Is Being Stuck Inside All Day Saving Your Skin?

If you need something positive to latch onto right now, sheltering in place could help you look younger for longer.

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As you surely already know by now, bad, bad things are happening around the world, and therefore, just about everyone has been commanded to stay home until further notice. As expected, while many of us understand and respect the need to sequester ourselves right now, adjusting to life in a small, entirely indoors world can pose some frustrating, awkward and unpleasant logistical problems. To avoid going completely nuts, it might be helpful to search for some silver linings, one of which would be that your tender, delicate, sunburned skin is loving all of this inside time.

“If you have hyperpigmentation, or darkening from the sun, or freckling from sun exposure, being out of the sun may prevent it from getting worse, and some types may even start to fade or dissipate,” explains dermatologist Anthony Rossi. “You can help discoloration along by not only staying out of the sun, but also using lightening creams.”

As Rossi explained to me just a few weeks ago, even a small amount of tanning or redness is a sign that your skin cells are being scorched, which can promptly lead to the development of discoloration, wrinkles and eventually skin cancer. Heck, even your eyeballs can be broken by the sun if you never wear sunglasses. Put simply, you can never truly go overboard when protecting yourself from the sun.

Backing up just a moment, though, as you may already know, the sun can do some good things, too. It helps us produce vitamin D, which maintains our bone health, among other supportive bodily functions. It also seems to counter the wintertime blues, which, per an unexpected series of events, seem to have extended far past wintertime this year. 

But even a little sun goes a long, long way in these regards: One study found that, even in cloudy England, only 13 minutes of midday summer sun exposure three times per week is enough to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D among Caucasian adults. Because people with darker skin are naturally more protected against damage from excess sunlight, they also need to spend more time under the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D, but still not much time.

In other words, a very, very, very small amount of sun is possibly good, and the truth is, even in quarantine, as you stand idly staring out the window and wishing you could go outside again, the sun is still reaching your skin. So if you worry about not getting enough sun in isolation, you can stop worrying now. In fact, if you believe the studies, you might be getting just the right amount of sun — enough to keep your vitamin D levels and mood up, but not enough to damage your skin — right now.

Now we can only hope that the constant, cumulative stress of being quarantined during a worldwide crisis doesn’t undo the benefits of our now-improved skincare.