Sun Exposure: Riding that Fine Line

sun protectionJust a few decades ago, how much time we spent in the sun, and what time of day we were out in the sun, were not details that we were encouraged to contemplate. Today, we know that sun exposure goes hand in hand with premature aging and skin cancer. This knowledge has led a large portion of the population to bow out of outdoor activities. As a consequence, we have seen a sharp increase in symptoms related to vitamin D deficiency. So what’s right? We’re about to go there.

The Vitamin D Link

We are hearing much more about the need for vitamin D these days. Deficient amounts of this important vitamin can impede the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium. But that’s the least of it. According to scientific studies, over 2,000 of the genes in the human body rely on vitamin D for proper function. That’s a lot! Because we need vitamin D but need to avoid too much sun exposure, there are questions regarding the best way to get a daily dose.

Multiple studies have been performed to determine how and where and when we can get adequate amounts of vitamin D. When sunlight hits the skin; an existing cholesterol-like substance is converted into this vitamin. That makes sunlight a good source if only looking at vitamin D production in the body. To get that production going, it is recommended that we spend a few minutes every morning in the direct sunlight with a large portion of skin exposed. Early morning sunlight is less intense and poses only a slight risk for UV damage.

Sun exposure in the manner can be hit or miss. Plus, sunlight absorbs differently based on skin tone so that darker-skinned people will need more time under those rays, and that increases the risk of cellular damage. Finally, absorption can also be affected by UV strength, which is lower the farther away from the equator one is. These various factors can easily mean that you miss the mark when it comes to getting the vitamin D you need to function at optimum capacity.

According to experts, a good start toward healthy sun exposure is to sit for 5 to 15 minutes a day, a few days a week, in early morning sun. Then, vitamin D3 can be taken in supplement form to make up for what isn’t obtained through natural sunlight.

Sun exposure is a tricky subject, but one that deserves attention. Do you have questions about how to protect your skin? Schedule a visit with your West Orange dermatologist, Dr. Citron, at (973) 243-2300.

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