March is here which means Spring Break across the globe is about to occur. With that brings warmer weather and plenty more time outside in the sunshine. The health benefits of sun exposure are numerous (if we adequately protect our skin). Safe, protected exposure to sunlight can increase serotonin in the brain, uplift mood, can boost Vitamin D levels and promote bone health.
However, too much unprotected sun exposure can prematurely age the skin leading to wrinkles, brown spots, non-cancerous (benign) warty growths on the skin (actinic keratoses), and skin cancer (the most common form of cancer in the U.S.) In addition, sun exposure is the leading cause of Melanoma- the deadliest form of skin cancer. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, “in 2023, nearly 187,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Of these, more than 97,600 will be diagnosed with invasive (Stage I, II, III or IV) melanoma and over 89,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma in situ (Stage 0).”
So how can we enjoy being outdoors while safely protecting ourselves from over exposure to sunlight? During the sun’s brightest hours (10 a.m. -4 p.m.), UV rays are strongest when the sun reaches its peak in the sky. During these hours stay in the shade under an umbrella, tree, tent or other shelter. Cover the skin with protective layers of clothing to help prevent sun damage. Many companies make lightweight clothing with SPF built into the materials themselves. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect our heads, faces and eyes.
Wear sunscreen. Apply a 30 + sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply sunscreen every few hours as directed and especially after swimming or sweating. Look for sunscreens that are clean and mineral based.
Consider taking supplements or eating foods that have high levels of selenium and vitamins C, D, E and K for their antioxidant properties. Foods such as salmon, tuna, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, and eggs contain these vitamins. Making sure we get enough of these vitamins through our food, or a supplement can help support healthy and radiant skin. Overall, it is healthy and beneficial to spend time outside in the sun. We can still get the great benefits of safe sun exposure by taking the time to protect our skin adequately.