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Healthy in the Sun: drop the fear & get out there!

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

The other day I was doing a quick arm workout on peloton. The coach was wearing a matching caramel colored sports bra and workout pants and she was joking that she was a walking latte. She was not wrong. It’s the kind of color you must have a decent tan to pull off, or else people passing by may have to do a double take to confirm you are in fact, wearing clothes. She pulled it off, since as she assured, had gotten a fake tan.


She included a warning pleading with those taking the class to “please take care of your body and wear SPF 1000”! Then she proceeded to encourage us to get a spray tan instead.

So to be clear, covering your body in chemicals that change the color of your skin is better than allowing our skin to be in the sun. Interesting. This coach also concluded that if you’re taking her class, you must take care of your body and therefore likely protect your body in a way that you do wear sunscreen, SPF 1000 to be exact.


This recommendation is not uncommon. Essentially fear the sun, cover your entire body with chemicals to “protect” yourself and better yet, avoid it and stay in the shade or indoors. It’s so common, what I’m about to share will likely have you roll your eyes at me at best. It may even cause you to stop reading through the end. If that’s you, thanks for making it this far ;)

This is a subject I’ve been particularly passionate about for a while. I remember thinking about this as far back as high school and not understanding or resonating with the logic that covering your skin with a man made chemical is better for you than the sun, that God created.


What if there were actually benefits to the sun? Is avoiding/covering in clothes/lathering on man made sunscreens the only way to “protect”? Are there other ways to prevent sun burns? Let's see.





Are there actually benefits to sun exposure?

“Everything in Nature seeks the Sun.

Flowers turn to face it.

Plants expand to catch it.

Animals come out to graze in it.

Water reflects to capture it.

Fruits ripen to code it.

Humans slather toxins on their skin to

block it.” -SimpleOrganix


The sun provides and sustains energy and LIFE.


A majority of what we hear is how harmful the sun is. But are there benefits to sun exposure?


While my logic tells me the sun is beneficial and not getting sun has its own harm, we’ve been scared into thinking that could not be remotely true. And it turns out there are many studies confirming this to be true, that the benefits of being in the sun far outweigh the risks. Slathering up in sunscreen and clothing prevents the body from absorbing the many benefits, including, but not limited to vitamin d. Vitamin D is a big factor in preventing cancer.

A study out of Oslo University Hospital in Norway concluded:


“It can be estimated that increased sun exposure to the Norwegian population might at worst result in 200-300 more cancer from malignant melanoma deaths per year, but it would elevate the vitamin D status by about 25 nmol/l (nanomoles per liter) and might result in 4,000 fewer internal cancers and about 3,000 fewer cancer deaths overall.”


What about the kids? Parents do what they believe to be best! Every time we’re at the pool, park, anywhere outdoors without fail I see parent after parent slathering sunscreen over their kids- no matter the age (well likely beyond 6 months). But kids need vitamin d and many aren't getting even close to a sufficient amount. This is confirmed by multiple studies showing kids with proper amounts of vitamin d have better mental and physical health. Then there's the whole getting covered in the toxins from the sunscreen. Double whammy.


More benefits

There could be a whole post on light therapy. You know how there are different colors of light at different times of the day? Morning sun is healing, rejuvenating and getting unfiltered light on your face and in your eyes before any artificial light (wait to check your phones!) resets your circadian rhythm and actually helps your body get better sleep! It's great for hormone balance, mood, and more. Then there's the evening light. Reds, pinks those kinds of colors. Have you been hearing about the red light therapy craze? We can get that from the sun too, so maybe hold off on the evening Netflix binge and get some of the beautiful healing evening sunlight in your eyes! No sunglasses allowed! This is not nearly comprehensive enough, but a mini cliff note version.


Sunscreen, the sun and cancer

The foundation for the general recommendations around sun and the motivation behind the massive push for sunscreen is to prevent cancer and wrinkles. I've heard many friends and even clients say that skin cancer runs in their family so they are extra careful to apply sunscreen. There is a LARGE amount of research that confirms that even though sunscreen can prevent burns, it does not prevent cancer, . In fact, it can be a contributing factor.


Additionally, not properly exposing your body to the healing sun (referred to as nature's multi-vitamin) poses more risks, including cancer. Skin cancer, specifically melanoma are rising 4.2% annually despite practically everyone slathering sunscreen when mr. sun, sun, mr. golden sun shines his face.


Trust your body

I’m writing this as I’m 20 weeks pregnant and yesterday we had our ultrasound. We could see the baby’s hands, feet, heart (beating), the umbilical cord, even where it was connected to my placenta. I didn’t consciously make any of that develop in my body. As I’m writing this my body is growing organs, hair, ears, a HUMAN. Ok I digress to make this point. Our bodies are INCREDIBLE. Our bodies are intelligent and intricately designed. Intelligent is an understatement.


