How long can you be in the sun without sunscreen?
We all know that the sun is a healthy source of vitamin D and sunlight is required to keep our bodies healthy. But how long can you be in the sun without sunscreen before it becomes damaging? There are numerous factors involved such as the intensity of the UV rays, the current season, your environment and the time of day. In this
How long do you need to be in the sun for?
Vitamin D is an important vitamin for our health. It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. This is crucial for maintaining bones, teeth and healthy muscles. A lack of vitamin D will probably lead to bone deformities, an example of one is rickets in children. Another condition caused by a lack of vitamin D is called osteomalacia which affects adults and can cause severe bone pain. So you can see exactly why sunlight is crucial for us. Although we need sunlight, we need to make sure we do not get too much as this can be damaging to our skin. The amount of time needed for enough vitamin D is roughly a minimum of twenty minutes in the sun although time can vary slightly based on different individuals.
How long in the sun is too much for our skin?
This is all dependant on skin type and UV radiation and is an important factor when knowing how long you can be in the sun without sunscreen. There are many different skin types and a good scale to refer to would be the Fitzpatrick skin types scale. The Fitzpatrick scale was developed in 1975 by Harvard Medical School dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick, MD, PhD. The scale classifies skin types by their response to sun exposure and degree of burning and tanning.
As you can see above, the skin types were classified into six different groups. Depending on your skin type and the UV index that day, the time needed for skin damage to occur is different. You can use the simple calculations below to determine this.
Skin Type Max | Time in Sun (min)
Type 1 | 166 / UV Index
Type 2 | 200 / UV Index
Type 3 | 266 / UV Index
Type 4 | 333 / UV Index
Type 5 | 533 / UV Index
Type 6 | 1000 / UV Index
To give a demonstration of how the above calculations work. We will pretend the UV index for today is 11 and you have type 1 skin type. 166 divided by 11 would be 15 minutes. So, for today you can be in the sun for fifteen minutes without wearing sunscreen before skin damage would occur.
Do your surrounding affect how long you can be in the sun without skin damage occurring?
Simply put, no. There is a common misconception that different environments such as the ocean can intensify burning. While water does reflect light and can intensify it. The water would not intensify the UV rays. So, in all fairness being wet would not decrease the amount of time you can be in the sun. The reason why people tend to burn easier while swimming etc, is because the water has a cooling effect, so you become unaware that you are burning. This is why it is vital to know how long you can be in the sun without wearing sunscreen.
Does the season affect how long I can be in the sun?
The answer is, yes and no. Different seasons bring different UV strengths. For example, in the UK, the UV strength is on average 6. Sometimes it can reach 8 but this is dependant on the weather for that day. You have to keep in mind that different locations on the planet have different UV strengths for their summer. The closer to the equator you get the more intense the UV rays become.
Does the temperate affect the strength of the UV rays?
Again, there is a common misconception that the hotter it is outside, the stronger the UV rays. This common misconception came about because generally if it is hot outside, you will be in a season with higher UV rays. If you were in the UK this February, the temperature reached 20 degrees Celsius. The UV index remained 2. This is because it is winter. In summer if the temperature was 20 degrees, the UV index would roughly be 6. So just because it is hotter, does not mean that the UV rays are more intense. This will be important to know in the future due to global warming causing higher average temperatures.
How do I check the UV index?
You certainly do not want skin damage. So there are many various websites which will allow you to check the UV index so that you don’t spend to long in the sun. A good website that I use is https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather this is because it gives me all the information about the weather for that day and also shows me how intense the UV rays are using the UV index. You can then use this index to find out how long you can be in the sun without sunscreen by combining it with the calculations above.
To conclude, people with different skin types can be in the sun for different amount of times without skin damage. It is important you find out how long is best for you as damaged skin is irreparable. Please keep in mind that you do need sunlight to produce vitamin D which is crucial for your health, so don’t be scared to get some of those glorious rays!