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Is it possible that Vitamin D make you tan?

Does vitamin d make you tan
Does vitamin d make you tan?

I suppose you know by now that tanning is the best way to make Vitamin D, but does also Vitamin D make you tan?

Many visitors arrive to after having searched in Google for the answer to the question: “Does Vitamin D make you tan?”.

My spontaneous thought when I see that question is that we are dealing with a mix-up between cause and effect.

It is a little bit like asking if the melting ice around the North-Pole is causing the global warming (if there is one).

So the answer to the question if Vitamin D makes you tan is most likely: No, vitamin D does not make you tanned but tanning makes you make Vitamin D and that you can get a tan in this process.


During the one and a half year since I wrote this article, many of the “vitamin D gurus” are reporting about their clients experiencing considerably less risk of burning when they go into the sun having a high level of vitamin D compared to when they were deficit in vitamin D. One scientific study also shows that topically applied vitamin D on the surface of the skin, helps to prevent against erythema (i.e. Burning).

One of the vitamin D experts that report about less risk of burning among his John Cannell, the director of the Vitamin D Council. You can buy his book: “Athlete's Edge – Faster Quicker Stronger with Vitamin D” from Amazon. And no, you do not have to be an athlete to read this book!

However, since Vitamin D is a main contributor to your body's immune defences, Vitamin D do have some positive effects when tanning.

For example, Vitamin D helps to fight the free radicals that come from tanning and it is proved that high levels of Vitamin diminish the risk for most cancers, also skin-cancer.

The time needed for UVB-light from the sun or from the lamps in a tanning bed to produce your daily dose of vitamin D is much shorter than what is needed for you to get a tan (or a sunburn).

Unfortunately most people do not know how they can find the precious UVB-rays that have so many positive health effects.

Some health-authorities (like the Dutch Cancer-council) have recognized that their previous sun-avoidance advice was counterproductive to their purpose. Most others, still preach the mantra invented by the sun-scare industry: “Apply sunscreen whenever outdoors and stays away from sunlight in the middle of the day.”.

UVB-rays in sunlight reach the earth only when the sun is higher than 50 degrees above the horizon (that is a little bit higher than in the middle between the horizon and straight above your head) and the sky must be clear (no clouds or pollution). The right time for healthy tanning is therefore in the middle of the day.

Sun-protection cosmetics on your skin makes it impossible for the UVB-rays to do their job. You have to be a short time in the sun every day without sun-protection in order to get vitamin d in a natural way.

Another challenge for the UVB-seeker is that for most of the time of the year (at least for many of us) the sun never gets above 50 degrees.

The tanning-lamp emitting approximately the same spectra of UV-light like the sun, is therefore an invention well worth a Nobel-prize.

A tanning bed, equipped with low-pressure lamps, is a good substitute to the sun and available at your leisure. Look for a tanning bed equipped with lamps with at least 5% (for USA) or 2.5% (for Europe) UVB/UVA ratio. Of course, and since you tan mainly for health through vitamin d, the time in the tanning-bed can be kept shorter than if your goal is to get the dark skin-colour.

The risk of using tanning beds is much much exaggerated by the sun-scare lobby. All studies of vitamin D show that moderate and regular visits to a tanning bed only have positive effect on your health.

If you keep your skin moisturized and use tanning lotions based on Aloe Vera or coconut-milk,with a lot of silicone and other active skincare ingredients, it will stay young and smooth.

Here is a good post in order to find out the details of how to tan.

So even if the answer to “does vitamin d make you tan” is no, tanning is the best, safest, and only natural way to get your vitamin d.


  1. Actually, I’d heard on another vitamin D site (can’t recall which – John Cannell perhaps?) that if vitamin D levels become high, the skin darkens faster (develops more melanin) to prevent toxicity. It may just be heresay, but perhaps it is a natural mechanism to keep vit. D levels balanced? Then again, I’ve also heard one cannot reach toxic levels of vit. D via UV exposure, but perhaps this is precisely because stepped-up melanin production prevents excess vit. D production?

