What Exactly Is SAFE Sun Exposure?

What Exactly Is SAFE Sun Exposure? | Growing Up Herbal | Curious what safe sun exposure looks like? Here are three tips for staying safe in the sun.

So far this month I’ve been talking about some sun related things like how we need Vitamin D, an essential nutrient that comes from sun exposure, and understanding SPF in sunscreens.

Both of these things are important topics when it comes to healthy sun exposure, and I’d like to talk more about that today.

Yes… we want to soak up the sun to get the health benefits it gives us, but we want to do it without burning. So what does safe sun exposure look like? Let’s look at a few things.

#1 – We Need To Tan

Since our bodies need Vitamin D, and our best source for Vitamin D is the sun, we need to get out in it more.

We’re supposed to expose ourselves to the sun for a minimum of 20-30 minutes a day in order to give our bodies the chance to produce the Vitamin D it needs. And it’s not just we adults that need it. The same goes for our kids too.

One thing to consider is that the darker our skin is, the longer we need to stay in the sun in order to get the right amount of Vitamin D. UV rays don’t penetrate darkened skin as easily as it does lighter skin so it can take a bit longer to trigger the body into producing vitamin D in these cases. On the other hand, red-heads and those with fair skin have less melanin in their skin which causes them to burn easy and tan less. That means that 20 minutes may be too long and that 10 or so may be better here.

For the majority of people, the longer and more often we expose our skin to the sun, the more tan it will become. This allows us to be able to stay out in the sun longer without reddening as quickly which means we won’t need sunscreen to protect ourselves… our tan will protect us.

Just think about people with different colored skin and where those races are mainly found in the world. Darker skinned people are mainly populated in regions near the equator while fairer skinned people typically live in areas further from the equator. Of course, nowadays this isn’t always true because so many of us travel and live in places other than those we were born to, but I think you hear what I’m saying. The color of our skin protects us from the sun, and it’s a form of safe sun exposure.

Tans aren’t always a bad thing. They’re a protective measure our skin is taking to shield itself, and I personally think it was intended to be a good thing. Of course, there will be people that take it to the extreme, but I’m talking about moderation and common sense here.

#2 – We Need To Prevent Sunburn

Getting a tan is not related to getting a sunburn!

I used to think that getting a burn was a good thing because afterward, you’d tan, but that should tell you how far I’ve come in learning about natural health and taking care of my body.

So just to make sure I’m loud and clear here… burning is NOT a good thing.

Burns are a huge contributor to skin cancer among light-skinned people, and they’re hard to recognize until after it’s too late. Did you know that red skin doesn’t even start to appear until hours after the burning has occurred? It’s like a silent killer. Sunburns also lead to wrinkles and brown age spots on the skin as we age. The older I’m getting, the more I regret spending my summers laying out by the pool and all those burns I got as a result. It’s either that or I’m not nourishing my skin enough because the wrinkles are spreading across my face!

Yes, we need to get out in the sun to get our Vitamin D, but we also need to be careful not to stay out in it so long that we burn. The sun’s rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 AM – 3 PM so if you’re out and about during that time, get your vitamin D and then shield yourself somehow. You can wear a hat, where light, protective clothing, or wear a 100% natural sunscreen that’s free of toxins. There are many options, but whatever you do, work at not getting burnt.

#3 – We Need To Limit Sunscreen

I know, I know, I know! I just said to wear a 100% natural sunscreen, but that should only be used after you’ve gotten some sun… not as soon as you step out into it.

We really should try to stay away from sunscreen if at all possible… especially store-bough sunscreens that are full of synthetic chemicals that are harmful to our bodies. Even some natural sunscreens can be bad for our skin.

Did you know that traditional natural sunscreens contain zinc oxide? Zinc acts as a coating on the skin that reflects the suns UV rays away from the skin, preventing burns. The downside to zinc sunscreens is that they leave your skin kinda white looking. So now, new zinc is out and about, and it’s called nano-particle zinc. This means that the zinc particles are so small they absorb into your skin and don’t leave you with that white pasty look we all don’t care for. The problem with this is that you’re now absorbing zinc in your skin and this newer nano-particle zinc has been linked to things like skin aging and cancers. I say, no thank you… I’ll stick with being white and skip cancer and old looking skin! Plus… I’ll make sure to find some non-nano zinc sunscreen when I need to use it.

What Does Safe Sun Exposure Look Like?

Well, there are a lot of different ways to stay safe in the sun, but here’s what it looks like to me.

When warm weather rolls around and the sun decides to share some of its warmth with us, we start going out for brief periods of time to enjoy the day and play for a bit. I try to get as much of our skin exposed to the sun as possible without offending anyone or making my boys thing that their mama is one of those “immodest ladies”! We usually stay out for 20 minutes or so… just long enough to have some fun and then we either go back in to do other things or we stay out and cover up with more clothes.

As the days go along, we all tend to get a nice little tan by doing this, and we are able to stay out longer without looking red or getting a burn. Again… our tan becomes our protection.

The exception to this rule is when we go to the beach, to an amusement part, or if we’re going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time. Then what we do is we try to stay covered with light clothing and use a good quality sunscreen on the parts of our bodies that are exposed ONLY after we’ve gotten some sun that day… not immediately upon going out.

To me, this is safe sun exposure, and thankfully my kids have never gotten a sunburn so far so it’s working for us!

What does safe sun exposure look like to you and your family?


  1. Rebecca says:

    Great info! Do you have any sunscreens you recommend? I really struggle with finding even natural ones with safe ingredients. We avoid them unless we are at the beach and will be in the sun for hours and hours.

    • Meagan says:

      I hear you Rebecca. We do the same as far as using sunscreen. I don’t really have any name brand ones that I recommend. It’s tough because big companies (even natural ones) have to preserve their products because they’re manufactured in such large numbers that they need the product to stay good for months on end. Little handmade businesses… like Growing Up Herbal and others on Etsy or in your local towns… make things fresh in small batches and so our products don’t go bad as quickly since they’re fresher.

      I’ve always made my own, and I’ll be putting it up for sale in my shop in the next week or so, but you can always browse Etsy for some other good ones too. Just make sure they’re using non-nano zinc in it. Check out Frugally Sustainable on Etsy… she has one that’s in stick form and will have some different things than mine will have. Mine is a cream. I really like her stuff… she knows what she’s doing. Hope that helps you some.

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