It’s the question that leads to vitamin D absorption and the controversial studies about not using sunscreen. Right now, when I think about sunscreen or sunblock I have to simplify it for myself in order to score the benefits of the sun, while playing it safe.
I’m not a scientist so I go by a mix of science studies that I’ve read and my own intuition. I take vitamin D via fish oil, don’t stress over a little time in the direct sunlight without protection, and when I do slap on some sunscreen I stay away from chemicals - especially and loudly oxybenzone.
We spend much less time outside in today’s Western world than our ancestors, as our jobs are commonly inside and we’ve been brainwashed to use sunscreen to protect ourselves from the big bad UV rays that can cause skin cancer.
When the act of doing so blocks our skin from creating vitamin D. Sunlight also triggers the release of super important elements in the body like serotonin, endorphins, and nitric oxide. The last is what rises when we’re exposed to the sun - leading to lowering our blood pressure.
My aim is always to enjoy some sunlight and spend time outside - while sustaining healthy vitamin D levels. Also it’s good to remember that this isn’t a one size fits all. What works for someone like me who’s born in the North Atlantic is vastly different from a person born in North Brazil and doesn’t need to own a sweater for example. I do however always use sun protection when skiing (or on reflective surfaces).
In short, I allow myself to absorb the magnificent sunlight up to 30 min sans sunscreen. That way my body can absorb vitamin D and soak up important health benefits - including elevated mood. After those golden 30 minutes I mindfully layer up on all-natural sunscreen to avoid sunburn and dance into the moonlight.
Fun and interesting reads on the topic Is Sunscreen the New Margarine