As we head into the season of fun in the sun, get ready for the campaigns to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside. USA Today carried the article, Here comes the sun debate, this morning and I doubt it will be the last one we see in the coming weeks.
Rather than debate the issue, here are the facts:
The sun provides our bodies with a means to make vitamin D. Reasonable exposure to sunshine, sans sunscreen, is necessary for the metabolic pathways that allow the production of vitamin D by the body. The most important aspect in getting adequate exposure to the sun is understanding what is a reasonable amount of time to spend in the sun without sunscreen.
Throughout late spring into early fall, adequate time is fairly minimal - about 10 minutes each day during the mid-day period (10:00 AM until 2:00 PM) in most areas of the United States. That is for a person of medium complexion. For those with fair skin, a bit less time is needed - for those with darker skin, a bit more time is needed; about five minutes more or less.
The rule of thumb is to ensure you do not spend so much time in the sun that you burn!
If you're going to be out in the sun for ANY expended periods, for example going to the beach for the day, you should use sun protection to prevent sunburn - sunscreen, umbrellas, hats, long-sleeve lightweight light colored shirts, and staying in the shade when possible.
The sun is our best source of vitamin D production - you don't have to be afraid of getting reasonable exposure to the sun each day, just don't overdo it!