Daily application is 'overkill,' say experts, especially in the North. And blockage of Vitamin D creation by sunscreen may be factor in the spread of COVID-19.
Online PR News – 07-December-2020 – CLEVELAND, OH – An October feature aired by "The Today Show's" Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager has given some very iffy advice about sunscreen usage, according to research and interviews conducted by Ohio-based communications consulting firm Lucky Star Communications.
While the duo and their spokesperson endorsed daily applications of sunscreen as mandatory, that level of usage is unnecessary and overly expensive, according to experts. And that’s especially true in Northern cities.
More significantly, the "Today Show" segment failed to outline the key connection between sunscreen usage and Vitamin D deficiency, a factor recently determined to be related to the onset of COVID-19. (80% of people with serious COVID 19 have a Vitamin D deficiency, according to a new study.)
"This was clearly a segment sponsored by the sunscreen industry," said Jeff Barge, a principal of the firm. "'The Today Show is overly dependent for content on the large national public relations firms in New York City."
--Daily Sunscreen Usage May Not Be Necessary
While the spokesperson for the segment – which prominently featured bottles of Neutrogena brand sunblock standing out from dozens of others on a table -- stated that a daily application of sunscreen is mandatory “from January to December," dermatologists disagree.
"Daily sunscreen usage is overkill," says dermatologist Richard Bennett, M.D, of Santa Monica, CA. "Emphasize wearing broad brimmed hats and being careful with sun exposure. The real value of sunscreen is that their promoted use brings awareness to overexposure to the sun."
"I wear sunscreen about 300 days a year," says dermatologist Kathleen DeManivel, MD, of White Bear Lake, MN. "I wear moisturizer without sunscreen in the winter because we don’t have much sun in Minnesota and the weather is dry."
"I should, but I don’t in reality," says Dr. Scott Dale, a dermatologist in Flagstaff, AZ. "Only on sunny vacations."
"In the northern part of the U.S. we get no ultraviolet light (UVL) from the Fall equinox to the spring equinox," says Dr. Katherine Wier, a former dermatology researcher and Illinois resident, who is otherwise a proponent of sunscreen.
Using sunscreen daily depends on your actual amount of exposure to the sun, says Dr. Michael Fretzin of Buffalo Grove, IL. "I don’t do this because I am inside most days from 8 to 6," he says. "If I am ever outside for any length of time, I’m in a hat and have sunscreen on my face."
--Vitamin D Deficiency is a Factor in 80% of COVID-19 Cases
Perhaps more significant about the segment by Kotb and Bush Hager was what it left out. That's the fact that a new study shows that 80% of cases of COVID-19 occur in people with Vitamin D deficiencies, and studies have shown that using sunscreen can lead to a deficiency in Vitamin D, especially among the elderly.
"The latest pandemic news is that vitamin D is important in fighting the novel coronavirus," says Dr. Wier. "Dr. Fauci is now talking about vitamin D."
"Indeed, the body of research examining the relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 is growing," said Barge.
According to a recent article in Healthline.com, a study published this fall in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism confirms a relationship between low vitamin D and and hospitalization due to COVID-19. .
The study looked at 216 people with COVID-19 and found that 80 percent didn’t have adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.
The study also found that people who had both COVID-19 and lower vitamin D levels also had a higher number of inflammatory markers such as ferritin and D-dimer, which have been linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes.
A different study found that COVID-19 patients who had adequate vitamin D levels had a 51.5 percent lower risk of dying from the disease and a significant reduced risk for complications.
"We tell patients to take a multivitamin with vitamin D or eat fish high in vitamin D like salmon and others," says Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield III, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical school.
--Sunscreen Chemicals Get In Your Bloodstream
Studies have also shown that the chemicals in sunblocks show up in the bloodstream, which the Hoda and Jenna segment also did not mention."The effect of this is unclear, but shouldn't be hidden from the consumer," says Barge.
"Some of the nano particles and chemical sunscreens and hormone disruptors may get in the blood," says Dr. DeManivel. "I am trying to avoid these as I learn more."
"We recommend physical sunscreens , e.g. zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as the only ingredients," says Dr. Dale.
--Sunscreen In the U.S. Is Wildly Overpriced
Finally, daily sunscreen application just might not be affordable for a family of four. A 6.7 ounce bottle of Neutrogena Beach Defense sunblock, for example, costs $13.49,vor $2.00 an ounce, at CVS, and other Neutrogena sunscreens can hit $11 an ounce.
Experts say that it takes a full ounce to protect the body. That can add up to hundreds of dollars a year for a family.
So if you have to choose between buying expensive sunblock or taking Vitamin D, what’s the answer?
"That is so easy! The sunlight is negligible in Northern US in Fall and Winter, even worse further North. Go for vitamin D supplements, take with food so it may be better absorbed," says Dr. Wier. "It is totally cheap and really good for the health."