Safe sunbathing

Those people who totally avoid sunlight exposure face deficiency of vitamin D which extremely important for the body functioning.

Those people who enjoy outdoor sun tanning, especially people with lighter skin, are prone to skin damage, photo-aging, and even squamous cell skin cancer.

Safe sunbathing involves finding the proper balance of allowing to obtain a healthy amount of 'sunny' vitamin D without a risk to harm your skin.

Ways to avoid the negative effects associated with UV exposure:

  • Check the ultraviolet radiation level (UV Index);
  • Wear protective clothing when exposed to the sun;
  • Use sunscreen to help avoid premature aging;
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV exposure;
  • Limit exposure to the sun.

Limiting your time in the sun doesn't mean you should never sunbathe. The human body needs sunlight for vitamin D synthesis and health benefits related to it. Human skin is designed to make vitamin D from UV light more effectively than the gastrointestinal tract from food or vitamin D supplements.

According to studies, full body sunlight exposure for 10-15 minutes provides 3,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D, while fresh farmed salmon (3.5 oz.) gives 100-250 IU and a fortified multivitamin - 400 IU of vitamin D.

Before enjoying the sunshine, consider a few factors including your skin color, UV Index, your location, season, and time.

Skin color

Natural pigment melanin gives darker-skinned people the ability to tolerate more sunlight. They need twice more time than light-skinned to acquire the same amount of vitamin D while sunbathing.

People with fair skin suffer more skin damage from sun rays because ultraviolet easily penetrates the epidermis and harms keratinocytes and melanocytes, inducing mutations of cells.

The general recommendation for people with lighter skin:

  • Minimize time under the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when UV Index is the highest
  • Avoid getting a sunburn. Be aware, more than 5 sunburns doubles the risk of skin cancer
  • Expose your uncovered legs and arms to the sun without sunscreen for about 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times a week when UV Index is 3-4 or less
  • Be aware, sun rays bounce off reflective objects and can reach you indirectly in the shaded place.

UV Index & Safe Sunbathing Recommendations

An international Standard measurement, the ultraviolet index or UV Index calculates the intensity of UV radiation at the Earth's surface in relation to stratospheric ozone concentrations, clouds, and elevation above mean sea level.

The value of UV radiation varies throughout the day at a particular place.  If you know a forecast of the UV Index which represents the expected risk of sunlight exposure, you are able to make correct precautions to avoid sunburn when you are outdoors.

Issued daily, the UV Index could be found on the websites, apps or can be monitored with special device Solarmeter UV Index Meter.

Most experts encourage to use sun protection when the UV Index is close to 3. Do not expose your skin to the sun when the UV Index is 5 and higher. If you sunbathe near water, snow or sand, use extra caution because all of them reflect ultraviolet that increases a chance of sunburn.

While enjoying and acquiring the benefits offered by the sun, carefully take into consideration the parameters stated above to avoid the risks posed by prolonged sunbathing.


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1. Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D. Vitamin D Deficiency. The New England Journal of Medicine. July 2007

2. John D’Orazio, Stuart Jarrett... UV Radiation and the Skin. International Journal of Molecular Science. NCBI. 2013

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