How to Embrace Sunlight
- Have a healthy respect for the sun. It is powerful medicine with potentially dangerous side effects on your skin. Treat it like medication, using the lowest dose necessary, but don’t avoid it completely. Never fall asleep in the sun without protection.
- Always avoid sunburn. It is sunburn, not healthy sun exposure that causes problems. Repeated sunburns, especially in children and very fair-skinned people, have been linked to melanoma. Whereas there is no credible scientific evidence that regular, moderate sun exposure causes melanoma or other skin cancers.
- Prepare your skin and build up tolerance gradually. Start early in the year (spring), or early in the morning before the sun is strongest and slowly build up the amount of time you spend in the sun.
- Get 15-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure two to four times a week. Each of us has different needs for unprotected sun exposure to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D. Depending on your age, what type of skin you have, where you live and what time of the day and year it is, your need will vary. The farther you live from the equator, the more exposure to the sun you need in order to generate vitamin D. Also, people with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 – 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people, to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
- Get frequent, short exposures. Regular short exposures have been found to be much more effective and safer than intermittent long ones. Note that you cannot generate Vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window, because the UVB rays necessary for vitamin D production are absorbed by glass.
- After your 15-30 minutes of sun-block free time in the sun, you must protect yourself. If you’re going to be out in the sun for longer periods, wear a hat to protect your face and light coloured clothing that blocks the sun and keeps you cool. When you do apply sunscreen, use one with fewer chemicals. Remember that even weak sunscreens block the ability of your skin to manufacture vitamin D, so once you have applied it, you will not be making vitamin D.
- Boost your “internal sunscreen” by consuming anti-oxidants and beneficial fats. These strengthen skin cells, helping to protect them from sun damage. Eating lots of vegetables and fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, goji berries and pomegranates and supplementing with green powdered mixes and fish oils are great options when going into the sun.
- Have your vitamin D blood levels checked regularly. The ideal range for optimal health is 50-80 ng/ml.
- Don’t rely on food alone for your vitamin D needs. It is almost impossible to get your vitamin D needs met by food alone. Fatty wild fish (not farmed), like salmon and mackerel are the best food sources, but you would have to eat huge quantities of them daily to get anywhere near what your body needs. Although fortified milk and orange juice do contain vitamin D, you would have to drink at least 10 glasses of each daily.