Is there any greater feeling than to bask in the warmth of the sun’s rays on a summer day? Catching a sunbeam is one of the joys of life if you happen to be a mammal of the human persuasion. Despite the “bad rap” that exposure to UV rays, has gotten lately, sunbathing (safely, mind you), has quite a few health and psychological benefits including:
Triggering the body’s production of vitamin D.
When sunshine kisses the skin it triggers the body’s production of vitamin D. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D also protects against depression, improves cognition, lowers high blood pressure and reduces inflammation. If you become deficient in vitamin D, then you are more at risk of prostate cancer, heart disease, and dementia.
Exposure to sunlight puts you in a better mood and improves memory.
According to a study published in the medical journal Solarlits, sleep quality and rhythm improves substantially after exposure to at least fifteen minutes of sunlight a day for five consecutive days in a row.
Sunlight can help you lose weight.
A study conducted at the University of Alberta found that skin exposure to UV wavelength from sunlight actually shrinks fat cells and may increase your metabolic rate helping you to burn off fat cells faster,
So, what is the perfect dose of prescription sunlight for most people? It’s 15 minutes of sitting in the sun a day without sunscreen to allow the sun’s UV rays to penetrate the dermis, so it can be converted to Vitamin D.
How to Play It Safe In The Sun
Getting healthy amounts of healing ultraviolet rays from the sun can be a tricky business as it is all about being outdoors at the right time and for the right length of time. Overexposure to the sun’s rays can lead to all kinds of issues including:
- Pigment changes
- Skin cancer (particularly melanoma)
- Premature aging and wrinkling
- Age spots
- Eye damage
In order to avoid suffering the consequences of being exposed to too much sun try taking the following steps:
1. Always Check the UV Index Rating Before You Go Out
As regulating your exposure to UV rays to protect yourself is all about timing it is a good idea to check the UV index before you go outside. The UV index was developed to provide a number rating, between 0 and 11, so that people can measure the strength of the sun’s rays and take appropriate sun safety precautions. The higher the number, the stronger the sun’s rays are, and when the UV index is 3 or higher it is important to protect yours skin as much as possible. It is also important to plan outdoor activities before 11 am or after 3 pm between the months of April and September.
This is what a typical UV Index looks like:
2 or Less LOW
Wear sunglasses and if you burn easily, use sunscreen.
Little risk of harm from unprotected UV exposure. Wear sunglasses, cover up and use sunscreen and stay in the shade from 11 am to 2 pm.
High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Wear sunglasses, cover up and use sunscreen and avoid the sun between 11 am and 2 pm.
8-11 VERY HIGH
Wear sunglasses, cover up and use sunscreen and avoid the sun between 11 am and 2 pm. Avoid going outdoors if possible. The daily UV index is now a regular part of most weather reports online, on the radio and on the television and can often predict how high the UV rate might be in the near future.
2. Cover Up Bare Skin With (Ideally) UV Protective Clothing
It is especially important to cover up your bare skin at times when the UV rays are high to protect your skin from burns and skin cancer. Sun damage is cumulative and occurs over the years, so the more skin you can cover up, the better off you will be. This does mean wearing a long-sleeved shirt, even if it is hot out, shirts with a high front neckline and shirts with high necklines to prevent that “redneck” effect from working out in the sun. Wear long skirts and pants, that offer a lot of coverage, but that also allow a lot of air to circulate between the fabric and your skin. It also means putting on a long-sleeved robe over your swimsuit, especially if you are wearing a bikini,
It is absolutely true that wearing white clothing is better than donning darker colors, as the color white reflects light away from your skin. This means that it is best to choose lighter cream-colored to white clothing items to help minimize UV burns and skin damage. Bright colors, such as a primary blue, yellow or red color also tend to absorb more UV rays just like dark colors.
It is crucial to cover up bare skin as much as possible, even in very hot weather, so in fashion terms, it is a good idea to start thinking about the kind of clothing commonly worn in Indian, Persia, the Carribean and South America. Think about wearing cool tightly woven cotton fabrics with a high thread count that are cut loosely to allow the air to circulate near your body.
It is also a good idea to pretend you are Sophia Loren lounging on the Riviera and wear a wide-brimmed hat with at least a 3-inch brim to protect your eyes and face from strong UV radiation. Not only will this prevent wrinkles but you will also look very glamorous on the beach.
