When you think of summer, you think of beaches and outdoor fun in the sun. However, keeping your family protected while outdoors is challenging when information about the risks and benefits of sun exposure are confusing:
• Sun provides Vitamin D.
• Sun exposure can cause skin cancer.
• It causes 90% of all skin cancers.
• Overcast days are not much safer than those that are sunny, as 70-80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can get through the clouds.
• The sun is about 80% stronger when reflected off sand and snow.
• The sun’s rays increase in intensity by about 4% for every 1,000-foot rise in altitude.
• It’s better to play or engage in sports before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. If that’s not possible, try to avoid being out at high noon.
• The sun weakens the immune system, reducing your defense against infection.
• In general, people can get all the vitamin D they need for strong bones from fortified milk, salmon, vitamin supplements and/or brief, casual exposure.
• Zinc oxide provides superior protection from UVB and UVA rays. Your daily sunscreen should have an SPF rating of 30 or higher and should also contain at least 5% zinc oxide.
So, the question is, why do some doctors say that sunlight is good for you if others say it is dangerous?
What are the dangers of the sun?
Overexposure to the sun, at a minimum, prematurely ages your skin. The ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible and can affect skin even on cloudy days. The damage can be visible with uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation, a mild sunburn that causes redness and itching or severe burning that can cause blisters and peeling skin.
Over time, the damage to your skin adds up. At a minimum, it can cause a loss of elasticity that leads to sagging and wrinkles. In other cases, it can result in skin cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer.
1. Basal cell carcinoma
2. Squamous cell carcinoma
If you’ve spent time in the sun, you should make it a practice to examine your body for moles, lesions or other signs of sun damage. Our dermatology office offers mole mapping to monitor for changes in moles. The mapping can be scheduled at any time.
Is some sun exposure good for you?
Light exposure to the sun can be fun and healthy, as long as you follow a few sun safety facts. Exposure to the rays of the sun can help regulate our moods by producing serotonin, the hormone that can make us feel relaxed and happy. Sun exposure can help prevent and treat symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
It also helps to manage our circadian rhythms by producing melatonin that helps us to sleep when the day is done. The same melanin that is produced in response to UV rays also triggers an increase in the production of vitamin D levels that creates strong bones and can prevent some diseases.
How much sun a day is healthy?
The amount of UV exposure needed each day could vary according to the individual’s risk factors. However, a useful sun safety guide is around 15 minutes of sun exposure during non-peak hours per day, several times per week. It is still critical to use UV protection.
A broad-spectrum coverage with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended by dermatologists for all skin types to prevent skin damage. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. It is also a good idea to use an antioxidant serum as a part of your skincare routine to prevent free-radical damage.
If you’ve spent too much time in the sun, some procedures can reverse signs of sun damage. Our office performs chemical and laser peels that resurface the skin, remove hyperpigmentation and improve the skin’s texture. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us at North Metro Dermatology today.