By: Mike Swain December 17, 2010–
Braving the midday sun is not such a crazy thing to do after all – in Britain.
In fact, it could be the best time to soak up the rays so that your body gets enough vitamin D for healthy bones.
Contrary to the cover-up message in Noel Coward’s famous song, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, experts reckon that some unprotected sun exposure around noon is vital to health.
Seven leading health groups and charities recommend up to 15 minutes of bare skin exposure three times a week in summer. And midday is best.
Before 10am and after 4pm the rays are too weak in the UK even in summer to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
But they stress that people should “never be red” at the end of the day as sunburn could lead to skin cancer. After 15 minutes it is time to go in, cover up or slap on sunscreen.
The guidance hopes to make it clear that “little and frequent” sun exposure is a good thing and that it is important to strike a balance between adequate vitamin D and avoiding skin cancer.
Professor Rona Mackie, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “Some of the messages about sunbathing have been a bit too negative. UK sunshine is not desperately strong.
“Exposing your face, arms and legs three times a week will do no harm.
“But your skin should not look as if it has been in the sun all day.”
And in the dark days of winter she advises keeping up vitamin D levels with “a holiday to the Canaries”.