Sunbathing is a popular activity among many cultures, with people soaking in the sun as soon as the weather’s warm enough. We stretch out on deck chair by the pool; lie for hours on towels at the beach, and even go out in our garden simply to bask in the sunlight.
The usual reasons for sunbathing include relaxing, de-stressing, and getting a tan. Many people might even spend several hours a week rubbing oil or lotion into their bodies and then stretching out in the sun whenever they get a chance.
however, with the growing concerns about ultraviolet rays and skin cancer, there are some understandable concerns about what sunbathing can do to our bodies. Some might even shield themselves from the sun in all cases, especially redheads who have sensitive skin. On the other hand, some still claim that sunbathing does have some health benefits.
The discussion can become somewhat confusing, so let’s break down some points and discuss them one by one:
The Risks of Sun Exposure
There are several risks of exposure to the sun or any other ultraviolet rays, especially if we go out in the sun without sunscreen. Sunscreen contains SPF to some extent, which protects our skin from many harmful effects of such rays.
Melanoma is one of the major risks we face when going out without sunscreen or using a tanning bed regularly. Another risk is skin cancer, which is now quite common in the United States. Sunbathing might also cause sunburn, which is a painful condition. It can occur all over the body, even forming painful blisters. These could later develop into melanoma.
There’s also a thing called sun poisoning, or polymorphic light eruption (PMLE), which can occur after one spends too long under the sun. The symptoms of these are red and itchy bumps o various parts of our body. Large areas such as the arms, legs, and chest are especially affected.
Of course, the risks here can be mitigated by wearing the right amount of sunscreen, sunbathing at the right hour, and generally observing the effects of sunbathing on our individual bodies.
The Benefits of Sunbathing
On the other hand, getting a high dose of Vitamin D is important for our health. When our skin gets contact with sunlight, a process occurs that turns our cholesterol into Vitamin D. This can help to prevent several diseases and ailments.
Many of us don’t get enough Vitamin D as we should, which results in a serious deficiency. In such cases, we might have to take pills or injections to supplement the Vitamin D requirement for our systems. It can be difficult to get a proper dosage of this vitamin from our diet alone, so sun exposure is necessary if we don’t’ want to take any form of supplements.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is present in fish, egg yolks, and fortified milk products. Other than that, it might be a challenge to get any form of natural Vitamin D without sunlight exposure. Naturally, this makes things quite difficult for those who are vegan or have certain dietary restrictions. In order to understand the importance of a decent Vitamin D intake, let’s have a look at its benefits:
- Alleviation in Depression: Those who spend a bit of time getting some sunlight might find that they feel happier and more active than before. This is because sunlight can trigger the production of serotonin, one of the ‘happy’ brain chemicals. A lack of serotonin can result in depression, so this process actively alleviates such conditions. Even if we don’t suffer from depression to begin with, getting more sunlight can generally improve our mood and increase our sense of calmness.
- Improved Sleep: Getting restful sleep is conducive to good health, and Vitamin D can help you achieve that. With sunbathing, we might be able to get our circadian rhythm in order, allowing us to sleep longer and better.
- Sturdier Bone Structure: With a proper amount of Vitamin D, it’s also easier for our bodies to absorb calcium. This will stave off harmful conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis since it contributes towards stronger bones.
- Fewer Illnesses: Vitamin D helps to boost the immune system, which means that our bodies will be able to fight off diseases more easily. These diseases include the flu, muscle sclerosis, heart problems, infections, the flu, and even cancer.
- Lowered Risk in Labor: For women who are planning to conceive or getting ready to give birth, Vitamin D is an essential dietary addition. Among other benefits, it can help to protect a pregnant mother from preterm labor and also stave off infections that she might contract while giving birth.
Vitamin D From Sunbathing
While it is possible to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D from sunbathing, the American Academy of Dermatology doesn’t recommend sun exposure as being our main source of this nutrient. We should supplement our sunlight exposure with the right kinds of food or any other recommendation from our medical practitioner.
A Safe Span of Sunbathing
For those who want to sunbathe, the main question might be about a safe time span for the activity. The answer to this will depend on the sensitivity of our skin and any other complication we might have with exposure to the sun.
According to certain dermatologists, if someone can handle sun exposure normally, a 20-minute sunbathing time without sunscreen is usually safe. However, it might be best to limit sunbathing without any protection to five or ten minutes. Some mineral sunscreens might be a good investment here.
Other factors affecting a safe time span include our proximity to the equator, the air quality we live in, and the time of day. Some people have experienced that getting sunlight early on in the daytime, before 10 am, might be the best way to get our Vitamin D without getting harmed by the sun’s rays.
Sunbathing in Pregnancy
Since vitamin D is so important during pregnancy, many expectant mothers might have questions about sunbathing during this time. However, they should keep in mind that sunbathing in a pregnant state could lead to a lot of sweating. This might dehydrate the body and cause more harm than good.
Similarly, overexposure to the sun could raise your body’s core temperature. This might raise the fetus’ temperature as well, leading to a longer pregnancy and perhaps some complications. If you are considering sunbathing during pregnancy, it would be best to consult your doctor first.
Safe Sunbathing Tips
Some people won’t be able to do without sunbathing, so here are some tips to stay safe while in the sun:
- Apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 around 15 minutes before you head outside. An ounce at a time is usually the best dosage, which is quite a lot.
- The sunscreen should go all over your body, even the head if you’re bald or have a bald spot.
- Tanning beds are a no-no, especially as they don’t have enough UVB light for the prediction of Vitamin D
- Take regular breaks while sunbathing, moving to the shade when your body feels too hot
- Stay hydrated; have a water bottle near you at all times
- Consume more tomatoes; these have lycopene, which might help to prevent redness in the skin from ultraviolet rays.
Alternative to Sunbathing
Certain individuals might not be able to sunbathe for various reasons, or might simply choose not to take the risk. In that case, the following alternatives might still help them get a healthy amount of Vitamin D:
- A brisk walk for half an hour outside every day
- Exercising or yoga outdoors instead of inside
- Opening the car windows when driving
- Eating outdoors
- Taking Vitamin D supplements
- Getting a UV lamp
There’s a lot of research that shows us the many health benefits of getting enough sun. However, the risks involved might be growing each day due to increasing pollution and global warming. This is why we need to maintain a sort of balance; while we might seek out the best hidden beaches in Hawaii, we should take along enough sunscreen and umbrellas as well.