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Just how much sun is enough to meet vitamin D needs?

September 28, 2009|Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

You have said that people who get 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure at one time can make enough vitamin D in their skin. On what percent of the body is it necessary to get that exposure in order to convert the sun into 10,000 IUs per day? Just the face? The hands? Bare naked?

The exact amount of sun exposure needed varies according to the time of day, season of the year, latitude and color of the individual's skin. (Darker skin needs more time in the sun to make the same amount of vitamin D.)

The usual average of 10 to 15 minutes a few days each week applies to the face and hands of a light-skinned person in the summer. Winter exposure (even if one could tolerate it) in places such as Boston or Milwaukee won't provide enough sun for the skin to make vitamin D. An oral supplement will be needed.


You wrote recently about using milk of magnesia as an underarm deodorant. My husband uses the antimicrobial skin cleanser Hibiclens. He puts it on his armpits for 10 minutes each morning, then washes it off. This has solved his body-odor problem. Hibiclens does not require a prescription. In some drugstores, you do have to ask for it.

Because underarm odor is largely the result of skin bacteria fueled by sweat, getting rid of the bacteria each morning seems like a logical approach. Hibiclens is an antibacterial cleanser containing chlorhexidine. Health-care workers often use it to avoid spreading germs from patient to patient.


Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition.

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