Get Out There

Best Approach to Being Out in the Sun

The sun is shining, and this summer, more than ever, people want to be outside. But, many of us are slowly reemerging into the sun having been indoors. No one has a “base tan.” A sunburn can be painful, and sun damage can cause skin problems and cancer. So, what is the best way to get some fun outside and a little vitamin D without coming to harm?

We have written about the problem with sunscreen in the past: you need a little sun to avoid a vitamin D deficiency. Dietary vitamin D usually doesn’t get you to a healthy level. But, as little as 13 minutes of bright sun three times a week can do the trick and give your skin enough time to make the vitamin D you require. A little tan is good for you, but too much sun can be harmful.

A more significant problem with sunscreen is that it can give you a false sense of security. A high SPF number might make you think you are entirely safe. However, if you don’t reapply sunscreen when it wears off or miss a spot, you can end up in big trouble. That’s why we always suggest avoiding the midday sun. Don’t spend as much time outdoors between 10AM and 2PM.

And when you are out and about, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn and play a role in cancer. UVA rays also contribute to sunburns but are more closely linked to skin aging and wrinkles. Having coverage against both types of light rays is vital for healthy aging. SPF tells you how long it would take for the sun to redden your skin under perfect lab conditions. The numbers can be confusing. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests water-resistant sunscreens, with broad-spectrum coverage with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Additionally, wearing lightweight clothes that cover your skin can keep you cool, and your skin shaded. You don’t want to wear a jacket because you might get heatstroke. A lightweight, loose long-sleeved shirt can be perfect. Sunglasses that have UV-protect can protect your eyes from sun damage. A broad-rimmed hat can protect your neck, head and face from a burn. A combination of all these things can keep you cool and safe.

Also, it’s easy to become dehydrated, especially in warm weather. So drink plenty of water. Don’t rush into enjoying the summer, take it slow, drink a lot of water and don’t do anything strenuous in the heat.

There’s that joke about someone from the north being hot in the south in the spring and a southerner saying, “If you think this is hot, you should try being here in August.” Then the southerner goes north in November, and the northerner responds, “Try being here in January!” The body gets used to things. But no one is prepared for this summer. Our bodies have become accustomed to the weather inside our homes. Even if you are someone who habitually spends their summer days outside, a whole spring lost to quarantine means you aren’t ready. So be sure to take precautions, plan ahead and ease your way back into your summer routine. You can enjoy the season while socially distancing, but we’re all out of practice!

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