When we do go into the sun, before we even step one foot into it, we are supposed to bath ourselves (and our children) in chemically laced sunscreens. Perhaps, they are right.
Perhaps God made us to live during the day, but as a cruel joke, made us completely unable to live underneath the sun? Or perhaps, by shielding ourselves from the sunlight since childhood, we are making ourselves weak… like a muscle never used, we are never developing our natural defense.
The venerable medical journal Lancet (Feb, 2004), stated that UVB is actually protective against Melanoma (the most lethal form of skin cancer):
“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”
Instead, many substitute developing their natural defense mechanism for cancer inducing chemicals that block the sun… further complicating the problem and completely denying themselves the health benefits of direct sunlight (which are more than just Vitamin D). Let’s look at some of the top reasons you should be getting direct sunlight:
Vitamin D: This is the obvious and most talked about health benefit of sunlight. It is talked about because so many people in the modern world are vitamin D deficient (they are deficient in many other vitamins and minerals too, but that is another topic all together). It is also talked about because researchers are starting to notice some troubling patterns related to sunlight deficiency, leading to vitamin D deficiency. Most pronounced is the correlation between chronically sick children and vitamin D deficiency. One study noted that 2 out of 5 children admitted to the pediatric ICU, were vitamin D deficient. According to Oregon State University researchers, about 70% of American adults are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased skin cancer, decreased immunity and impaired bone/joint development.
Depression: Exposure to direct sunlight can reduce depression. Serotonin and Endorphin’s are released in our bodies when we are exposed to the sun, leading to a happier mood. Think about it, when you look at people outside… aren’t they usually smiling?
Improved Sleep: The serotonin and melatonin produced when we are in the sun tells our body when it is day and when it is night. If you deprive your body of sun exposure, it has a hard time noticing the chemical variances it relies on for developing sleep patterns. It is especially important not to wear sunglasses all the time as serotonin production begins when sunlight hits the retina.
Lowers Blood Pressure: Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that a substance called nitric oxide is released into the blood when sun touches the skin. This substance lowers blood pressure. Also, just look at the folks pool side, don’t they look like they have low stress and blood pressure?
Improves certain skin conditions: Acne, psoriasis, a-topic dermatitis and Scleroderma are all skin conditions alleviated by sun exposure. The sun is a powerful germ, fungus and bacteria killer. That is why moss only grows on the north side of the tree trunk… the side that does not see direct sun exposure. The bacteria and fungus that cause acne and other skin conditions can be killed by direct sun light.
Good Looks: I had to include this one… after all, no one likes a raw chicken. The chicken looks good when it comes out of the oven, golden brown.
How to get Sun:
Of course this is not a green light to head out in the sun all day. I think we all know what will happen. So here are a few tips to remember so you can maximize your Vitamin D intake, not burn and achieve that golden brown, sun kissed skin tone we all want:
- UVB is good UVA is bad: While UVA will cause your skin to turn red, UVB will turn your skin brown by inducing melatonin production. While UVA will deplete Vitamin D (leading to increased cancer risks), UVB will actually provide cancer protection. Also, remember that UVB rays bounce off the atmosphere when the sun is below a 50 degree angle. Which means, you will only get UVB during the hours of about 10am-3pm (during the summer for most of the US). UVB will not be available for most living in the US during the months of October – March. So get out while you can! Also, note that most sunscreens block UVB as well as UVA, which means in addition to the cancerous chemical used in most sunscreens (to make them waterproof, etc.), you will be loosing out on the cancer fighting UVB rays.
- Know your skin: Everyone has different levels of tolerance and finding your sweet spot will depend on several factors including your genetics, skin tone, skin moisture content, and geographical location. As you develop a base tan, your resistance to UVA will increase and you will be able to enjoy longer duration’s in the sun.
- Consistency not duration: It is better to get 20 minutes of direct sun 3 times per week than 60 minutes all at once. This will help you to develop that base tan that is deeper than just the surface layer. It will also prevent overexposure which can dry the skin and cause premature aging.
As you can see, there are may reasons to ditch the sunscreen and head outdoors this summer! Remember to drink lots of water as your skin needs the hydration (like the rest of your body). Also, limit your sun exposure by alternating between sun and shade as opposed to dumping cancer causing sunscreens all over you and your children!