One of the best parts of summer is getting the long-awaited dose of vitamin D from the sun. Although concern over developing skin cancer from harmful ultraviolet rays is valid, you shouldn’t avoid all exposure to the sun this summer. You just have to find the right balance.
Sufficient vitamin D levels promote proper bone formation and overall bone health. Insufficient vitamin D levels contribute to major illnesses. Exposure to sunlight also can improve melatonin and serotonin production, aid in preventing autoimmune diseases, and increase endorphins.
So how do you enjoy the many benefits of sunshine without putting yourself at risk? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it takes only 15 minutes for unprotected skin to be damaged by UV rays. To be safe, here are a few tips.
Shade: Use shady spaces under a tree, an umbrella, or other nearby shelter to get occasional relief from the sun. Even if you are in the shade, sunscreen and protective clothing are a good idea.
Clothing: Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection, although a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating of only about 15, so you will need other protections, as well.
Hats: For sufficient protection, wear a hat with a brim that shades your ears and the back of your neck. Fabrics such as canvas are the most protective, whereas straw hats do little for sun protection. Don’t forget to cover your ears and the back of your neck when you are applying sunscreen!
Sunglasses: To protect from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts, sunglasses come in handy. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from too much sun exposure.
Sunscreen: This is the most important—and probably the most cliché—on our list. Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside. Make sure you get a thick layer on any and all parts of your skin that are exposed. Use a buddy to get the hard-to-reach spots on your back. To make sure your skin doesn’t have a bad reaction from the sunscreen, apply it in one spot to see how your skin takes it. Also, check the expiration date. A bottle of sunscreen you found in the bottom of an old pool bag is most likely expired and, therefore, ineffective. If the bottle has been in the heat, its shelf life is even shorter.
Reapplication: Sunscreen isn’t a one-and-done process. Real protection requires you to reapply if you stay in the sun for more than two hours after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Follow these basic tips, and you’ll have fun in the sun without putting your skin at risk!
For even more information, check the CDC guidance on sun safety.