Sun and UV-light exposure is essential for healthy bodily functions. Avoiding the sun completely and at all cost is actually harmful to one’s biology.
And most people aren’t getting nearly enough sun and natural light — which is the real problem. We spend too much time indoors. So it’s vital to take advantage of the sun whenever you can, because exposure to natural light does so much more than just helping us produce vitamin D.
Benefits of sun exposure
The primary, and the most known, benefit of sun exposure (or exposure to UV light) is the synthesis of vitamin D. Sun exposure provides biophotons that stimulate the production of it. But a little side note, vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin. It’s an energy boosting hormone which has a profound effect on our health. It plays a crucial role in the regulation of calcium metabolism, insulin secretion, blood pressure, immunity, and cell propagation.
The 10am UVA is important for the production of nitric oxide for mitochondrial energy, serotonin and other feel-good hormones to get us pumped for the day ahead.
Adequate naturtal light exposure positively affects our brains and bodies. The morning sun also helps to stimulate wound healing, collagen production, bone healing, energy and even has anti-aging benefits. On top, sunrise preconditions our skin to protect us from UVA+UVB light later in the day. It also enhances mood & sleep, produces dopamine & serotonin, improves blood oxygenation, lowers glucose and plays a role in maintaining healthy circadian rhythm & hormonal cycles.
Also, as little as 30 minutes in the morning sun can significantly impact your sleep quality at night.
Morning sun reinforces our natural circadian rhythm, which is tied to the patterns of the sun. Exposing your eyes to sunlight in the early morning signals the brain to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and stimulates the release of the happy hormone serotonin.
If we could bottle sunshine, it would arguably be the most powerful supplement on the market.
So if the sun is so healthy, what’s all the fuss about staying away from it?
The problem with most people is that they are not ready to spend the entire day in the sun. And probably, in most cases nobody really should. Even animals on pastures hide under the trees during the hours when sun is the strongest.
But what do we humans do? After hiding and hibernating indoors for months, we go on a holiday and spend a full day on the beach and turn into lobsters.
Sunscreens promise to protect us from this. Many sunscreens would also label themselves as protecting against both UVA and UVB. These are two different wavelengths of UV rays.
UVA radiation penetrates your skin more deeply and can cause your skin cells to age faster and prematurely. It causes wrinkles and collagen loss due to oxidative damage. However, UVA exposure increases nitric oxide which is a vasodilator. It improves blood flow, oxygenation, lowers respiratory rate and blood glucose levels.
UVB on the other hand creates a protective layer on your skin and gives you a nice tan through the production of the pigment melanin. It is also the driving force behind production of vitamin D. But too much UVB can also burn you.
It is clear that none of the rays are purely harmful or beneficial. All UV subtypes have both potentially beneficial and potentially harmful effects. They behave differently and so it’s really a matter of being mindful about the amount of exposure.
Too much time in the sun can be just as harmful as not enough of it.
The tricky part is that smearing sunscreen all over while being outdoors will inhibit most if not all of the benefits of sun exposure.
The information and advice out there can be pretty confusing, so you really need to assess your own situation and make wise decisions. And maybe it will be a hat and staying in the shade during the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm). Or maybe, you will opt for sunscreen. And both are fine.
However, since there is a real danger in certain climates, areas, times of the day and situations, sunscreen can be an essential companion. But it is also essential to know how to pick a good product that’s actually not harming you, instead of helping you.
Our skin is our largest organ and what you put on your skin will get absorbed into your body and ultimately your bloodstream. What you put on your skin really matters. So choosing the right creams – including sunscreen, is very important. Especially because for many, it’s a daily product year round.
Did you know you can naturally protect yourself from the sun?
To protect us from the adverse effects, sunscreen is the most opted choice. However, there are other ways to increase our sun tolerance. Protective clothing, natural skin food, and supplements are some of the alternate ways to explore.
Gradual Sun Exposure
Most of us hide indoors in the winters. Then comes the summer and we overcompensate for the last months and stay out all day. Even better, we go to a warmer country in the middle of winter and spend the entire day at the beach. Then hide the next day in our hotel room with lots of aloe vera and sunburns.
It is a very simple technique, but slow and gradual sun exposure gives our skin and body the time to adapt. This prevents bad sunburns and rashes. You build your tolerance over time.
Eating right has more benefits than we know. There are certain foods that can promote healthy skin, reduce inflammation, and build natural skin immunity against sun, pollution, and the likes.
Healthy fats like monounsaturated (olive oil and avocado), saturated (coconut oil and animal fats) and omega 3 fats (from wild caught fish) are some good examples. Another tip that can help you is limiting the intake of omega 6 found in nuts and seeds, but also in the fat of conventionally raised animals.
On the other side, sugar, processed food, and vegetable oils can worsen inflammation and make your skin less resilient.
Increase antioxidants intake
Antioxidants are really helpful to reduce inflammation and skin damage. They are also known to reverse damage from overexposure to UV rays. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 are all powerful antioxidants. From our food category, berries, dark chocolates, red wine, and coffee, are all packed with antioxidants.
Vitamin C, coconut oil, and astaxanthin are all known to help us from the sun. In fact, astaxanthin is known as the “internal sunscreen” as it is a highly beneficial antioxidant. However, it is important to check with your professional, such as a functional medicine practitioner, the use of any supplements for your particular case.
Reminder, do not shy away from the sun!
Like anything in life, when you are aware of the pros and cons, you can make healthy decisions and find the best approach! And if nothing else, practice moderation in your relationship with sunlight.