How Long You Should Actually Be Staying In The Sun

If it feels winter has been especially long, you're probably craving a nice vacation that involves the sun and the sand. But while you deserve to spend time out at the park, the beach, or the pool, you still need to practice safe sun habits — and that means limiting your time out in the sun. 

Beyond its soothing warmth, being out in the sun can be good for your health, too. The sun's rays help our bodies synthesize vitamin D, and vitamin D serves you in important ways by supporting healthy bones and teeth, reducing the risks of certain diseases, and combatting depression. Vitamin D may also help with weight loss (via Healthline). But, staying in the sun for too long can impose certain risks such as sunburns, permanent skin damage, and skin cancer (via the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So if getting vitamin D is a good thing, how do you manage those benefits against the real dangers of overexposing yourself? How long is too long to stay in the sun?

It's a balancing act

One thing to take into consideration when trying to figure out how long you should be staying out in the sun is the time of year. During the spring and summer, it takes only 10 to 20 minutes to absorb an optimal amount of vitamin D, whereas, in the wintertime, it could take nearly two hours to absorb the same amount (via Science Daily).

Another thing to consider when deciding how long you should stay in the sun is if your skin has low levels of melanin. If you don't have much melanin in your skin, you will burn more easily, and should therefore probably err on the side of caution and reduce the amount of time that you expose yourself to the sun (via the US National Library of Medicine).

If you see yourself staying out in the sun for more than 20 minutes a day, even if you are someone who tans, you should apply sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50 for what will be at least 90 percent protection against the damaging rays, and reapply every two hours (via Live Science). 

And don't worry too much about sunscreen mitigating the sun's benefits. According to Harvard Health Publishing, using sunscreen may not reduce your absorption of vitamin D.  However, if you are vitamin-D deficient and are concerned about overstaying your welcome under the rays, you can alternatively look to vitamin D-rich foods or supplements to give you a boost.