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A Few Tips for Healthy Sunbathing

First, you hear for years that it’s good for you, then suddenly it gives you wrinkles and will kill you with skin cancer. What’s a mother to do? Who to believe? It’s got to the point that people are afraid to go outside without smearing sunscreen all over themselves and their kids.

So who’s right? Both are, as usual. It’s not hard to understand, if we use a little common sense and ignore 99% of what we hear in the media. Sunlight exposure is a great example of a ‘good thing vs. too much of a good thing’. We all know (and have known all along) that too much sun is bad for us. What we’ve been forgetting, the past several years, thanks to the sensationalists, is that sunlight is also essential to good health. And we’re not just talking about vitamin D here, although that’s reason enough to get some sun.

OK, here’s where we start our list:

  • How much sun each day? There’s a lot of variables to consider here – your skin type, time of day, time of year, latitude (distance from the equator), altitude, humidity, cloud cover, etc. Note: You can and will get a sunburn on a cloudy day.
  • Since there’s no chart or formula to dictate how much exposure we need, start out slow, preferably early morning or around sunset. Start with 10 to 15 minutes and adjust from there. Remember, though, the goal’s not to get tanned, although a little color’s unavoidable and OK. Keep an eye on that tan line.
  • A daily outing at sunrise is especially nice, with the air crisp and the world all fresh. This is a wonderful way to get a little spiritual boost/quality time with yourself or loved one. And hey, you can always go back to bed.
  • Don’t wear sunglasses during your sunbathing sessions.
  • Wear as few clothes as possible, of course. Note: sunblock and shades (and clothing) are still appropriate for longer periods of exposure. “But my doctor told me to” doesn’t work against an indecent exposure rap.
  • Tanning beds are acceptable, but only if you can’t get the real thing. Set them so you only get 10-20% of a dose per day.
  • Try showering before, and dry off in the sun, if you have the privacy (or a body that deserves showing off). You can always rinse off after, if you get sweaty, but try to avoid soap, as those new oils you just secreted are good for your skin. Skip the cologne afterward – most folks find them offensive, but are too nice to say so.
  • Now you have the perfect excuse to build that greenhouse or solarium you’ve always wanted – it was recommended by a doctor, so it’s tax deductible, right? Just be sure the glass or plastic doesn’t block any ultraviolet or infrared rays.