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Ask Dr. Schultz | Skin Care Guides | Are Small Amounts of Sun Exposure Helpful to Your Skin?

Are Small Amounts of Sun Exposure Helpful to Your Skin?

Many people assume that spending time out in the sun will help increase their vitamin D level and, of course, give them that ever-elusive sun-kissed glow. But are you foregoing sun-safe habits for a little extra vitamin D you may not even need? Before soaking up those extra rays without adequate sun protection, weigh the potential hazards of premature skin aging and even skin cancer against the small gains of vitamin D from sun exposure.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?

You don’t actually need very much sun exposure at all throughout the day. When the sun hits your skin, it produces vitamin D. Dr. Schultz advises, “In reality, you only need a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure to make enough vitamin D everyday.” So spending hours at the beach, even if you’re wearing sunscreen (and especially if you aren’t!), will cause damage to your skin. People might believe that gaining vitamin D is a good reason to be out in the sun without sunscreen, but there really is no good reason to expose yourself to the sun without protection.

Will Your Tan Help Protect You From The Sun?  

You may not have considered it this way, but getting a tan is actually a form of sun damage. For the most part, this is harmless, assuming you use sunscreen. Some people think that a tan acts as a barrier for future sunburns. The bottom line is if your skin is darkened, the skin is damaged. Dr. Schultz says, “If you want to protect your skin from additional sun damage don’t try to use a tan, use sunscreen — it really works. Even with sunscreen you will still get some sort of a tan, but that tan will be much less dangerous than a natural tan.” Sunscreen is important and the only real way to prevent sun damage. Use Dr. Schultz’s Solar Defense Sheer Sunscreen to stay protected.

What Happens To Your Skin When It’s Sun Damaged?

A tan and a sunburn are themselves definite signs of sun damage. But it doesn’t stop there. Sun exposure causes a variety of unsightly effects on your skin. Dr. Schultz says the main effects are, “namely premature aging consisting of lines, wrinkles, sun spots, sagging skin, loss of collagen, elastic tissue and youthful skin tones.” When you get too much sun, you are allowing early aging and unnecessary marks to become a part of your skin’s texture.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

The worst possible outcome of sun exposure is skin cancer. People think the more vitamin D they get from sun exposure, the better. However, a study published in the Archives of Dermatology, linked high levels of vitamin D to the incidence of melanoma. So if you’re getting high levels of vitamin D, you may be harming yourself in the process. In fact, you can still get too much sun exposure even when the sun is hidden. Dr. Schultz gives this example, “If you can see your hand in front of your face on a cloudy day, then there is enough light coming through the clouds, dragging ultraviolet light with it, to give you both a sunburn and to do the damage that sunlight does to cause skin cancer.” So all in all, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen and limit your sun exposure no matter what the weather may be.

How Can You Safely Get Enough Vitamin D?

Here's the thing: most people are not deficient in vitamin D. And the only real way to tell if you have a deficiency is by visiting your doctor. Most likely you're getting enough, but Dr. Schultz gives these two sun-safe tips just in case: “You can eat foods that are rich in vitamin D like certain fish, vegetables, and fortified cereals or take vitamin D pills everyday.” The safest way to absorb this vitamin is to skip the sun exposure and try these alternatives instead.

Overall, there is no amount of sun exposure that’s truly beneficial for your skin. The amount of time you should spend out in the sun without protection is minute. And unless you have consulted with your doctor, you're most likely getting all the vitamin D you need. Opting for a lightweight, sheer sunscreen like Dr. Schultz’s Solar Defense Sheer Sunscreen with SPF 50 is a perfect everyday layer to keep your glow bright, your wrinkles minimized and your skin healthy.

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