Warm sunlight on skin and the deep glow of UV rays can be an amazing feeling. It can also cause painful sunburns and even lasting skin damage. On the other hand, if you work primarily indoors, it can be difficult to build sunshine into your weekly habits. Too much sunshine and we’ll burn and damage our skin, not enough and we can lose our youthful glow and suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Should you use sunscreen? How much sunshine should you get in a week? Can you tan through a window? Let’s take a look at some healthy sun habits and the science of sunshine.
How Much Sun Should I Get?
If you get about 10-30 minutes of afternoon sunlight a few times a week, you’ll get all the vitamin D that you need from the sun (source). That might not seem like a lot--and it isn’t really--but think back over your past week. How many times were you outside, during the middle of the day, in the sunlight, for about 15 minutes? For most of us, getting those minutes a few times a week can be difficult.
If you live in a place where sunshine is a rare treat, you may need to develop the habit of working outside or practice taking sun breaks. If you can’t work outside, take your lunch outside. It is important to get sunlight a few times a week, instead of just doing a single day of a few hours.
We make so many other things in our lifestyle a priority. Exercise, sleep, conversation, rest days. Sunshine might not be as important as sleep or exercise, but it still deserves a place in your weekly self-care routines. Making the sunlight a priority will boost vitamin D levels, serotonin, and mood.
Sunny Health Benefits
While it is true that the sun can cause skin damage, a study (source) mentions that there are more diseases and health problems that can be traced to a lack of sun exposure than an excess of it.
Being in the sun is great for your complete psychiatric care and mental health routine. Part of this is just the good vibes of the sunshine. We associate sunshine with happiness, carefree energy, and summer days. These associations will improve your mood. Additionally, sunshine helps the natural rhythms of your body function properly (source). Sunshine seems to help release and regulate serotonin, because your body associates it with the energy bursts of the day.
Do I Get Vitamin D Through the Sun?
Yes, you do get vitamin D through the sun, but dermatologists recommend seeking vitamin D through your diet and not through the sun. Trying to get vitamin D through the sun can actually cause and increase the amount of skin damage you suffer, because you’ll push your skin too far. Getting that 10-30 minutes of sun a few times a week can really boost your vitamin D levels, but don’t try to increase it beyond that.
Protecting Yourself from the Sun
The sun is great, but can also have some harmful benefits on your skin and overall health. The best way to buffer your body against the heat and rays of the sun is going to be a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and a ton of water (source). Being out in the sun is a great way to get a tan, but if your diet is bad, your body won’t handle the sunshine well. Fruits and veggies contain beta-carotene that you need to process the sun in your skin.
Heat dehydrates you, and the sun makes it worse by really drying you out and demanding water from your body. Make sure to drink tons of water when you’re outside and in the sun. Hydration prevents your skin from becoming dry and burning worse.
Yes, you definitely need to use sunscreen. Not using sunscreen doesn’t help you tan, and not using sunscreen can cause terrible skin damage in the long run. Skip the light glow that you’ll get for the next few days and play the long game in beauty. Dermatologists recommend that you use at least SPF 30, that you apply more than you think you’ll need, and that you reapply every 2 hours (source).
Dealing With a Sunburn
Sometimes we neglect sunscreen and proper shade entirely and suffer a nasty sunburn. Other times, you’ll get a sunburn in spite of sunlight best practices. Either way, once you’re burnt, you’re burnt. How should you manage the skin damage and prevent longer lasting damage?
You have a few options to treat a sunburn, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (source). First, use a cool bath or cool shower water to begin to ease the discomfort. This will also clean your skin and wash away any impurities. Sunburns often occur when you’re in the beach, mountains, or outside in the dirt for extended periods of time. This can mean that your sensitive skin will pick up debris that irritate it further. Washing these away will help you heal.
Once you’ve showered, pat yourself dry, but not completely dry. Immediately apply a moisturizer which will trap the cool water on your skin. Throughout the process, you should also be drinking a lot of extra water. Sunburns steal hydration away from your body, and drinking extra water helps your body provide moisture and prevents the wrinkled, scarring feeling that sunburns can have.
Will I Burn or Tan Through a Window?
Glass tends to block UVB rays without blocking UVA rays (source). You can definitely still get burned through a window, as the UVA rays will still penetrate your skin. About 97% of the UVB rays will get filtered by glass, but only about 30% of UVA rays will get filtered by glass.
Most car manufacturers will put a windshield into the car that has an additional plastic layer which filters most of the UVA rays as well. But this is just the windshield. The rear window and side windows usually lack this added protection, meaning that kids in the backseat on a long road trip can still face damage from UVA rays (source).
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