For many years, the doctors told you to wear sunscreen every time you were out in the sun. But, certain reports lately showed that might not be the healthiest. You don't necessarily need to wear sunblock every time you go in the sun but are you now confused about when you should?
Let's take a quick look at what's going on…
What Sunscreen Does For You
Sunblock doesn't actually block the sun, just specific wavelengths of sunlight. Generally, it's the ultraviolet rays of the sun that we're trying to stop because those are the ones that cause damage to our skin.
UVA, UVB, and UVC are the ones you hear about the most. Ultraviolet (UV) is a section of the wavelength spectrum that we cannot see. But, it can get into our skin and cause damage.
Generally, UVA is what causes the most damage for us. They cause the sun spots, wrinkles, and aging signs.
UVB is what causes sunburns and cancer, like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. One in five people will get skin cancer in their lives.
The strongest UV rays, UVC, rarely even reach your skin. It gets absorbed by the atmosphere before reaching you.
Sunblock coats your skin and absorbs these wavelengths before they reach your skin.
Can You Wear Too Much Sunscreen?
Yes, you can. The UV wavelengths that you're trying to protect from are also the same ones that trigger the melanin in our skin to produce vitamin D. If we block all of the wavelengths, we prevent our body from creating this vitamin.
We need vitamin D for many different processes in the body, but mostly brain development. Learning, memory, good mood, and happiness are all dependent on having adequate vitamin D. Children who don't get enough vitamin D tend to display ADHD symptoms and develop brittle bones (Ricket's Disease). Adults tend to swing more towards depression and anxiety when they don't have enough vitamin D.
Children need a lot more vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fat for their body sizes than adults do. By blocking too much of the wavelengths, especially on overcast days, it's easy for a deficiency to set in. It's actually very similar to spending all day in an office, entirely away from the sun.
When Is The Best Time To Use Sunscreen
There is an appropriate time for using sunblock.
When you know you're going to spend a long time in the sun, especially bright sun, you should wear sunblock. Repeated exposure to bright sunlight can cause burns, the coloration of your skin, and even cancer.
However, you do not need sunblock every time you step out of the house.
In fact, doctors recommend getting somewhere between 20 minutes and 1 hour of sunlight on as much skin as possible to produce enough vitamin D. When you go out into the sun, your body will absorb the sunlight, producing vitamin D. Then your skin will start turning red, especially in fair-skinned people.
It's at that point you need to use sunblock or provide some other form of shade.
Hats, tight woven clothing, and creamy sunblocks all help protect your skin while you are outside.
If you are outside on overcast days, use caution and pay attention to your skin. Some of the UVA and UVB wavelengths do pass through the clouds. If you are outside for lengthy periods on those days, a sunblock on sensitive areas of your body, like your face, could help prevent future damage.
Should You Go Without Sunscreen?
There's a couple of questions you can ask yourself to see if you need sunscreen or not:
- How long do I plan to be out in the sun?
- How bright is the sun today?
- How pale is my skin to begin with?
- How fast do I usually start to turn red or burn?
- What has been my everyday exposure in the past couple weeks?
If your skin is pale, you burn easily, and you've not been out in the sun recently, you should use sunscreen if you plan to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.
The darker your skin, the more overcast, and the more exposure you had, the longer you can stay in the sun without ill effect. But, you should still use caution to avoid getting a sunburn.
While being tanned is pleasant and can help boost your vitamin D levels, exposing yourself to the sun too much can cause skin damage. Be sure to be smart when using sunblock, using it enough to avoid damage, but not enough to block the natural production of vitamin D.