Five Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun


By: Dr. Daniel DeLapp, Health Centers of UWS – East Portland Clinician

If you are like me, you look forward to the summer all winter long. Sunshine not only feels good, but it’s good for you. Safe sun exposure is essential for optimal health, but incorrect exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. Even five minutes in the summer sun can do you harm if your skin is not used to it. Build up your tolerance slowly. The following are some recommendations for safe sun exposure.

  1. For the first few days limit your exposure to 5 minutes without sunscreen.  This gives your skin’s melanocyte cells a chance to produce a protective pigmentation that not only gives you a tan, but also protects you from overexposure. The more tanned your skin gets, the longer you can stay in the sun.  If you are a light skinned individual, you may never be able to tolerate more than 15-20 minutes.
  2. Wear sun-protective clothing that is labeled with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). A plain white t-shirt has a UPF rating of five to eight, which only partially blocks the sun. Good protection starts at a UPF of 15-20. Excellent protection is 40-50 UPF.
  3. Find shade or make it.
  4. Wear sunglasses and big hats to protect your eyes and your face.
  5. When the options above are not possible, then sunscreen is recommended. Use mineral-based sunscreens, like those with zinc or titanium. They are harder to spread on the skin, but less likely to trigger allergic or toxic reactions than sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, synthetic fragrance or retinyl palmitate. Use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 plus and re-apply every two hours.

Dr. Daniel DeLapp is a chiropractic physician, naturopathic physician and a licensed acupuncturist. He is currently working at the University of Western States East Portland clinic with more than 25 years of clinical and teaching experience.