There are many health benefits to being outdoors in the sunshine but it is also important to make sure that you adhere to a few sun safety guidelines.
I’m sure we’ve heard the phrase ‘Only mad dogs and Englishmen stay out in the midday sun’. The thing is that sunshine in the UK can be limited and short lived. So when the sun does shine we’re just out wallowing in it as much as possible. So take a look at this article to make sure that you enjoy your time in the sun safely.
When Are UV Rays At Their Strongest?
- Between 10am and 4pm this will also most likely be prime Vitamin D making time.
- The closer you are to the equator
- Areas where there is a hole or thinning in the Ozone layer.
- Spring & Summer
Beware of overcast/cloudy days. The presence of clouds does not mean that you are safe from burning.
N.B. Spring is when we are most vulnerable because our skin hasn’t acclimatised yet there could be times when the ozone layer is naturally thinner or has holes. Therefore UV levels will naturally be higher at a time when our skin hasn’t built up its resilience yet. Couple that with a cloudy day and you can easily see how you can get caught out. If you want to check the Met Office website as they publish the current UV levels for your area.
Your skin type will determine how well your body tolerates the sun and how quickly you could burn which is something that should be avoided and can be through the use of sun cream.
SPF What Does It Mean?
The numbers associated with an SPF are letting you know how much longer your skin is protected for.
If you normally burn after 10 minutes then an SPF 15 would protect you for 150 minutes and SPF 30 for 300 minutes.
Just remember that it takes as long as 15 minutes for suncreen to be absorbed into your skin and become fully active. This is particularly important if you burn quickly.
Remember To Re-Apply
One final and crucial thing to mention (something I learned after a very bad sun-burning experience) If you apply sun cream then, even when it is absorbed, you sit against a chair or wear a top then take it on/off you need to reapply your sun-cream again. Oh my, I will never forget the pain of that sunburn after having fallen asleep and burning my back so badly that I couldn’t wear a bra for over a week!!!! Never again…..
For this reason, it is important to make sure that you make a note of the time when you put sunscreen on to make sure you reapply in time.
Take Breaks Out Of The Direct Sun
This is particularly relevant at the beginning of the Spring and Summer. Your skin needs time to acclimatise to the sun.
I remember being in Venice one January. It was a lovely day; we were all wearing T-shirts. It was a positively balmy 17 degrees centigrade, a marked contrast from the cold and rain we had expected. In our youth, we thought ‘It’s January you don’t sunburn, even in Italy, in January!!!’ That simply wasn’t the case as we headed out to dinner that evening my friend showed me the extent of her sunburn…..
So, whether it’s the summer or the sun reflecting off the snow on your skiing holiday remember to make allowances for how long your sun season has been until that point. Build up to the length of time you are out in the direct sun by considering how often you are normally outdoors, previous sun exposure and your skin type.
This also means time out for your skin. Some areas of your body see more daylight than others….Your face and arms will be a lot more resilient than your torso. So make sure that any areas that never see the light of day get a gradual introduction to the sun. Just imagine what it is like coming from a dark room into bright light, or when someone suddenly opens the curtains to a bright day, that’s probably what your skin is doing (metaphorically)
Sun Cream Or Spray?
There is an increased chance of inhaling your sunscreen if you spray it on. The lining of your lungs is very thin so this would give an increased risk of directly absorbing any chemicals. Perhaps consider sticking to creams/lotions instead because of this.
This article is not just about avoiding sunburn there is also a very healthy reason to get out in the sun. Vitamin D is made when the sun is so high in the sky that your shadow is shorter than you are. Often people think just being in the sun means you are producing Vitamin D unfortunately that isn’t the case. Here in the UK, it means our window of opportunity is later in April through to September.
This time in the sun needs to be without sunscreen is also important so make sure you get at least 15 minutes with your skin exposed to the sun to make your Vitamin D quota. If you have sensitive skin then do this in short bursts rather in one go.
An interesting fact to know…Your body can store Vitamin D for up to three months. Lower levels (amongst other things) can leave you feeling a bit down. This is the reason for the phrase ‘Winter blues’ as our levels would be low around December. This means that unless you can get a holiday in a Vitamin D-producing country then it is a good idea to eat your Vitamin D-rich foods and/or to consider supplements.
Further Reading About Sun Safety
It may be that you are just keen to start using reef-safe chemical-free sunscreens if so here are some great companies to get you started.
There are many health benefits to being outdoors in the sunshine, but it is also important to make sure that you adhere to a few sun safety guidelines.