Fun in the Sun

Most of us will spend part of our summers outdoors, playing, working, or simply lounging about. Here are some tips to maximize your sun exposure while minimizing dangers associated with sun exposure.

1. Shoot for 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day without any SPF, thick clothes, or a hat. Your body produces necessary Vitamin-D after exposure to natural sunlight, but it cannot do this if you are wearing sunscreen or other protective measures (such as a hat or long sleeves).

2. Be aware of the outside temperature and heat index. If you will be outside for more than 30 minutes, grab a bottle of water before you step outdoors. If you’re planning to spend the entire day outside (perhaps a baseball tournament or a day out on the water), shake some extra salt on your breakfast to help stave off dehydration; your body can’t absorb the water you’re drinking if you’re low on electrolytes. If you’re prone to dehydration or the outside temperature is predicted to be high during the day, bring some salt tablets (you can pick these up at any drugstore) or even just a shaker of sea salt if you don’t have time to stop. Bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need.

3. Bring the sunscreen and a hat! All sunscreens are not created equally. Look for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. Most quality sunscreens will cost you a bit more, but like wine, you’ll usually get what you pay for. Most sunscreens will need to be re-applied throughout the day and after exposure to water, so plan accordingly. Don’t wait to apply sunscreen until after you’ve noticed pink skin- damage is already done. Apply early and often; you should use about 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body. You can read more about natural, chemical-free sunscreens here.¬†Wearing a hat will not only help to protect your face and ears from painful sunburn, but it will also help protect your eyes from potentially harmful UV rays. You only get one pair of eyes, so take good care of them! Remember, if you’re showing signs of sunburn, damage is already done. Get indoors before any further damage is done!

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4. Keep your skin hydrated! If you’ll be in the direct sun, slather on good lotion the night before you’ll be outdoors as well as the morning of. Dry skin does not tan as well as healthy, hydrated skin because it is already damaged. Ladies, shave your legs the night before if you will be in salt water. These two tricks are old secrets for a good tan. If you’ve grown up near a beach, this is probably something you’re already doing out of habit. After sun exposure, be sure to apply that good lotion again all over your body.

5. Eat good quality foods, and don’t skimp on the fruits and veggies! Most fruits and veggies are in season now, so they’re readily available. Foods like tomatoes may help raise your body’s natural SPF, possibly from nutrients like lycopene. Antioxidants, typically found in the greatest concentrations in fruits and veggies, help reverse damage done to the body from free-radicals, which can result from UV exposure. Enjoy those fresh salads, fruits, and vegetable sides! Read more about it¬†here.

Although we do need some sun exposure to produce Vitamin-D (which helps our bodies absorb and process other vitamins and minerals, like calcium), we need to be mindful of risks associated with UV rays. Use common sense, see your doctor regularly, and keep an eye on discoloration, new moles, or anything on your body that looks strange to help lower your risk for cancer.

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