Let’s Practice Moderate Sun Exposure This Summer
I recently made an online purchase and, when it arrived, there was a 4-page flyer in my package completely devoted to natural sunscreens. It’s that time of year! The time of year when many of us have to start thinking about how to avoid sun burns while still enjoying outdoor summer activities.
Sunscreen has been widely promoted as a way to reduce the risk of skin-cancer for quite some time now, but, despite this increased awareness, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise.
The reasons behind this increase are complex. What’s important to note is that, while we should take action to prevent sunburns, moderate sun exposure is important to our health for many reasons.
Here’s the thing: non-burning sun exposure has been associated with a decreased risk of the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma, but sunburns are associated with a doubling of the risk of melanoma. Avoiding the sun as much as possible and using sunscreen everyday of the year is not the answer, nor is sunbathing as much as you like and ignoring the risk of burns. Let’s meet half way, shall we?
Not only does non-burning sun exposure decrease your risk of melanoma, it also increases vitamin D levels. Vitamin D insufficiency is extremely common. Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and sunscreens block this process. Even those who supplement with the recommended daily dose of vitamin D often have low levels of this vitamin. Fifteen minutes (or more if you have a darker skin tone) of unprotected sun exposure per day will have a positive effect on your vitamin D levels, which is protective against many cancers.
So, we want the best of both worlds. We want to get safe amounts of sunlight, while doing what we can to avoid harmful sunburns.
One of the best places to start is with your diet. Eating a whole-foods diet that is rich in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fats like avocado, fish, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and good-quality animal products, improves the health of the skin. Healthy skin can better protect itself from the effects of the sun! Many people notice that they burn less easily when they switch to a whole-foods diet, rich in healthy fats.
Focus next on getting small amounts of unprotected sun exposure before either seeking shade or covering up with a shirt and a hat. If you have fare skin, you may want to start with just 15 minutes. Darker skin needs more time to produce vitamin D so more exposure may be necessary.
For occasions when you’ll be spending prolonged time in the sun, and a shirt and hat just won’t cut it, look for natural sunscreens. There is concern around the ingredients in chemical sunscreens and their potential health effects so opt instead for mineral-based formulas with natural ingredients. The medicinal ingredient to look for is non-nano zinc oxide. This natural mineral is highly effective and safe.
Remember that sunscreens are not effective all day, so you’ll want to reapply them every couple hours if you’re spending a lot of time in the sun. A hat and sunglasses is always a good idea, regardless!
The takeaway: sun is good for us in the right amount! The sun is not something that should be feared, and humans are meant to be outside. But we need to be responsible about it and do what we need to do to avoid burns and know when we’ve had too much. Now let’s get out there and enjoy our summer activities (just throw in a hat, shirt and maybe some sunscreen too)!
By: Ali MacBoudreau
Ali MacBoudreau, is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. Her mission is to help you discover just how vibrant and amazing you can feel, by giving you the tools you need to make lasting changes. (Hint, it involves delicious food!) To learn more about Ali and holistic nutrition please visit her website https://www.holisticali.com/about