Summer is comming, and besides clear skin a lot of people are working on their tan. For those with acne, there is that extra temptation to try and conceal acne blemishes by means of a tanning. The dangers of too much sun exposure are well known, such as premature fine lines and wrinkles, as well as and a higher risk of skin cancer. However, less well known are the benefits of sun exposure. Just as getting too much sun can be harmful, more and more evidence is pointing out the dangers of getting too little. So how much sun should your skin be getting, and why?
Not too long ago, the scientific community was warning against the risks of sun exposure, recommending SPF15 for anyone who was planning to leave the house. Nowadays, many scientists have actually taken an about face, stating that the benefits of sun exposure far outweigh the risks, granted that this exposure is not too extreme. One of the key reasons is vitamin D. Your body naturally produces vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. Although available from sources such as fortified milk and supplements, vitamin D is most effectively gained from direct sun exposure, and many people are simply not getting enough of it.
The numbers are rather enlightening (pun intended ^_^). In the US, it’s estimated that 50,000-63,000 cancer deaths could be prevented if Americans had sufficient vitamin D. That’s 10% of all cancer deaths, and a much higher figure than the combined deaths from melanoma and skin cancer (about 10,000). Vitamin D has been shown in numerous studies to protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and even the skin. Therefore, while too much exposure bears the possibility of skin cancer (which is rarely fatal), too little sun poses a much greater risk.
How much sun does your body need? It’s actually recommended to get 15-20 minutes of direct sun exposure each day. If you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time under the sun, then it will certainly benefit your skin to bring along the SPF15. However, remember that sunscreens and sunblocks will also block the benefits of sun exposure, so be sure to give yourself those 15 minutes without unneeded protection.
On the other hand, keep in mind that acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid (read: almost all topical acne treatments) will make your skin more prone to sun damage, so space your acne creams and sun time apart. So go ahead and get some sun, just don’t overdo it! Under normal circumstances, the health benefits of sun exposure are actually greater than the risks. You should still avoid the longer exposure that generally goes with tanning, but if you know you can’t resist it, just make sure to pack some sunscreen with at least SPF15 (and try to make it noncomogenic).