How the Sun Affects Our Health
Most people enjoy spending time outside in the sun. The warm rays of sunlight light up our world. Sunlight is necessary for plants, animals, and even humans to exist. However, many people do not know exactly how the sun affects our health. The sun provides many benefits, but there are also many downsides when someone has too much exposure.
First, it is important to know that there are three types of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. They each affect us differently. UVA rays are the most common UV rays that reach your skin and are the safest. UVB rays are less common and can be more dangerous. UVC rays are very dangerous but are blocked by the Earth’s ozone layer.
One of the most important benefits of the sun is vitamin D. Our bodies do not get enough vitamin D from food. The only ways to get the proper amounts of vitamin D are from the sun and supplements. UVB rays are the rays we get vitamin D from. The amount of vitamin D we absorb from the sun depends on a few factors. The time of day, where we live, the color of our skin, and how much we are exposed all contribute to how much vitamin D we get.
The sun is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the times your body will absorb the most vitamin D. It is also important to avoid too much exposure between these hours. People who are closer to the equator will be exposed to stronger UV rays. Those who are living further away may need supplements during months when they do not get out into the sun often.
The color of our skin also contributes to how much vitamin D our body absorbs at a time. One study found that white people who were in the sun absorbed about 50,000 IU of vitamin D in a half hour. The same amount of time and exposure for people who were tan was 20,000-30,000 IU and 8,000-10,000 IU for people with dark skin. This is because of the pigment of skin called melanin, which protects the skin from UV rays.
While the sun is needed for our health, too much can be a bad thing. With too much sun, we begin to risk things like sunburn, wrinkles, freckling, and even cancer. Try to limit your time in the sun, depending on where you live and how dark or light your skin is. It is important to remember that everyone is at risk of cancer from the sun, even those with darker skin.
Some ways to help keep you safe from the sun are:
- Wearing sunscreen
- Wearing clothes that cover your skin
- Sitting under an umbrella
- Avoiding lotions to help you tan faster
- Switching to self-tanning lotions and spray tans
- Staying far away from tanning beds
There are many pros and cons to being out in the sun. Getting sunlight is vital to our health. We need to get proper amounts of vitamin D. However, it is important to remember how the sun affects our health. Too much exposure can be damaging. If not being able to get enough vitamin D from the sun is an issue, remember that there are vitamin D supplement options as well.