Let’s face it, if you vacation or live in Florida, you are going to be out in the sun. Sunshine, after all, is what we are famous for.
It can also be our worst enemy. Like so many things in life, direct sun exposure is one of those things that are good in small amounts, but harmful if excessive.
You need some sun exposure daily to manufacture Vitamin D. Ultraviolet light in sunshine acts on a chemical in your skin and converts it to Vitamin D. We are still learning how important Vitamin D is to our health. We know it is critical to effective functioning of our immune system. In the U.S., nearly half of the total population is Vitamin D deficient, defined as a blood level of less than 20 ng/ml. That percentage is 80% for Blacks and 70% for Hispanics.
How much sun does anyone need? The answer is complicated by many factors. The time of year is one. You need less exposure during the summer than during the winter. Midday sun is stronger than morning or afternoon sun. Skin tone is another. Those with darker skin need more exposure. Most sources say to get 10 to 30 minutes of direct sunshine several times per week.
Of course, too much sun can be harmful. Dangers range from sunburn to increased risk of skin cancer later in life, including life-threatening melanoma.
Assuming that staying out of the sun altogether is not realistic, you can protect yourself several ways:
Limit outdoor activities to the morning or late afternoon when possible.
Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat and clothing.
Don’t forget good quality sunglasses.
There are many brands of clothing that are intended for sun protection and say so on the label. These work even when you are wet or sweating.
Choosing a sunblock can be daunting because there are so many choices. My favorite guide has always been from the Environmental Working Group (https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/). Follow their instructions for how to choose and use sunblock. You won’t go wrong.