Exposing your skin to the sun has health benefits and health risks. While we need some UV light exposure to help our bodies to produce vitamin D, too much sunlight exposure can damage our skin. This post delves into some of the problems caused by getting too much/too little sunlight, and how to get the right balance to keep our skin healthy.
What happens to your skin if you get too little sun?
If you spend too much time indoors or never leave the house during daylight hours, you could put yourself at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a nutrient that is important for many different parts of our body including our bones and muscles (it is also believed to affect our mood). It is also important for our skin – it is key to reducing inflammation, helping wounds heal and trapping moisture in the skin.
A vitamin D deficiency could leave you with dry, dull, inflamed skin. It is believed that people that don’t have enough vitamin D are more at risk of conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. While consuming foods containing vitamin D can help our body to get our fix of this nutrient, regular sun exposure is much more effective at helping us maintain healthy levels – turning cholesterol in our skin directly into vitamin D.
What happens to your skin if you get too much sun?
You cannot overdose on vitamin D from too much sunlight. However, too much sun exposure can have other health risks – the most obvious being sunburn.
Too much UV light causes radiation burn which can cause skin to become sore and red. After several days, it may then start to peel. Repeated sunburn can reduce our skin’s ability to produce collagen, which can cause skin to lose its elasticity more quickly. This can lead to faster development of wrinkles. Too much sun exposure can also affect how our skin produces new skin cells, in some cases causing cells to grow out of control and turn into cancer cells (i.e. skin cancer). Once you’ve had skin cancer once, you’re more at risk of having it again. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body if skin cancer is not treated early.
How to find the right balance
Getting the right amount of sunlight can be key to preventing wrinkles and other skin conditions caused by sunburn or vitamin D deficiency. The amount of sunlight you need each day is likely to depend on the time of day, as well as the color of your skin.
Studies suggest that darker skinned people need 2 to 3 times more sunlight than lighter skinned people in order to get their fix of vitamin D. In winter when sunlight levels are lower, those with lighter skin should aim for 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day, while those with darker skin may need as much as 25-40 minutes.
In summer, those with lighter skin are much more likely to be prone to sunburn than those with darker skin. It is recommended that those with lighter skin always wear sun lotion if they are going to be outside under direct sun for longer than 15 minutes. This can limit the amount of UV light that penetrates the skin. Darker skinned people can still get sunburn, but it’s usually only after very long periods in the sun. If you’ve got darker skin and you’re going to be outside in direct sun for most of the day, you may want to still consider wearing sun lotion.