Extract the maximum this summer without feeling the burn. Here’s how you can absorb vitamin D and protect your skin health, too.
The advent of summer, in theory at least, brings with it the glory of sun-filled days filled with barbecues, trips to the seaside and all manner of other enjoyable outdoor pursuits. But this time of sunshine is also one where your skin health is most vulnerable to sun damage.
It seems churlish to dampen any enthusiasm for that time spent out in the sun’s rays, but as with almost everything, there are health concerns to consider. Chief among which is the time-honoured battle between your vitamin D requirements and the risk of skin cancer.
To make sure you’re getting the balance right, Dr. Stephanie Munn, consultant dermatologist from Bupa Health Clinics, weighs in to give three tips to ensure you get the perfect amount of vitamin D this summer, without risking your skin safety.
Our body’s sunshine bank
One of the fantastic things about our bodies is our ability to store excess vitamin D for use at a later date, meaning we can bank enough sunlight during sunny months to see us through the cold snaps. However, we all know the risks associated with too much sun exposure, so it’s about taking a balanced approach. You don’t need to avoid the sun completely, but you do absolutely need to avoid burning. Being in the sun for a short amount of time between 11am and 3pm will give your vitamin D stocks a boost. People with paler skin should aim for a short period in the sun every day for about ten to 15 minutes while those with darker skin will need a little longer.
During this time, aim to have a third of your skin surface exposed, focusing on less sensitive areas like forearms, hands and legs. While wearing sunscreen, you will still absorb the necessary rays while, but you’ll need to stay out for longer.
Many factors play into determining your vitamin D levels
Everybody needs the same amount (10mcg) of vitamin D on a daily basis to maintain healthy bones, but the rate at which we produce the vitamin differs enormously. People with darker skin need more exposure [to the sun] to get the recommended amount than those with very pale skin, who are at greater risk of burning. You’ll also need more exposure as you grow older.
Use of sunscreen, the weather, time of day and a host of other factors mean that it is tricky to gauge whether you’re getting your daily quota. If you’d like a more definitive view of your vitamin D levels, you can get this checked with a simple blood test through your GP or at a Bupa Health Clinic.
Proactive skin health: monitor your moles
Recent research by Bupa Health Clinics revealed that only 14% of the population regularly check their moles to see if there are changes. Even worse, only 23% of people have seen a GP or dermatologist immediately when they noticed a change.
A good trick is to take pictures of your moles and then compare them with what you see on your body on a regular basis to check for any change in shape, size, texture or color. Use the ABCDE rule to know exactly what to look out for.
A – Asymmetry. Do both halves of the mole look the same?
B – Border. Is the edge of the mole uneven or fuzzy?
C – Color. Is the mole a mix of different shades or colours?
D – Diameter. Is it bigger than 6mm from side to side? (The end of a pencil is about 5mm across.)
E – Evolution. Has the mole changed?
People with a lot of moles and pale skin should have their moles checked by a dermatologist or GP, who’ll recommend when you should come back and how often you should have checks in the future.
Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Coach
Vitamin & Me: A Skin Health + Sunshine Vitamin Balance
Sunshine and time spent outside can positively impact our mental wellbeing, so the last thing we want for you is to stay indoors this summer. We agree with Dr. Munn — soak up the sunshine, but do so intentionally and smartly with a good layering of sunscreen, for your skin’s sake.
- On this note, look out for harmful toxins and carcinogens within sunscreens, like: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate and retinyl palmitate.
And since the vast majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, a supplement can help protect your health from low levels.
Not sure how much vitamin D you’re getting? Our personalized vitamin quiz is a great first place to start. Vitamin & Me founder Jessica Houston created this unique matching system to help you find the vitamins your body needs. Then we’ll ship them to your door! Easy!
Let us know if you have questions at email@example.com. We’d love to chat! Your health is important to us.
Follow along @vitaminandme for more on wellness this summer! See you there!