This week has been absolutely beautiful in London. It seems like when the sun comes out, everyone is happier. After a long winter and lockdown, I personally relished in the heat this week. But oh my goodness was I cringing at some of the things I saw! Although the sun is incredible, especially in the U.K., and has many health benefits, I wanted to give you some quick tips to be out in the sun and protect yourself at the same time.

1. Cover Up

Clothing is your first and most important line of defence when it comes to sun protection. Put down the shorts and spaghetti straps (kidding!) and reach for clothes that provide coverage. Go for breathable fabrics, like cotton or linen. While light colours are more likely to keep you cool, dark coloured clothing is better at blocking the sun’s rays. Harem trousers and cotton or linen tunics are great in the heat. This is even more important for children.

2. Wear a Hat

Make sure you have a wide brimmed hat on that covers all or most of your face and neck. The skin on your face is thinner and more delicate, and therefore can become potentially damaged with less exposure to the sun than the rest of your body.

3. Stay in the Shade

A common misconception is that if you are in the shade, you won’t get enough sun to make vitamin D. This isn’t true! The sun’s UVB rays can pass through trees, bushes, clothing, even clouds. You don’t need sunlight to make vitamin D, just outdoor daytime exposure.

4. Avoid Deliberate Sun Exposure

Stop tanning! While a tan might look good, with or without sunscreen, a tan is horrible for your skin. There were so many shirtless people out this week. You are not doing yourself any favours by laying out and scorching in the sun. If you absolutely need to tan, do it under a tree or beach umbrella. You will still get some colour, but by avoiding direct sunlight, you can minimise the damage. But really, you should never tan or lay out in the sun at all.

5. Ditch the Sunscreen

This is probably the most controversial advice I will give and the one that really winds people up, but hear me out:

  • Sunscreen provides a false sense of protection, which means people will not dress appropriately whilst using it and then sit out in direct sunlight. Every single cancer and general medical body agrees that sunscreen alone cannot provide adequate protection against the sun! Wearing sunscreen alone is like putting on a flame retardant outfit and running into a burning building. While it might lessen the damage, it doesn’t prevent you from burning if there is enough heat.
  • Sunscreen blocks UVB rays, which are the ones you need exposure to in order to convert sunlight to vitamin D.
  • Chemical sunscreen contains endocrine disrupters and mineral sunscreens contain zinc, which leeches magnesium, copper and iron from the body. Both can wreak havoc in your body.
  • Sunscreen is absorbed into the skin and prevents your body from making vitamin D for up to two weeks depending on the SPF. That means for all that laying around, you aren’t even getting any precious vitamin D!

Enjoy the Weather

The best way to enjoy the warm weather and build up your vitamin D stores is in appropriate clothing, without sunscreen, and not deliberately taking in direct sunlight. Go for walks in the woods, picnic under a tree, enjoy the beach under an umbrella. Summer only lasts about four days in the U.K., so you might as well make the most of it while it lasts.

For more information on vitamin D, check out this post.