Don’t forget about protecting your feet from the sun. It is also a good idea to wear sandals or shoes that cover up the top of the foot, which is often the recipient of some very strong UV rays, creating the famous “sandal tan” look, Nowadays though you might want to actually wear socks with your sandals and runners to protect sensitive foot skin from burning.
You can also buy special UV Protective clothing. These items usually have UPF labels that tell you just how helpful the clothing is at shielding the skin against the sun. This rating must meet the standards for ASTM International; a universal world-wide measuring system.
The UPF rating indicates just how much UV is able to penetrate through the fabric and the higher the UPF rating is, the better it is at providing sun protection. For instance, thin cotton fabric has a UPF of about 5, which lets about 1/5th of the sun’s UV light through. Lycra, polyester, nylon and
3. Stay In the Shade
If you do find yourself outdoors on a day where the UV index is at a rating of 3 or higher or outside between the hours of 11 and 3 pm, then it is important to stay in the shade. This can mean sitting under a tree or if you are on a patio being sure to sit under an awning or patio umbrella.
It is also a great idea to buy a sun umbrella that you can tote with you every day, especially if you find yourself waiting at transit stops with no trees around to throw some protective shade and need a way of keeping the sun off of you.
If you are hiking or find yourself at the mercy of an extremely high UV rating, such as an 8 or higher or if you are dehydrated or sunburned, you can use your jacket or coat to shield your head from the sun. You can also use a shawl, sheet, towel or tarp secured between two trees to create a one-sided shelter to protect you against the sun’s rays.
4. Beware of Reflected Sunlight
It is also to note here that cloud cover, fog or haze does not weaken strong UV rays. UV rays can penetrate clouds and in fact even be amplified by the tiny droplets of water mist or fog. If you are at the beach on a hot summer day, you should also be cautious of reflected rays from the sun from water, sand, pavement, walls and rock faces.
It is also important to realize that winter conditions offer little protection from UV rays for the same reason and you should also be wary of reflected sun from ice, snow and metal objects. Make sure you are wearing sunglasses under such bright conditions to prevent eye damage.
5. Protect Your Eyes With 100% UV Sunglasses
Protect your eyes from harmful solar radiation by wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays whenever you are outdoors. Once again, it does not matter if it is cloudy or misty out, it is the UV rating reported in your area that is going to determine whether or not you put those shades on.
When it comes to saving your eyes from cataracts, macular degeneration and many other types of sun-related eye problems, choose practicality and protection over colored and lighter lenses that might look cool, but offer very little UV protection. Always read the sticker or label attached to glasses to make sure that the sunglasses do indeed provide sun protection and be aware that wrap-around sunglasses or ones with side shields that do not let the sun in are your best choices.
It is a good idea to wear both a big hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from damage. Wearing a wide-brimmed rather than a baseball cap is helpful to keep the shade over your eyes and it also helps to protect more of your face from high UV rays.
6. Always Use Sunscreen
Unless you want to get a tan, it is advisable to apply a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher to protect your skin from damage. Do not neglect to apply sunscreen to parts of the body that are often forgotten such as the back of your neck, cleavage, tips of the ears and the tops of the hands and feet. Keep in mind that if you are applying a waterproof sunscreen, that you still need to apply it again, before and after you get out of the water.
To ensure that your face does not develop wrinkles, spots or other effects as the result of direct sun exposure, it is recommended that you apply a sunscreen made especially for facial skin with a SPF of at least 30.
Read this post for more detailed information about sunscreen.
Tips and Tricks for Playing It Safe in The Sun
Here are a few more ways to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
- UV exposure is often greater in wide open spaces with a lot of pavement and little covers, such as parking lots and arenas.
- If you live at a high altitude, your risk of UV exposure is greater, as you simply are closer to the sun.
- Sometimes it is not about the UV rating, but more about how certain medications that can lower your body’s sensitivity to UV radiation such as birth control drugs, diuretics, tranquilizers, sulfa drugs and tetracycline. If you are taking these types of drugs, stay out of the sun!
- A key point to remember is that preventing harm from UV sunrays is all about prevention and that it is difficult to reverse any damage from ultraviolet rays to your skin, so it is good to remember to wear sunglasses, sunscreen and UV protective clothing.