We’re slowly putting the cool days of spring behind us, and stepping forward into the joyful, warm days of summer. Many of us are craving a little extra sunlight after a cold, dark winter and a year of lockdowns. But the sun and its cheerful sun rays is not without its risks — and its potential health benefits. Embrace the coming summer weather with these smart sun safety tips and tricks.
Sun Safety and Your General Wellness
- Premature signs of aging in your skin, such as fine lines, wrinkles and sun spots
- An increased risk of skin cancer
Yet these worries — while rooted in good intentions and published research — have caused the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction, and perhaps a bit too far. For example, Harvard Health warns that because your body needs UVB light exposure to generate vitamin D, you could imply that “theoretically, that means sunscreen use lowers vitamin D levels.”
And studies have found that millions of people are deficient in this important vitamin. Getting enough vitamin D is important because:
- It may increase your bone strength.
- It may reduce your risk of some cancers.
- It may help you to live longer.
Regular sun exposure is also linked with:
- An improved mood and a sense of happiness
- Improved sleep
- Lower levels of stress
- A reduced risk of depression and anxiety
- A stronger, more resilient immune system and a reduced risk of getting sick
The answer is clearly not to avoid the sun fully. Rather, you can embrace the health and immunity-boosting benefits of the sun so long as you practice smart sun safety.
Sun Safety for Summer and Beyond
1. Check Your Local UV Index
Every city and region is different. In general, UV exposure risks are highest between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., but that can differ depending on where you live and what the weather is like in your area.
For the best results, check the UV index just like you would check the weather forecast. Your local UV index can give you an hour-by-hour breakdown of your UV risks so you can take appropriate measures.
2. Choose the Right Sunscreen
Be careful with many mainstream sunscreen products, most of which contain toxic chemicals that may affect your immune system, skin health and general wellness. Consult the Environmental Working Group’s assessment of popular sunscreen products before buying sunscreen or sunblock.
Better yet, exercise strategic sun safety by covering up instead of slathering your body with chemicals:
- Wear UV-rated sunglasses
- Don a wide-brimmed hat
- Wear long pants and long sleeves if you’ll be in the sun for an extended period of time
- Seek shade
- Stay hydrated
3. Eat the Right Foods
Some sun-protective foods may actually help you to practice good sun safety from the inside out. Specific antioxidants and nutrients that may help you to enjoy the sun safely while reducing the health risks of too much sun include:
- Omega-3 fats: Found in foods like fatty fish and algae oil.
- Lycopene: Tomatoes are a top choice, as well as other red-toned fruits and vegetables.
- Beta carotene: This natural form of vitamin A is found in pumpkins, carrots and other orange vegetables.
- Green tea catechins: These natural compounds in green tea may have protective effects on your skin when you’re in the sun.
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