Our bodies essentially receive the message of the intensity of the sun through our eyes. When we wear sunglasses it interferes with this, essentially tricking our bodies into thinking the sun is less intense than it actually is. We burn easier when wearing sunglasses for this reason. Crazy, right?


Eat your Sunscreen

What we eat impacts our reaction to the sun. A sunburn is inflammation. Eating a diet of inflammatory foods, including sugar and seed oils (that are in EVERYTHING, including packaged foods found in "health" stores) makes burning more likely and easier. What do most eat while lounging by the pool on a glorious hot summer day? Or how about that annual week Long Beach trip, sipping on cocktails and eating whatever satisfies. Most people are eating the Standard American diet daily anyway (ironically abbreviated and referred to as SAD). This is perfect for creating inflammation and making your body more susceptible to burning.


Eating foods rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, beta carotene, coconut oil, basically real food, prepares your body for the sun without the terrible painful burning. This is where the phrase "eat your sunscreen" comes from. It doesn't literally mean consume your sunscreen, it means that what you put IN your body helps the OUTSIDE of your body. Of course this applies to more areas than just the sun.


Here's what you want to avoid: processed foods, seed oils (MOST important!), grains, and sugars.

Here's what you want more of: Healthy sources of saturated and monosaturated fats, foods high in omega 3s (like fish), leafy greens, 2+ tbs of tomato paste daily

Here is a VERY interesting article with more details on this concept. The author who is of Irish/Scottish decent and burned easily shared that after really focusing on what she was consuming, and getting regular sun exposure, she no longer burned! Even while on a Florida beach vacation.

A better way to approach the sun

When left to do what our bodies do best, and with appropriate and consistent sun exposure, our bodies gradually build an appropriate response to the sun. Melanin is designed to do its thing. Americans spend a large majority of their times indoors, and when outdoors for any length of time are commonly slathered in sunscreen. Coupled with the SAD, it's a perfect storm for burning. This even applies to fair skinned people, too. Everyone has a different "tolerance". There is a scale that can help determine the appropriate length of time a person can spend in direct sun before burning. (I am not denying there is such a thing as over exposure!) But when we have consistent exposure to the sun with no sunglasses, sunscreen, and other "protective" items, our bodies are able to build a healthy base. Soaking in the beautiful benefits of our beautiful sun.


This is the approach I've taken with Norah. We are outside daily. It takes less than the fingers on my left hand to count how many times I have put sunscreen on her. She has a beautiful tan and has not burnt. She is and looks healthy. My goal is to set her up for that consistent sun exposure where her intelligent body can do what it knows to do best. I think we have accomplished that! She also eats a healthy, low inflammatory diet ( I actually cringe at the word diet, but you get my point).


And YES, this applies to fair skinned people too!


But, sometimes we use sunscreen

We basically never wear sunscreen, but when we are somewhere hot and tropical for example we will wear a little. I will put it on during the peak times, but really just watch her skin. I am not a fan of sunscreen for the reasons mentioned above, but perhaps my biggest reason is the chemicals. They are so toxic! Have you been hearing how places like Hawaii are banning sunscreens because it is damaging the coral?! What do you think it's doing to our BODIES??


When we DO wear it, these are the brands I feel ok using sparingly:

  • BeautyCounter

  • DoTerra sunscreen

  • Important note: I care more about after sun care! I have made my own with this recipe or recently got this one from Doterra .

  • Another resource- check out your sunscreen safety rating or discover the top cleanest on the Environmental Working Group .


Let's wrap this up

I had a hard time scaling this post down. There is still so much I could say on this subject. Overall:

  • sunscreen isn't the only option, there are MUCH healthier ways of preventing sunburns including consistent exposure (not burning, but letting your body slowly build the healthy tolerance. We don't need to fear tans!), eating low inflammatory and nutrient dense foods, not wearing sunglasses.

  • the sun has many benefits and does not need to be feared, instead revered! The benefits of the sun far outweigh the risks.

  • Sunscreen, while it can prevent burns, does not prevent skin cancer so this push for sunscreen to prevent cancer needs to be reworded.

If you interested in having your paradigm on the sun shifted, or perhaps you think I am crazy and want to do some more digging on your own, I have included a few podcasts and articles that are very interesting on this subject. You can find them below.


As always, please comment your thoughts below!


A few resources

Articles


Podcasts

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1 comentário


Convidado:
15 de jul. de 2023

Very informative, several of your points are ‘new‘ to me. Thank you and Congratulations on your growing family! Jean D.

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