How To Soak Up The Sun... Safely

You've probably been told by your family doctor for years to stay out of the sun. Overexposure to the sun has been linked to medical issues, including skin cancer, premature aging and immune system suppression. But it turns out that getting some sun is actually not so bad for your health.

"Sun exposure is good for you for about 20 minutes daily without sunscreen use," according to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad. "We naturally absorb vitamin D from the sun which the body needs."

Eleven Wellness Center founder Dr. Frank Lipman explained vitamin D benefits in a blog on HuffPost Healthy Living. He wrote, "It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society."

But Dr. Ostad warns that you must limit sun exposure to certain times of the day. "The most dangerous hours to be in the sun are between 11am and 4pm," he said. And we all know that this is typically the time of day that most people are out to lunch, lying on a beach or shopping at outlet malls. So your safest bet during these hours is to slather on the sunscreen.

"It is important that you put on at least a 30 SPF if you burn moderately, but as a rule of thumb, a 30 SPF is best to put on regardless of skin type or color," said Dr. Ostad. "Sunscreens should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors."

When buying sunscreen, he recommends looking for the following ingredients to receive full-spectrum coverage and protection:

Micronized Zinc Oxide: Great for broad spectrum UV protection (including UVA), soothing effects for skin irritations and antimicrobial properties.

Titanium Dioxide: Excellent absorber of sun rays (UVA & UVB rays), provides long-term UV-protection and water resistant.

Niacin: Clinically shown to visibly improve skin tone, texture and hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin E: Helps heal and protect your skin.

Dr. Ostad adds, "When using sunscreen, be sure to apply it to all exposed areas and pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands and arms, which sometimes are forgotten or not properly covered. One ounce --enough to fill a shot glass -- is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly."

Protect your hair, feet and everything in between from the UV rays:

Sunscreen Shopping Guide

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