  2. Hi Sabina, and thanks for the comment!
    I have never read anywhere that Vitamin D has any effect on the production of melanin. It is known that UVB rays stimulate the production of melanin and UVA makes it darker. This melanin-shield also slows down the vitamin d production since less UVB will reach the vitamin d receptors. I still believe the cause of the darkening is the increased production of melanin when UVB hits the melanocytes and the effect is a reduction of vitamin d.
    The proof might be that vitamin d is created also in the skin of people with naturally very dark skin. It just takes longer time to make the same amount of vitamin d as for light-skinned people.
    That you should build up any sun-protection by taking vitamin d supplements, is probably not true and can be a dangerous assumption.

  3. “It is a little bit like asking if the melting ice around the North-pole is causing the global warming (if there is one).”

    Less ice = less light/radiation reflected = increased heat within atmosphere.

    Less ice = more water surface area. Water absorbs (and stores, then releases) heat better than ice…

    So, yes. Melting ice does speed up the increase of heat within the atmosphere…choose another analogy? 😉

    As for vitamin D – interesting thoughts.

  4. Hi Sky,
    Yes, that’s one way to see it. However, the question is what comes first, the horse or the cart, the hen or the egg? So the question is WHY is the ice melting? Maybe it is because of the global warming?
    In any case it is outside the scope of the post. I still haven’t found any documentation that vitamin D makes you tan faster. But I strongly believe it will help you to keep the tan longer since it in general makes your skin more healthy (if you just are careful not to burn, that is).

  5. John Cannell theorized (I believe) that the body may give up skin via sunburn in order to make copious amounts of vitamin D in the high temperature environment a sunburn provides. If this is true, and by all accounts it seems to be, it would not be a far stretch to believe that sufficiency would trigger facultative pigmentation sooner and more readily. Interesting science for sure, but where will the research money come from?

  6. Know all you need to know about the supplements, straight from the experts. We strip supplements down to the core to give you HARD-HITTING facts about the supplements on the market today.

  7. The best way to get vitamin D is from the SUN. So if you believe that high levels of vitamin D help you tan, then you should be out in the sun more. DUH! 15 minutes of sun exposure per day will provide more vitamin D than you can absorb from supplements. We evolved as a species on a SUN planet. We are designed to be out in the sun. Sunshine is HEALTHY and scientists have had it wrong for years. Quit with the sunscreen, it’s making you sick. 80% of our population is vitamin D deficient. Most human illnesses have increasing death tolls as we have gotten less and less sun. Sunshine is MEDICINE!

  8. What about taking vitamin D supplements instead of tanning? What are your thoughts on these?

  9. Hi, I stumbled across this site and feel compelled to write something. I am male and in my 50’s, I discovered that I was Vitamin D deficient and started supplementing with around 8000 IU vitamin D daily. I have subsequently lost a fair bit of weight and generally feel a lot healthier, but what I also noticed was that my skin has darkened considerably, not quite a tan but not far off. I am usually pasty white (with freckles) and would say I have type 2 skin (verging on type 1). I usually don’t sunbathe as I burn extremely easily and always wear plenty of sunscreen on sunny days. Has anyone else experienced this? I have not in any way changed anything else regarding lifestyle or diet.

  10. Hi Martin, I have heard about similar experiences from others, and even if the experts say that there is no “revers reaction” on vitamin D giving tan (as described in my post), the body, and its skin, is a clever engineering with many connection which we don’t know enough about. Most important is that taking vitamin D supplements works for you and makes you lose weight and feel a lot healthier. The radiance of your skin reflects that. I would, of course, also recommend some careful sun-exposure (no burning!!). Because sunlight contains so many more triggers for healthy reactions in our bodies and vitamin D is only one of many.
    TheGuru recently posted…No More #FAKENEWS About Sun Exposure. The President Signs Order

  11. i came here because i also noticed, taking vitamin d made me considerably blacker, am already black, but i got blacker noticed by others too. while it is not stated that vitamin d can increase melanin. it clearly does, by some unknown means. after reading several other similar experiences, Sabina first comment might be right, a reverse block of uv penetration, to lessen total vitamin d in the system, somehow. so guru, youre right a lot concerning melanocyte function and even vitamin d receptor activity is stated as unknown in literature, so i wouldnt be overtly dismissive of this. it looks like yes vitamin d increases meelanin, but not sure.

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