With summer underway, it’s time to take advantage of the free vitamin D the sunshine offers. Sun exposure is the ideal way to help us reach the minimum vitamin D level of 32 ng/mL, with an optimum of 50 to 60 ng/mL.
I also encourage you to get outdoors as much as possible because we are each a part of nature. Being outside can help bring our bodies in harmony with the natural world around us. I use this time of year to play golf and tennis, swim in the lake, bike, kayak, hike, grow vegetables and get outdoors any way I can. Even with all the benefits of being outside, I still get many questions about sun exposure, so here are my recommendations, as well as some important information about sunscreens:
Better Bones guidelines for sunlight exposure (year-round!)
• Short periods, 15-20 minutes daily of near full-body exposure are best for light-skinned people (without sunscreen).
• Very dark-skinned people require 4-6 times more sunlight exposure than light-skinned people.
• Use sunscreen after this initial period if necessary to avoid sunburn.
• The useful ultraviolet rays are strongest between 10 am and 2 pm.
• In northern or southern latitudes distant from the Equator, longer exposure is needed, especially during the spring and fall.
• In climates of the northern or southern latitudes distant from the Equator, very little or no vitamin D is produced in the skin during the winter months.
• If your shadow is shorter than you are, then you are able to produce vitamin D from the sunlight. If your shadow is longer than you are then you know you are not being exposed to that small spectrum ultraviolet radiation that allows for vitamin D production.
Protect yourself from both harmful sun and the wrong sunscreens
Just as important as protecting yourself from the sun is avoiding possible harmful effects of sunscreen ingredients that can add to your overall toxic burden. If you’re going to use sunscreen while spending extended periods of time outside, keep these tips in mind to help you decipher product labels:
• Avoid the ingredients vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone. Safer options are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. I personally prefer to use those with zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
• Use all-natural and organic beauty and body care products whenever possible. Many of the chemical ingredients in personal care products are not only toxins, but also allergens and skin irritants. Do a little research before you choose a sunscreen, as it is classified as both a cosmetic and drug.
• “Organic” and “natural” do not always equal “safe.” When in doubt, avoid products with a lengthy list of unpronounceable ingredients to avoid exposure to synthetic toxins and carcinogens.
• Another way to reduce exposure is to avoid any product that lists “fragrance” as an ingredient, or whose label list ends with the words “…and other ingredients.” Manufacturers of sunscreens don’t have to list any ingredients, even those that are carcinogenic or have been granted “trade secret status” by the FDA.
You can learn more about the benefits of vitamin D in my article “Vitamin D: its benefits are more than ever imagined” And keep in mind — the aim is to have those levels all year round, which is why I recommend you have a vitamin D test at both the end of the summer and the end of the winter to check for any variations.