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Sun exposure has many benefits: Vitamin D3 production, improved blood pressure through nitric oxide production, better mood, immune and hormone regulation. Some exposure when possible is a good idea.
However, you have to balance the benefits of sun exposure with the risk of sun damage. The key is not to burn. Following these simple precautions should help.
The best sunscreen is shade. Find shade or bring your own. Umbrella, hat, clothes, etc.
For a quality topical Sunscreen, pick one that is in cream form [not a spray or powder], does not contain oxybenzone, bug repellant or retinyl palmitate, and has an SPF under 50.
Oxybenzone mimics estrogen and disrupts the endocrine system. And it’s common in sunscreens. A 2012 study suggests that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, may speed the development of skin tumors when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.
EWG.org has a guide to sunscreens that will let you look up a specific product. They rank them according to effectiveness, presence of potentially dangerous chemicals, and price. Their website has a lot of good info and tips regarding sun exposure. They also have a sunscreen app for your phone.
Pay attention to the UV index. Anything more than a 5 is considered high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Most weather forecasting websites and apps will tell you the UV index.
The EPA recommends using the “Shadow Rule”. If your shadow is shorter than you are, you are being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation. Seek shade and protect your skin and eyes.
Diet plays a larger role in protecting the skin and eyes from the sun than most people appreciate.
Dietary antioxidants, including carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamin C and vitamin E may provide an effective strategy for protecting your skin from damage by UV exposure. They suppress oxidative damage and inflammation. Include many colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet for this, but be aware that the effect doesn’t happen immediately [studies suggest 10 weeks], so make them an ongoing part of your diet.
Blue wavelengths of light, the largest source of which is sunlight, are damaging to the retina and promote macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness. Pigments from yellow plant and dark green leafy veggies in our diet (zeaxanthin and lutein) absorb blue light and protect the retina from oxidative damage.
Use Sunglasses that block blue light and have UV protective lenses to help avoid damage to your eyes.