shutterstock_1088351306.jpeg (shutterstock_1088351306.webp)As summertime approaches, it’s important to start thinking about protecting your skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays. But is being in the sun all bad? While it’s always important to use sunscreen and limit your direct exposure, are there no health benefits to spending some time warming up outdoors?

At RI Skin Doc, we know that the answer isn’t exactly simple. There are benefits as well as risks associated with spending time out in the sun, and in order to protect yourself and your skin, it’s important to understand why. Here are a few of the pros and cons that come with being out in the sunshine:

Pros: You Need Vitamin D

Exposure to sunlight can help your body naturally produce a substance called Vitamin D. When the sun hits your skin (specifically UVB rays), it begins to make healthy cholesterol, which then begins the process of Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is essential to certain functions at the cellular level -- it allows your cells to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which help strengthen your bones and prevent the onset of conditions such as osteoporosis. A lack of Vitamin D can even put you at risk for serious muscle fatigue and certain types of cancer.

That said, you simply won’t get the Vitamin D you need from sun exposure without doing irreparable damage to your skin. In order to circumvent this issue, turn instead to a number of foods and supplements you can use to get your daily dose.

Cons: Your Risk for Skin Cancer Increases

Unfortunately, direct, unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays also increases your risk of developing multiple types of skin cancer, more commonly squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. Additionally, repeated heavy exposure to the sun -- particularly repetitive sunburns -- can put you at a high risk for melanoma, which can be difficult to treat and fatal if not detected early. In fact, statistics show that an estimated 7,180 people will die of melanoma in the United States this year alone. Striking a healthy balance and keeping your skin constantly protected is key to preventing melanoma and other skin cancers. 

Dr. Frankel recommends that her patients use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater any time they leave home, and to stay out of the direct rays when the sun is shining at its brightest (between 12pm and 2pm). Additionally, your sunblock should contain minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect your skin, and don’t skip the shades! Your eyes are just as vulnerable to the sun as the rest of your body, and must be protected with UV-blocking sunglasses.

Pros: Sunshine Helps Your Mental Health

After spending a lot of time indoors in 2020, you may be feeling the impact of a lack of sunlight on your mental health more than ever. Researchers believe that exposure to sunlight helps your brain produce a chemical called serotonin, which is responsible for mood regulation and your ability to feel happy or content. Alternately, the natural setting of the sun and exposure to darkness helps your brain produce melatonin, a chemical that helps you achieve a regular pattern of sleep. If you deny yourself access to the sun altogether, your brain could become deficient in either of these chemicals, causing disruptions in your mood as well as your ability to sleep!

Cons: Your Skin Will Age Faster

While there are benefits to some sunshine in your life, cancer isn’t the only risk you run when you’re reckless about your exposure. Excessive exposure to the sun can actually increase signs of aging on your skin, which can be particularly visible on your arms and face. It’s important to remember that aging isn’t just about the literal passage of time -- it’s also about wear, tear, and damage, which can be seriously exacerbated by unprotected, uninterrupted time in the sun. To protect yourself, try incorporating sunscreen into your cosmetic routine with makeup that contains an SPF of 30 or greater!

When all is said and done, the best thing you can do -- for your skin and for your overall health -- is to be aware of the risk factors and diligently protect yourself as recommended by a licensed dermatologist. If you’ve never seen a dermatologist before, now is the time! Reach out to Dr. Frankel and her team at RI Skin Doc, and schedule your first appointment today.

With ongoing safety precautions in place, both RI Skin Doc and Rejuvaderm MediSpa are OPEN for in-person visits by appointment only. If you have any questions about our COVID-19 response, visit our website.