A complete guide to sun exposure ☀️🌞

Hello everyone!

It is summertime and the sun is shining brightly in the sky; it's time to talk about sun exposure!

We are constantly bombarded with messages that sun exposure can cause sunspots, burns, wrinkles, tissue damage and skin cancer.  The truth is that the only proven health risk so far is too much sun exposure.  The intensity of sunlight and especially UV-rays is much lower in the early morning and late afternoon, than around midday.  Thus during such periods, you can enjoy the production of vitamin D without getting too many UV-rays on you which can cause skin burns, cancer, etc.  The best-known benefit of sun exposure is vitamin D synthesis, which occurs in the skin in response to the sun’s UVB rays.

The sun is at its highest between 11 a.m.(11:00) and 4 p.m.(16:00) but that doesn't mean the sun can't be damaging before or after these times.  You should be aware of your local UV index.

woman on the beach wearing a bikini, sunglasses and a hat

To calculate the right UV dose for you, divide 60 (as in the number of minutes in an hour) by the UV index to find out how many minutes of sun exposure it will take for you to get 1 SED.  SED stands for “standard erythemal dose,” a fixed dose of sun intensity that will cause erythema (reddening of the skin).

See the table below for the approximate SED it takes for different skin types to burn.  For example, today's UV ­index, here in Malta is 11; divide 60 by 11 to get 5 minutes for 1 SED.  If you are fair, you’ll get sunburned with 2 to 3 SED (10 to 15 minutes).

Skin Type
SED Needed for Skin to Burn
Very Fair
Moderate Brown
Dark Brown or Black

There’s no question that the sun can be a danger to your skin.  The ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun is a known carcinogen.  But moderate sun exposure may have benefits for your health, including stronger bones, better sleep, improved mood, and a healthier immune system.  Consider that when you continuously shield yourself from the sun or always cover every inch of exposed skin with sunscreen, you could be missing out!  

woman on the beach applying sunscreen

Note: Not all sunscreens are safe!!

Studies have shown that oxybenzone may affect breast development, infant birth weight, and sperm function.  It has also been shown to contribute to the killing of coral reefs in the ocean.  In fact, Hawaii has banned the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate starting in 2021.  

You should keep using sunscreen, although if you want to play it safe you should switch to sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  If you want to know more about sunscreens and how they work, read these posts: Here comes the sun(screen) and Sunscreen ingredients to avoid! | A safer alternative.

Enjoy the sun and stay safe!

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I'm a vegan with a passion for sustainability and clean, cruelty-free products. I mainly write lifestyle, wellness and self-care articles. Since I'm a true crime enthusiast, sometimes I also write about true crime and post videos on my two YouTube channels.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! If you ask a question I will answer it asap. – Cosette

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