Sunshine is essential to life. However, too much of a good thing has its downsides. Skin is a very thin veil between the intense power of the sun and your inner body. Being our largest organ, skin is constantly reacting to the environment to produce Vitamin D and to ward off environmental dangers, such as debris, bacteria, and UV radiation. Skin turns red to demonstrate heat, becomes lighter when cold, feels irritated when touched by something harsh. It’s quite remarkable. Sun exposure has many positive attributes. However, the negative effects of too much sun exposure can be deadly.
Think about all of the times you may have taken medication, didn’t sleep well, experienced stress from a long work-week, had a bit too much to drink the night before, and then consider how you felt physically and mentally. These different scenarios can make you photosensitive, and a lot of regularly used meds list this as a contraindication in fine print (birth control, for one). Being photo-sensitive can cause your skin to react differently or less effectively than it would under normal circumstances. During times of distress, our skin can react differently with UV radiation, causing permanent dark spots. The leftover marks affectionately referred to as “freckles”, are damaged cells, meaning that the DNA inside the cell is forever changed. The new genetic code will send a continual message to keep those skin cells dark. There are a few ways to remove the marks, and these include peels, laser, and a home care regimen containing ‘active’ ingredients. These actives can lighten, brighten and bleach skin.
As skin cells die and new ones are formed, the old cells push towards the surface of the skin, forcing the topmost, older ones off. This is called sloughing or natural exfoliation. You can assist this process by using exfoliators such as scrubs and products containing lactic and salicylic acid.
The amount of UV radiation produced in a day’s dosage of sunlight typically exceeds the amount we need to make vitamin D. The time needed to produce a day’s supply of vitamin D varies depending on many factors including UV index (measurement of UV rays), skin complexion, and geographical location. For example, 6 minutes of sunshine may be fine for summer in Miami but 1 hour of exposure would be required to produce enough vitamin D during the winter in Boston.
In places that receive plenty of sunlight, such as California, vitamin D deficiency from inadequate sun exposure is rarely as big of a problem as skin cancer from too much sun exposure. However, if you live in an area where sunlight is limited or work indoors all day and rarely see the sun, making an effort to spend a few extra minutes in the sun can be beneficial to your health.