Sunshine: Good or Bad?

Ahhh. It’s finally summer. Lazy days on the water. Pithy summer novels. Campfire cookouts, mosquito bites and lobster red sunburn…

I love sunshine. After literally 9 months of bitter winter grays I adore the first rays of spring warmth. I feel the need to turn my face toward the sun at every opportunity to soak up the golden beams as if my skin were starved and can’t get enough.

The sun provides crucial vitamin D nutrients that assist our bodies with immunity, calcium absorption, cancer-fighting, migraine reducing, wound healing, energy boosting and mood lifting. Vitamin D is also super important in regulating over 2000 genes.

The sun’s rays are divided into UVA and UVB radiation. Too much UVA and you increase your risk of cancer. UVB contains photons that combine with the cholesterol in our bodies to make vitamin D3. The body can store limited D3 until you need it for all of the uses listed above. Sunshine is the optimal way to acquire vitamin D. In northern climates most may need to supplement with D3 in the winter or even year ‘round.

Most sunscreens will block both UVA and UVB. Sunscreen with SPF as low as 8 will block up to 97% of vitamin D production.  When we only have a short 3 months to gather as much vitamin D as possible the last thing we want to do is block it out.

How do we get vitamin D and protect our skin from harmful UVAs? Be sun smart and use the right sunscreen, if needed.

Sunbathe responsibly by using short but frequent exposures to the sun until your skin is golden and can handle longer episodes. The more direct the sun’s rays the more potent the radiation. You may only need to be out for 10 minutes at noon as opposed to 45 minutes later in the day. Vitamin D saturation is indicated by the pinking of the skin. Once pinking is noticed you should go indoors, apply safe sunscreen or cover up with lightweight clothing as well as hats and sunglasses.  If you work outdoors and are continually exposed to the sun a quality sunscreen is a must!

The older we get the longer it takes to synthesize vitamin D from sunshine. Older folks will need longer stints in the sun as well as darker skinned folk. Be in tune with your skin and know when you have had enough.  Also, to maximize absorption do not rinse your skin for 30-60 minutes following sunbathing. The oils on your skin are an important factor in the synthesis.

Your skin is your largest organ. All lotions and creams enter the blood stream trans-dermally. In other words, they soak through your skin. Don’t put anything on your skin that you are not willing to put in your mouth! Sunscreens included. Some sunscreens contain very dangerous, cancer causing chemicals especially for babies and children. Steer clear of oxybenzone, PABA, aluminum, avobenzone, salicylates and homosalate.

Zinc oxide is a very safe sun block but goes on thick. Dr. Mercola and EWG carry great information and products with safe ingredients. More information on vitamin D can be found at Vitamin D Council.

If you do end up looking like a lobster you can ease the pain and speed healing by applying aloe vera gel or coconut oil. Nutritionally you can add colorful fruits and vegetables as well as green tea (full of anti-oxidants) to your diet to provide healing nutrients before and after sun exposure. Also be sure to get enough Omega 3s (flax, fish, walnuts, chia) and saturated fats (butter, palm oil and coconut oil). These fats protect skin and can help you be more UVA resistant.

Be smart this summer while out and about. Take care of yourself and do the best you can to prevent sunburn while still getting your all important vitamin D.

Info you can TRUST!

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