Sun exposure is not necessarily dangerous if you make the proper precautions, but the facts need to be clear on both the benefits of some exposure to the sun and the UV rays’ harmful effects. The most obvious and immediate danger of too much UV exposure is sunburn. By looking at sunburned skin under a microscope, the damage is clearly apparent. With repeated sun damage, the skin starts to look dry, wrinkled, and leathery. However, the sun’s most serious threat is the development of skin cancer, which has now become the most common of all cancers. The vast majority of dermatologists agree that most skin cancers can be avoided by preventing sun damage.
Many of us have been told repeatedly that we need sunlight for our bodies to make vitamin D, since vitamin D is not found naturally in most foods. However, many foods are now fortified with vitamin D during the manufacturing process, not to mention the availability of purchasing vitamin D supplements. Therefore, regular sun exposure is not as important for the body’s vitamin D supply as it had previously been. But let’s face it, being outdoors makes us all feel good, and being outside is great for activity. It is not necessary to cut outdoors activities out in order to prevent damage from the sun – you can still protect yourself from the sun’s damaging effects while enjoying being outdoors.
Staying out of the sun is obviously the best way to avoid sun damage, but it’s not practical. Most of us go outdoors regularly. Always take these precautions when going outdoors:
– Use sunscreen when out in the sun for more than 15 minutes. Make this a habit daily, if you think you may be out in the sun for longer than this amount of time. Also, make sure the SPF is high – at least 15 SPF. This is a good SPF rating if you’re wanting protection, but still want a tan. If you’re really sensitive to the sun or do not care for a tan, an SPF of at least 30 is needed. Make sure you re-apply every hour – it loses its effectiveness after this amount of time. Use the sweat and water resistant kinds if you’re likely to be sweating or will be out in the water.
– Try to avoid being out in the sun during the peak hours of the day of ultraviolet ray strength. This is usually between 12 pm and 3 pm.
– Cover your skin well when out in the sun. Wear long-sleeved shirts, a wide-brimmed hat, pants covering the legs, and cover up the skin as much as you can. This may not be so practical if it’s really hot outside, so refer back to sunscreen use if this is the case.
– Wear sunglasses that filter UV light. You can damage the retina in your eyes even if you’re not looking directly at the sun. Just the reflection or brightness from the sun can harm your eyes’ retina.