The calendar turned to May 1 and suddenly the sun came out and the warm weather arrived. For me, the last week has been a great opportunity to get out and sit in the sun. Gasp, yes I said it. I sit in the sun…regularly…with no sunscreen.
This is one of those hot topics that I regularly get into debate about. Especially with the parents of Little J’s friends and her school. I think I can count the number of times I’ve put sunscreen on her on 1 hand. It’s about the same number of times I’ve worn sunscreen since she’s been born. I’m the one asking everyone not to put sunscreen on my daughter before she plays outside – the exact opposite of the over-cautious helicopter parents slathering on sunscreen every 30 minutes. How, then, can you be in the sun safely?
Here’s the deal. The most natural way for our bodies to get Vitamin D. This happens when the sun’s rays hit our skin and cholesterol in our systems is turned into Vitamin D. It only works when there is no sunscreen in the way, because those pesky UV rays that are thought to cause premature aging are also responsible for the synthesis process.
Having enough Vitamin D in your body has been linked to cancer prevention, maintaining strong bones, maintaining good brain health including preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s, heart health, weight loss, preventing autoimune disorders, strong immunity, and more. And, most people are Vitamin D deficient.
Fish, liver, and egg yolk are the only foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. Some other foods are fortified with Vitamin D, but there is some concern about cheap synthetic Vitamin D not being absorbed very well by your body. Exposure to the sun is the easiest way to ensure adequate Vitamin D levels in your body.
Now that my science-in-laymen’s-terms lesson is over, here’s the thing. The beauty industry and sunscreen manufacturers have been telling us for decades that we need to wear sunscreen all day every day in order to prevent skin cancer and premature aging. But, if we are slathering ourselves with body wash, body moisturizers, skin cream, and conditioner that have sunscreen all day every day, we’re preventing our bodies from making Vitamin D when we’re out in the sun.
So, what’s a girl to do? How can you be in the sun safely? How can you get the Vitamin D you need, while doing your part to prevent skin cancer and premature aging?
How to Be in the Sun Safely: 3 Easy Steps
- Ditch the Sunscreen Safely: If you spend most of the day indoors, ditch the sunscreen-in-everything approach. Choose skin and haircare products that are sunscreen free. The small amount of time you spend outside – travelling to and from work, taking a walk, or relaxing on a patio – will help you to get that important Vitamin D. Use sunscreen intentionally, and only when you need it.
- Build a Light Tan: I’m not advocating for spending hours lathered in baby oil sitting in the sun. A light tan, however, is nature’s way of protecting you from a sunburn. In the spring and summer months, 20-30 minutes of sun daily is the perfect amount for building up good stores of Vitamin D. It’s also the perfect amount of time for slowly and safely building up a base tan that will leave you with a healthy glow and less risk of sunburn.
- Choose a Good Sunscreen: When you do need a sunscreen (any time you’re going to be outside long enough to burn – think afternoons at the beach, watching the game, or a poolside party), choose a sunscreen that doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients. An organic, mineral-based sunscreen is best, and you can find out how your sunscreen stacks up at the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Report.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this hot-topic. What’s your approach to summer sun? Scroll down and leave a reply below.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net