The summer has truly arrived in the UK, and as the days get hotter we are starting to regularly see that unfamiliar glowing orb in the sky. Yes – the sun is finally making an appearance! Brits all over the country are heading outside to take in the seasonal sun and enjoy the good weather.
But while the sun feels great on your skin for short periods and can have some excellent health benefits, the sun also presents inherent health dangers. The damaging UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to your skin, leading to burns and skin cancer.
In order to truly enjoy the summer, you need to learn how to enjoy the sun in a responsible way. Read ahead for the Sloane and Son’s Garden Benches guide for enjoying the summer sun in 2018 and beyond.
Why Is The Sun Good For You?
While we often hear that the sun is bad for our skin and health, it actually has some beneficial aspects that should not be ignored. Just remember to limit your exposure and stay within healthy limits.
- Sunlight can help regulate your ‘body clock’ – Do you tend to have problems falling asleep or getting up in the morning? You might need to get a bit more sunlight. Studies of our circadian rhythms show that exposure to sunlight can help to wake up easily in the morning and fall asleep at night. Studies by the National Institutes of Health show that an hour of natural light in the morning will set your internal clock for the day, thereby helping you fall asleep at night.
- Sunlight can help you regulate your weight – In addition to helping you sleep well, studies have shown that adults who get a dose of sunlight in the morning are more likely to have a lower body mass index. a measure that takes into account weight and height, according to a recent study. 50% of adults worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, and so this extra sunlight might help to counter the other environmental causes of weight gain.
- Sunlight can help you to fight depression – Many people who live in Northern climates and places with grey skies suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For instance, the NHS estimates than 1 in 15 people in the UK feel depressed in the darker winter months. If this sounds familiar, you should head outside and get some natural sunlight in order to counter these effects. Phototherapy can also help, as the bright light can mimic the sun’s positive effects.
- The Vitamin D in sunlight can help bone health – When you expose your body to the sun, it begins to produce Vitamin D. This vitamin is essential, and helps your body to absorb calcium, essential for strong bone health.
Despite the positive effects of the sun listed above, you only need approximately 15 minutes of sun a day to get enough vitamin D if you are fair skinned, and up to 30 minutes if you have darker skin. The more melanin you have in your skin, the harder it is for your body to be able to absorb the positives of the sun. If you have sunscreen on or are covered up during this 15 minute period, you won’t get enough of the rays necessary to produce adequate Vitamin D.
Why Is The Sun Bad For You?
Now that we have mentioned some of the positive aspects of sun exposure, it is time to bring up the myriad negative effects. The danger of spending too much time in the sun, especially for children, cannot be overstated.
- Sun exposure can lead to skin cancer - Skin cancers are some of the most common forms of cancers in the UK, and the prevalence of melanoma continues to grow. The sun can cause the rapid growth of abnormal skin cells, and this results in tumours. These tumours can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
- Three main types of skin cancer – The three main types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. 95% of all skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell, and they are often called “non-melanoma skin cancers.” They have a high rate of success when diagnosed and treated early. On the other hand, melanoma is comprised of abnormal cells called melanocytes. This is by far the most dangerous and serious form of skin cancer, and it leads to 75% of all skin cancer deaths.
- Sun exposure leads to the visible signs of aging – While we tend to think of wrinkles and age spots as a normal and inevitable aspect of aging, they are actually caused by sun damage. The sun's powerful ultraviolet (UV) light breaks down the elastin fibres in our skin, and it begins to stretch, sag and wrinkle. These signs of aging include:
- Freckles and other ‘age spots’
- Fine and coarse wrinkles
- Mottled pigmentation of the skin (patchy discolouration)
- Sallow, yellow skin
- Telangiectasias - small blood vessels dilating under the skin
- Elastosis - the elastic and collagen tissue begins to break down
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself From The Sun?
Now that you know all about the good and bad aspects of the sun, and how it can affect your skin, it’s time to address what you can do in order to protect yourself. After you get a few minutes of sun exposure each day, it is time to block out the sun’s UV rays and prevent them from damaging your skin. This is the most important thing that you can do in order to prevent skin cancer and protect your health.
How you can block out UV rays and stay safe in the sun:
- Make sure you cover up- Wearing opaque clothing made from tightly woven fabric is the best way to keep your skin safe and protected. Want to test if your fabric is sun-safe? Place your hand between a layer of your cloth, and hold it up to the light. If you can clearly see your hand, the garment won’t protect your skin.
- Make sure you always use sunscreen - While you want to get up to 15 to 30 minutes of sun on your bare skin each day (depending on the amount of melanin in your skin), after this you need to ensure that you apply a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. This can block out up to 93 percent of UV rays, and you can always choose a higher SPF if you are particularly fair, or you are in an area with a thinner ozone cover (such as parts of Australia). Remember to follow the instructions on the bottle, and reapply often and after you swim.
- A hat is your friend – The best way to protect your head (along with your neck, forehead, nose, scalp, eyes and ears) is with a wide brimmed hat. While a baseball cap will protect the top of your head, a wide brimmed hat is a better choice.
- Add a pair of UV-absorbent shades to your outfit – You don’t need to spend a fortune on shades in order to protect your eyes from the sun’s harsh UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure that they are designed to block out 99 to 100 percent of the rays.
- Stay out of the sun at the height of the day – Remember, the sun’s UVA and UVB rays are at their most intense between 10am and 4pm each day. Try to get the bulk of your sun exposure before 10am, and in the evening when the rays are weaker (and often feel more pleasant!).
While there is no denying that getting some sun can be very good for you indeed, it is also very important that you don’t get too much. Be sure to spend at least a few minutes in the sun every day (especially during those rare breaks of sunshine in the winter). However, if you are spending more than 15 minutes outside, you need to take precautions to protect your skin and eyes.
Sunglasses, long sleeves, a hat and sunblock are all good ways to stay protected in the sun. While you may crave the look and feel of a tan, the long-term effects of tanning are simply too dangerous to ignore. Consider slathering your skin with some self tanner instead – you’ll get that sun-kissed glow, but you’ll be much safer in the long run!