The feel of the sun warming your skin is one like no other. There’s nothing better than a dose of vitamin D that doesn’t come from a jar of vitamins. Your body actually produces its own vitamin D–all it needs to do so is sunlight!

However, there’s a growing debate around how to strike a balance between getting your daily dose of vitamin D and avoiding a sunburn. We know that sunscreen can prevent painful sunburns and skin cancer. But broad-spectrum sunscreen also blocks the UVB rays that help our bodies generate vitamin D.

Vitamin D is important because it helps you build and maintain healthy bones by allowing calcium to be absorbed.

So, how can you get your daily dose of vitamin D and avoid a sunburn?

If you’re worried about getting enough of your vitamin D through sun exposure, some experts suggest that going out into the sun for about fifteen minutes before putting on your sunscreen. If you do this a few times a week, you should be able to receive enough sun exposure for your body to generate vitamin D.

Other experts argue that most people don’t apply enough sunscreen in the first place (about a shot glass of sunscreen for the body and a teaspoon for the face), meaning that most of us are still getting enough vitamin D, even while wearing sunscreen.

Photo by chezbeate

You can also get vitamin D from fatty fish, foods that are fortified with vitamin D (like some milks and cereals), and vitamin D supplements.

We need the sun, but you can have too much of a good thing. From sunburns to skin cancer, getting too much sun can be harmful. Here are our top 3 tips for protecting yourself from the sun:

1. Wear the right sunscreen

Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause serious harm over time. In fact, as few as five bad sunburns in an individual’s late teens can increase their chances of developing melanoma (the most threatening form of skin cancer) by 80%.

Protect yourself with an efficient sunscreen.

Look for a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will block both UVA rays (which can cause cancer) and UVB rays (which can cause sunburns). Put on your sunscreen half an hour before going out into the sun. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or working up a sweat.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30. The higher the SPF is, the better the protection will be. A common misconception about SPF is that the number identifies the amount of time the protection lasts. In fact, the SPF actually refers to the amount of UVB rays that are blocked. Only SPF 100 blocks 99% of rays.

Tip: When you’re shopping for sunscreen try to choose one that won’t harm the environment.

Certain sunscreen ingredients can be as harmful for coral and other marine life as they are healthy for us. The products we apply to our bodies before entering the water can add up. Studies have shown that about 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen end up in reef areas every year, especially around tourist sites. Think of coral when choosing your sunscreen.

Here are 5 “reef-friendly” sunscreens:

1. Reef Repair Suncream

2. Tropical Sands Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

3. Goddess Garden Organics Mineral Sunscreen

4. Amavera Transparent Mineral Sunscreen

5. All Good Sport Sunscreen

2. Wear the right sunglasses

The sun’s rays can also harm your eyes. Protecting your eyes from UV rays can prevent cataracts, retina damage, and abnormal tissue growth. Unfortunately, not all sunglasses are created equal. Many sunglasses won’t provide the best level of protection possible.

Some sunglasses merely darken the area around your eye, allowing your pupils to dilate more than they would without sunglasses (while also not blocking the sun’s harmful rays). This lets even more harmful rays into your eyes but offers no protection against them.

Invest in a pair of sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.

Photo by Free-Photos

If you plan to spend time by the water, consider using sunglasses with polarized lenses to cut down on the sun’s reflected glare. Keep in mind that water, sand, and even snow will reflect the sunlight up into your eyes.

3. Wear the right clothing

You may also consider investing in Sun Protective Clothing, which is made from materials with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Sun Protective Clothing can absorb or block harmful UV radiation and protect you even better than sunscreen. For example, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98% of the sun’s rays, and all with no reapplying needed.

Many of the items in your closet may already offer sun protection.

Loose fitting, dark coloured, densely woven fabrics block more sunlight than tight, light, loosely woven ones. Cotton absorbs UV rays and shiny materials (like silks and polyesters) reflect them. Wear a hat with a wide brim for even more effective protection on your scalp, face, and neck.

Keep in mind that if your clothing (sun protective or otherwise) gets wet or stretched out and becomes more transparent, it won’t protect you as well.

When you’re outside soaking up the sun and enjoying its many benefits, make sure that you’re also staying safe!

More Articles Like This


Swim Guide
is supported by
* The RBC Foundation

Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs at the beach or advisories from official government agencies. Stay alert and check for other swimming hazards such as dangerous currents and tides. Please report your pollution concerns so Affiliates can help keep other beach-goers safe.

Swim Guide, "Swim Drink Fish icons," and associated trademarks are owned by SWIM DRINK FISH CANADA.| See Legal.

© SWIM DRINK FISH CANADA, 2011 - 2020