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Can You Get Vitamin D on a Cloudy Day?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 11/10/2023

It’s well known that sun exposure triggers vitamin D production, but can you get vitamin D on a cloudy day?

Yes, it’s possible to absorb vitamin D on a cloudy day. However, how much vitamin D your body can produce depends on many factors, including your age, skin tone, geographical region, and health status. 

Learn how to promote optimal vitamin D levels by maximizing vitamin D production on cloudy days. 

Vitamin D illustration

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s naturally produced when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in sunlight.

Vitamin D maintains various physiological functions and plays a critical role in calcium balance, bone health, immune system function, and neurotransmitter balance.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that almost all cell types in the human body have vitamin D receptors, which suggests vitamin D influences and regulates a wide range of cellular and metabolic processes.    

Vitamin D is stored predominantly in the liver and fat cells, and these reserves help maintain vitamin D levels during short periods without adequate sunlight exposure. 

However, an extended lack of UVB radiation can deplete vitamin D stores and lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Here are common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Bone pain

  • Frequent infections

  • Acne

  • Hair loss

  • Depression 

Watch the video below to learn how much sun you need to get enough vitamin D. 

How does sunlight produce vitamin D?

UVB rays can penetrate the outermost layer of the skin, where they trigger a photochemical reaction that converts 7-dehydrocholesterol to cholecalciferol, also known as previtamin D3. 

Previtamin D3 enters the circulation and undergoes enzymatic conversion in the liver and kidneys that activates vitamin D3 into a form that can easily be utilized by the body. 


Factors that influence vitamin D production

According to a factsheet published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exposing the face, arms, and legs without sunscreen to sunlight for 5 to 30 minutes two to three times per week is adequate to maintain optimal vitamin D3 status.

However, it’s important to note that several factors influence how much vitamin D the body can synthesize in response to UVB radiation.

Geographical locations at higher latitudes north of the equator tend to receive insufficient UVB radiation to produce optimal vitamin D, especially during the winter months. 

The skin's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight diminishes with age, which explains why older adults are at increased risk of low vitamin D status. 

Vitamin D production relies on adequate amounts of cholesterol. Individuals on a low-fat diet or those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs are at risk of low 7-dehydrocholesterol concentrations, which is linked to impaired vitamin D absorption.

In addition, skin color can affect vitamin D. Darker skin tones contain more melanin, a pigment that determines skin color. Melanin has been found to negatively impact vitamin D production, and individuals with darker skin pigmentation are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.    

Sun behind a cloud

Can you get vitamin D on a cloudy day?

Yes, you can still get some vitamin D on a cloudy day. 

While cloud cover filters some of the UV rays from the sun, it doesn’t block all UVB radiation, which explains why you can still produce small amounts of vitamin D on an overcast day. 

It’s important to note that thicker cloud cover may significantly reduce UVB radiation, whereas thinner clouds typically allow for more vitamin D production.

How to maximize vitamin D production on cloudy days

How much vitamin D your skin can produce on cloudy days depends on your location, age, skin tone, and health status.

However, there are several steps you can take to maximize vitamin D production.

Exposing more bare skin to UVB radiation can enhance vitamin D production on cloudy days.  

While sunscreen is crucial to prevent skin cancer, skin care products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of eight or above block around 95 percent of UVB rays, and short periods of sun exposure without sunscreen can boost vitamin D production. 

Spending time outdoors during peak sunlight hours is equally important. UV radiation tends to be the highest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., which increases the amounts of UVB rays that can penetrate the cloud cover and stimulate vitamin D production.

Vitamin D supplements from sun rays

Alternative sources of vitamin D

“Although sunlight exposure is the most natural way to obtain vitamin D, many factors can impair its production, which explains why vitamin D deficiency is so widespread,” explains Dr. Berg. 

Research published in the International Journal of Health Science suggests that almost half of U.S. adults are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is linked to poor skeletal health, weak immune defenses, and mood disorders.

While some foods such as fatty fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and beef liver contain some vitamin D3, these dietary sources typically don’t offer enough vitamin D3 to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. 

Vitamin D3 supplements are an effective strategy to prevent deficiency and maintain a healthy vitamin D status, and taking between 5,000 and 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily is generally considered safe and not linked to side effects or toxicity. 

According to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, individuals who lack adequate sunshine exposure should consider vitamin D supplementation to lower the risk of mood disorders such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially during the winter months. 

If you live in a region with limited sunlight or have concerns about not getting enough vitamin D, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare provider, who can perform a simple blood test to evaluate your vitamin D status and formulate an appropriate supplementation dose. 

Vitamin D supplement held against the sun

Key takeaways

Can you get vitamin D on a cloudy day?

While it is possible to get some vitamin D on a cloudy day, how much your body can produce depends on the amount of UVB rays penetrating the cloud cover, your age, and your skin color.

Taking a vitamin D3 supplement is a safe and highly effective strategy to maintain healthy vitamin D levels for individuals at risk of low vitamin D production, such as older adults, those with darker skin tones, and people living in regions without adequate UVB radiation. 


Additional resources


1. Can you absorb vitamin D when it's cloudy?

Yes, you can absorb some vitamin D when it’s cloudy. 

However, clouds filter ultraviolet B (UVB) rays needed to trigger vitamin D production, and how much vitamin D your body can produce on a day with overcast conditions depends on the cloud cover thickness and your age, skin tone, and health status.   

2. Can you get vitamin D while in the shade?

While some UVB rays can reach shady spots, the amount of UVB radiation that reaches the skin in the shade is significantly lower compared to direct sunlight. 

If you are seeking to increase your vitamin D levels, it’s recommended to spend time in direct sunlight.  

3. Do you need to be in direct sunlight to get vitamin D?

Direct sunlight exposure is the most effective way to stimulate vitamin D production. 

While some UVB rays can penetrate cloud cover and reach shady spots, they may not be sufficient to stimulate adequate vitamin D production, which can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency.  

4. What is the best time to go outside for vitamin D?

The peak hours for optimal vitamin D production are between 10 AM and 4 PM. During this time, the sun is at its highest angle, allowing the maximum amount of UVB radiation to reach the earth's surface.

5. How do you get vitamin D when it's not sunny?

Evidence suggests that taking vitamin D3 supplements is a safe and effective way to promote healthy vitamin D levels and prevent deficiency. 

6. Does the weather affect vitamin D production?

Yes, the weather can affect vitamin D production.

Heavy cloud cover and fog can significantly reduce the amount of UVB radiation reaching your skin, leading to a reduced rate of vitamin D production. In contrast, a clear day with plenty of sunshine allows for maximum UVB radiation and optimal vitamin D production.

7. Can I still get vitamin D from the sun if I wear sunscreen?

Evidence suggests that sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of eight or higher blocks almost 95 percent of vitamin D production. 

While sunscreen use is important for safe sunbathing and to prevent skin cancer development, it’s recommended to expose your bare skin to sunlight without sunscreen for limited periods to maximize vitamin D production. 


  1. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/88887 

  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ 

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21475519/ 

  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/seasonal-affective-disorder 

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