Summer is on the horizon and that means longer days and even more glorious sun rays! Don’t fear the sun, enjoy the benefits – safely!
There is a reason the sun has been worshiped by Greek and Egyptian cultures for thousands of years. Sunshine is vital to our health. Not only is it warm on our skin, inviting us to step outside, it also is creating a wealth of health when it touches us. We make the hormone Vitamin D when we soak up some rays. We even take in sunshine through our eyes to make Vitamin D, so before the sun is strongest (typically 11am to 3pm) ditch the sunglasses and absorb the beautiful light. Vitamin D from the sunlight is the most natural form of Vitamin D we can take in and it happens to be the most effective.
Just a few things going on in the body that require Vitamin D are: bone strength, immunity against virus and disease, thyroid and hormone regulation, ocular health, blood sugar regulation, and normal cell division. In addition to Vitamin D, the sunlight on our skin creates sulfur and melanin. All three of the ingredients we make from the sun protect our bodies from radiation damage, a dangerous cell mutation that can contribute to cancer.
Just when we think to save ourselves from cancer, we avoid the sun altogether or slather on loads of toxic sunscreen. Doing exactly the opposite on the contrary! So, how do we take in the health benefits and keep ourselves from the burn and sting when we’ve stayed too long? The safer options are to take in the sun without sun protection before the solar rays are too hot. From sunrise until before solar noon (when the sun is hottest and high in the sky) take in 5-20 minutes of sunlight through the skin and eyes (you don’t have to look up into the sky for this!). Imagine the sun isn’t strong when you can watch a sunrise or a sunset. Yet, if you look up into the sky at high noon, you will be blinded by the sun and even see spots, indicating the sun is at full strength. If you are very fair, you may want to reduce the time you bare your skin to the solar rays, as each person’s melanin levels differ. Always start slowly and introduce your bare skin back to the sun gradually. When you are in the hot sun and your bare skin time is up, put on a safe sunscreen, sunglasses, and even a hat to shade your face and shoulders.
Is there unsafe sunscreen? Yes! Steer clear of any sunscreen containing oxybenzone. It’s carcinogenic when in the sunshine – meaning it will produce free radicals and damage our DNA. This ingredient is also a well-known hormone disruptor, causing your hormone receptors to miscommunicate with each other. Other hormone disrupting chemicals commonly used in sunscreens are avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, and octisalate. Check the labels and leave anything with those ingredients on the shelf. Safe sunscreen options are our mineral friends zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These minerals provide a physical shield against the sun’s hot rays versus a chemical absorption of the UVA/UVB rays. They also will not cause the ocean’s coral reefs any harm like many of the chemical based sunscreens.
An easy to find mineral based sunscreen is Sun Bum’s mineral SPF 30. You will see it at the pharmacy and grocery stores in the summer months. Sometimes folks tend to shy away from zinc oxide because it can leave a white cast on the skin. Zinc oxide is a white powder but there are options with tints of cocoa powder to combat the white cast. A favorite, trusty brand to check out is called Raw Elements. They have several options of zinc oxide-based sunscreens that are packed with other non-toxic ingredients like green tea extract (a great antioxidant to fight radical damage), soothing shea butter and cocoa butter for skin quenching hydration. They have tinted options and even their un-tinted options go on clear.
We can also eat foods and use oils to help our skin stay in synch with the sun. Diets rich in sun-ripened nutrients can help build our tolerance to sunburn. Plants like tomatoes, berries, watermelon, and leafy greens are all rich in antioxidants. Oils that help summer skin, like red raspberry seed oil, virgin coconut, jojoba, and olive oil, all have properties that absorb UVB and scatter UVA rays. They make hydrating skin in the summertime ideal! If you do get sunburn, you can use jojoba or aloe and mix in lavender and peppermint oil for an instant cooling and healing mixture.
Enjoy the summer days and sunny rays!