Now that summer is officially on its way and everyone’s heading outside to frolic, it’s also time to start thinking about protecting your skin. After all, regardless of your skin tone – skin burns – even dark-toned and especially after winter, when it’s been mostly covered up due to the cold.
While we’ve all heard the warnings about the dangers of sun exposure, the sun itself is really not the enemy. Almost all living creatures need it in varying amounts to grow and thrive, and without it, we wouldn’t have food.
Our bodies actually benefit from at least a few minutes of exposure to sunlight every day to produce Vitamin D. This essential vitamin helps our system to produce phosphorus and calcium from what we eat, which our body needs to keep our bones strong and healthy. We do get Vitamin D from some foods, like oily fish, eggs and meat, but our best source is direct sunlight. 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough if you have fair skin, while darker skins need a bit longer.
Once you’ve got your daily dose of sunlight though, exposing unprotected skin for much longer can become harmful, especially given the state of the ozone layer, which no longer provides the protection it used to.
Sunscreen is available at just about any supermarket or chemist at this time of year. The tricky bit is not becoming completely overwhelmed by the huge variety out there. So how to know what you need?
- Your sunscreen should provide protection against the aging effects of UVA and the burning effects of UVB.
- If you’re only outside for a few minutes during the day, an SPF of 15–30 is enough.
- If you spend more time outdoors, look for an SPF of 40+.
- For water sports or any other activity where you might sweat, make sure it’s water-proof or at least water-resistant too.
Sunscreen takes a short while to penetrate your skin and begin to work, so apply it at least 15-30 minutes before you go out into the sun. Then reapply it every few hours if it’s a long day in the sun.
Taking a few minutes to protect your skin is a small action that gives really big returns for your health. That’s the definition of a good investment!