The sun is our ally
The sun is not your enemy. Yet, there is a lot more money to be made by scaring people out of the sun than getting people to enjoy sunshine consciously and responsibly. The current messaging around the sun is one-sided and fear based. It's solely focused on the damages of overexposure whilst ignoring the other equally significant factors of skin damage and ageing - diet and alcohol. It also fails to communicate the profound benefits of the sun.
We've already discussed the incredible benefits that sunshine has on your health. Sun exposure has benefits for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, MS and depression, to name a few. Sunlight is also linked with cancer prevention in particular - breast, colorectal cancer, ovarian and pancreatic cancer as well as leukemia.
Conscious sun exposure means minimising the risks of overexposure while still allowing its healing energies and profound benefits.
Informing people to wear sunscreen all year at all times is incorrect advice and detrimental to your health when looking at the totality of the science. It's also unscientific especially considering that 90% of disease preventing vitamin D in our system comes from sun exposure. Ultraviolet light exposure is your body's natural way, in fact, the only reliable way to produce vitamin D. Evolutionary theory shows this is why fair-skinned cultures developed fair skin: To receive the vitamin D from sunlight. The high numbers of people with vitamin D deficiencies only began occurring in the early 90s, exactly when the campaign against the sun began, yet skin cancer rates have stayed relatively flat over the same period.
Bask in the sun, consciously
The best time of day for sun exposure is morning to solar-noon. If you want to be precise, you can download a UV app for your part of the world and get the exact time UV clicks over into a potential hazard.
Conscious sun exposure means not getting burnt.
In the morning sun, you want to bear as much skin polite society will allow. When I'm by myself, you can be sure that I'm not wearing any clothes! The amount of sun you need depends on the condition of your skin and its natural skin pigmentation. If you have more melanin in your skin, as I do, you need more sun than if you're fair. It's the reason why we have such wonderful and different skin tones. If you're new to sun exposure then, begin slowly. Only expose your legs for 5 minutes and build gradually over a month, exposing more of your body for longer. The best time to start to prepare your skin for the summer sun is in spring. Tune in to yourself; you'll soon know when your body has had enough. If you start to feel too warm, then cover up or move into the shade.
If you're fair-skinned and living in the Southern Hemisphere, you need far less sun, as little as 10 - 15 minutes a day in the morning or late in the afternoon. The inverse is true if you've dark skin and live in the Northern Hemisphere; you'll need significantly more sun depending on the tone of your skin.
Keep in mind that Vitamin D is absorbed best from noon to 2 pm – so if you'd like to get your optimal dose of Vitamin D, a short 5 minutes in the sun during this time is ideal.
You also want to restore your skin's integrity. Your skin's outer layer is comprised of a thin coating of oils that provides natural anti-bacterial, anti-wrinkle, and sunscreen protection. This integrity is damaged by soaps, scrubs, chemical peels, and synthetic moisturisers. Synthetic anything. This is why we're so vocal about using all natural plant and mineral compounds for all of your skincare, not just your face.
Take off your sunglasses
Try and loose the sunnies, especially in the morning. I only wear sunglasses if I'm in the snow to avoid snow blindness.
If you were to believe the marketing, we shouldn't be outside without sunglasses because UV can damage our eyes. Considering we've always had the sun, and it's only recently we've begun wearing glasses, it's a misleading claim to make. Eye disease is increasing with everyone wearing sunglasses, so how is it UV gets the blame? I'm more concerned about the damage that blue light causes my eyes - blue light from computers, phones, and any LED lighting. These all have links to eye degeneration.
One study I found showed insufficient evidence to determine that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is related to UV exposure. It is suggested that AMD is probably related to visible radiation, especially blue light, rather than UV exposure.
Consider too, as we evolved, we'd rarely be in the sun all day. During the hottest hours, we would have sort shade. We also wouldn't have gone into the sun from artificial blue light environments. We certainly wouldn't have been consuming cariogenic foods that prevent our body from producing its natural response to UV.
The retina in your eyes registers how bright the sun is, then secretes specific hormones to keep you safe from the sun. Specifically, sunlight stimulates your pituitary glands, via the optic nerve, to produce a hormone that triggers the melanocytes in your skin to produce more melanin. This allows your skin to mount innate protection from excess UV radiation.
When you wear sunglasses, less sunlight reaches the optic nerve, and thus less protective melanin is made and the higher the risk of a carcinogenic and uncomfortable sunburn.
Professor John Hawk, the melanoma expert for the British Skin Foundation, agrees that melanin production is "almost certainly diminished by sunglasses."
Morning sun without sunglasses is also essential for your circadian rhythm, which results in better sleep.
Sleep is probably the main factor for keeping your body youthful. Your lens absorbs the blue part of the sunlight spectrum at the back of the eye, which alerts the body's master clock in the hypothalamus and the pineal gland. They signal the release of melatonin, and melatonin is what regulates your circadian rhythm. It is also a powerful immune booster and anti-ageing antioxidant that protects nuclear and mitochondrial DNA and delays neuro-degeneration. Sunglasses prevent all this from happening. Yes, I know they look cool but being healthy is sexier than shades.
As we discussed in another article, UV exposure can create the ground work for skin damage because it depletes antioxidants in the body. If you're not continually replacing those lost antioxidants through your diet it means your body can loose its natural defence against the sun.
Below are some of the best sun protecting foods.
Blueberries and all berries are a rich source of antioxidants. The free radical-fighting properties of antioxidant foods help to protect us from that sun damage. Berries are also a fantastic source of Vitamin C that helps to strengthen and boost collagen production.
Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which help our skin maintain its integrity, keeping it smooth, strong, and supple. Omega 3s are also highly anti-inflammatory. If you do get burnt, these foods can help with healing your skin quickly.
Carrots and red bell peppers are high in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into Vitamin A, a nutrient that supports vision, skin and mucosal healing. Research shows that beta-carotene shields us from sunburn; however, these sun-protective effects kick in after a minimum of 10 weeks of consuming beta-carotene, so stop reading now and go get a carrot from the fridge.
Tomatoes are abundant in the summer for a good reason – their concentration of the pigment lycopene helps to protect us from sunburns. Studies have found that research participants who ate tomato paste daily for 10 weeks were less susceptible to sunburns than groups who hadn't consumed tomato paste.
Dark leafy greens are another incredible source of antioxidants which can help offset the damage from UV rays. Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin – specific antioxidants found in greens – prevent skin wrinkles and protect us from the sun. Leafy greens can decrease our risk of skin cancer.
Chocolate, now I've got your attention! The antioxidants found in cacao powder help prevent sun damage. In one study, women who were given a high-flavanol chocolate beverage for 12 weeks were less sensitive to UV radiation than women who consume a low-flavanol drink.
This same study showed that chocolate improved blood flow to the skin and enhanced skin texture and structure. The higher concentration of cacao, the better also, make sure it's low sugar and dairy free.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which offers natural sun protection, helps to destroy free radicals, and may inhibit skin tumours. If it's too hot for tea, chill, make iced green tea, or use it in smoothies.
Sunflower seeds are high in Vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties that help to protect the skin against damage.
We have evolved with whole foods, we have evolved with the sun, little wonder of the benefits the innate intelligence of plants provide.
Conscious sun exposure
Means not avoiding the sun.
The sun shines down on all beings with unconditional love, and we are designed to receive this love. Listen to your body, be aware of where you are and what time it is.
Seek shade and cover up when necessary. I only apply sunscreen when I know I'll going to be exposed to high UV and after my morning sun.