How can you protect yourself against the sun’s harmful UV rays, while still making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D? It’s important to find a good balance when it comes to how much sun exposure you get. Conflicting information can leave you confused… should you cover your skin, or not?
Vitamin D & deficiency
Vitamin D is produced by the skin in reaction to sunlight. It facilitates the absorption of Calcium, (without vitamin D, Calcium absorption is inefficient) which helps maintain healthy teeth and bones. It also helps with immunity from disease and can improve weight loss. Vitamin D also stimulates absorption of Phosphate and Magnesium Ions
Despite the quantity of sunshine Bahrain gets, those living here are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency, due to typical clothing worn, and the reduced amount of time spent outdoors in comparison to cooler countries. Signs of deficiency include tiredness, depression, aches, muscle pain, weak bones and stress fractures.
The negative effects of sun exposure
Sun exposure is important to help the skin produce vitamin D. Exposing the arms and legs for short periods of time (with no sunscreen) is ideal preferably around midday. Despite the sun being at its strongest point, you are most likely to top up your vitamin D stores at this time of day, in the least amount of time.
However, excessive exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, premature skin aging/ wrinkles and sun damage. How easily the sun damages your skin depends on age, previous incidences of sunburn, skin pigmentation, light hair and eyes, freckles and moles.
It’s a good idea to use sun protection on your moles. Look out for changes in your skin and have your moles “mapped”. Asymmetrical, dark colored moles can be an indicator of skin cancer. Using a sunblock stick SPF50 will help protect them.
Wearing sunscreen is important despite your skin type. Even if you don’t burn, your skin can still become sun damaged. The type and amount of sunscreen may vary depending on your exposure time, month and strength of the sun. If you’re in the sun for short periods of time an SPF15 may be sufficient. However, for longer periods of sun exposure I recommend using an SPF35 or above. If you sweat or plan to swim, a water-resistant sunscreen is imperative.
Always protect your face by wearing sunscreen or make up with a minimum of SPF15 because this will help protect your face against premature ageing.
Choosing the right sunscreen
Most sunscreens contain chemicals that either absorb and convert the sun’s rays to heat, or disperse the rays before they penetrate the skin. The skin is like a sponge and will absorb harmful ingredients, so be mindful to choose a sunscreen with natural ingredients, (no chemicals) that’s right for your skin type. We found many good brands in Live Well located in Bahrain Mall. Your choice of sunscreen and SPF should also depend on fair, medium or dark skin.
Like everything, controlled sun exposure in moderation is good for you, just be careful not to burn!