly reach 3 or higher. At these levels, UV rays will damage unprotected skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. Sun protection is required during sun proteciton times at this time of year.
Most people make enough vitamin D in summer because UV levels are high and people are regularly out and about. During these months, most Victorians require only a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure. Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense. Prolonged sun exposure at this time of year does not increase vitamin D levels, but does increase the risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen use should not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. When sunscreen is tested in laboratory conditions it is shown to block vitamin D production, however regular use in real life shows little effect on vitamin D levels. This is probably because people who use more sunscreen spend more time in the sun, so naturally they will have higher vitamin D levels.
Use the free SunSmart app to help remind you when you do and don't need sun protection each day.
The map here shows how the amount of sun needed to help with vitamin D levels varies for different parts of Australia.