Sunlight gives your body what it needs to produce vitamin D, a critical nutrient that protects you against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart disease. One factor in seasonal depression is lack of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight in some areas. When sunlight hits your skin, a reaction allows the skin to produce the vitamin. However, we’ve been led to believe that sun exposure in any amount is not healthy, so we slather on the sunscreen and wear cover-ups and hats.
As usual, the truth is a little different. Most of us are deficient in vitamin D. While you can supplement your diet with vitamin D, getting it naturally is always best. You need sunlight to make it, and you cannot make it with sunscreen on, because it blocks out all UV rays. You need to have enough bare-skin sun exposure each day to let your body do its job.
And don’t go by the government’s dietary recommendations, as they’re not nearly enough. In the winter, you need at least 2,000 IUs, and in the summer, you need sun exposure at least five days a week.
So how much sun is enough?
If you have fair skin, ten minutes at midday with as much skin showing as possible should do the trick. If your skin is darker, double it. However, depending on where you live, you may need more or less time. Distance from the equator, elevation, and time of year all affect how much time outdoors you need.
Try this calculator to estimate how much time you need—you’ll need to know your city’s latitude and longitude.
What should I wear while getting sun?
As little as possible. For women, a bikini is perfect, but a tank top and shorts work well too. For men, no shirt and shorts. Lie down if you can to expose as much skin as possible to the sun.
What about my kids?
The guidelines apply to them too. They need vitamin D as much as anyone else does. Take them outside with you.
What time of day is best?
When the sun is highest in the sky.
How about if I go on a long drive with my arm resting on the door?
UV rays don’t go through glass, so that won’t work.
Won’t I get skin cancer?
The amount of time we are advocating is healthy, not carcinogenic. Skin cancer caused by sun exposure occurs when you’re out in the heat of the day for a long time, burning yourself repeatedly, over time. Ten minutes a day Monday through Friday will not cause you to get cancer.
Do you have any questions about sun exposure and vitamin D? Ask them here, or contact us for more information.