The Good Benefits of Some Daylight

Sunshine is a mixed blessing. There is no question that it can be a threat to your own skin. Sunshine is a mixed blessing. There is no question that it can be a threat to your own skin. But moderate sun exposure may have benefits to your health, including stronger bones, better sleep, improved mood, and a healthier immune system.

And when you always protect yourself from the sun or always pay every inch of exposed skin with sunscreen, you might be missing out.

Since the evidence grows that sun exposure comes with benefits, many specialists are rethinking their sun-avoidance advice.

By way of example, despite Australia having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, Cancer Council Australia admits that some time in the sun without sunscreen or other defense is important, based on Robyn Lucas, Ph.D., a professor at the Australian National University College of Health and Medicine, that investigates environmental consequences on health.

As well as the National Academy of Sciences recently assembled an international group of healthcare experts from other areas to talk about sun safety.

Bone Health and Beyond
But the sun may play other roles in promoting good health too. The research is continuing, but so far studies indicate that UV exposure might lower blood pressure (which helps protect against heart attack and stroke), curb appetite, and reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and possibly certain autoimmune diseases.

Sunshine may even be linked to longevity. A Journal of Internal Medicine study which tracked nearly 30,000 Swedish girls for approximately 20 years found that those who spent more time in the sun lived six months to 2 years more than those who awakened with less sun exposure. “More study must replicate this job, but when it is a real effect, it is very important,” Lucas says.

But the UVB rays that assist our skin produce vitamin D will also be the same kind that causes sunburn, and getting burned is a significant risk factor for skin cancer. That is the reason it’s so essential to find the right balance.

Short Stints Do the Trick
Based on Rosen, summertime it takes only about 10 minutes per day of unprotected solar exposure on a small area of skin to create around 5,000 IU of vitamin D, which can be sufficient for most people–even older people, who have a slightly reduced capacity to generate vitamin D–to maintain normal blood levels.

However, for many folks, 10 minutes may be too long; for many others, too short. “How much is enough is hard to measure since skin pigmentation impacts how much UV radiation that your skin absorbs, but it’s way less than you want to have a sunburn,” Lucas says.

To find out the length of time you can stay in the sun without burning, Lucas suggests using the UV index, which forecasts the degree of solar power in your area on a scale of 0 to 11. The UV index changes by location and time of year and day.

To calculate the right UV dose for you, split 60 (as in the number of minutes in one hour) by the UV indicator to learn how many minutes outside it takes for you to receive 1 SED. SED stands for “standard erythemal dose,” a fixed dose of sunlight intensity that will cause erythema or reddening of the skin.

See the table below for the approximate SED it requires for different skin types to burn. As an instance, if the UV index is 7, divide 60 by 7 to get 8 minutes for 1 SED. If you are honest, you’ll get sunburned with 2 to 3 SED (16 to 24 minutes).

“These numbers are a generalization of skin kind by ethnicity,” Lucas says. So it is ideal to be conservative with them. From the preceding example, for instance, to be on the safe side you might go in the sun unprotected for 12 minutes maximum.

Permit From the Light
When going out to soak up some sunlight, Lucas recommends applying sunscreen to your face and hands (they’re always getting sun and therefore are at high risk for skin cancer, wrinkles, and brown spots), wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and exposing what you can of your arms and thighs. If you are particularly sun-sensitive (as an example, you have had skin cancer if you take medicine –for example particular diuretics and antidepressants–that increases your chance of sunburn), talk to your doctor before visiting sunscreen.