How much sun is healthy?

Posted on the 29 June 2018 at 11:35

Sun and Vitamin DMost people feel better – emotionally and physically – when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, and with so much time spent indoors and in front of computer screens, it’s easy to want to get out and about whilst the weather is fine! As a medical professional, I know that time outdoors is more likely to result in increased physical activity (another factor that can have a positive influence on our physical and mental wellbeing) and as long as people take adequate sun safety precautions when they are outdoors, I’m all for it! We all need to make the very most of the 5.3 days of Summer we actually get in the UK…!

It’s easy to forget to apply the SPF when the weather is cloudy or overcast (though it is important to build this into your skincare regime all year round!), but I’ve heard some people hold off on the SPF application on a hot, sunny day ‘to help top up their Vitamin D levels’. But does this really work? Do we need to risk skin damage to take on sufficient Vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet to help build and maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Between October and March in the UK, it is difficult to get the daily required amount of Vitamin D from the sun alone, meaning that we have to rely on our diets (or foreign holidays) to provide us with sufficient Vitamin D. Eggs, red meat and oily fish are all great sources of this essential vitamin. During the Spring and Summer months in the UK, it is possible to get all of the Vitamin D we need from the sun, just by exposing certain parts of the body – like the face and forearms – to the sun, in short bursts throughout the day. The amount of time needed to take on sufficient Vitamin D does vary from person to person, depending on skin colour and the amount of skin exposed1, but prolonged exposure to the sun in the heat of the day isn’t necessary at all, so make sure that you take adequate precautions to prevent sun damage by:

  • Regularly applying a good quality, broad spectrum SPF sunscreen
  • Wearing a hat, sunglasses, and long sleeved lightweight clothing
  • Seeking out a shady spot when the sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm.

So what do I say to those people who strongly believe that a tan makes them look good and healthy? My response is always to ‘fake it’! Long-term UV exposure can lead to reduced skin elasticity (contributing to the appearance of lines and wrinkles), and can also cause pigmentation and an overall degradation of skin texture, as well as increasing your risk of suffering from Skin Cancer. If you want to delay some of the physical symptoms of skin ageing, it’s definitely worth reaching for the fake tan rather than jumping into the sun bed – your skin will thank you for it!


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