Conscious connection with the sun
It's can be a fraught conversation given current messaging on all fronts about the dangers of the sun. But, when you delve into the science, the sun and your skin can't be condensed into a slogan or have one simple rule.
The conversation around our synergistic relationship with the sun is a nuanced one. It's such an important topic we've dedicated three separate articles to it.
Conscious connection with the sun
Skin cancer, nutrition & blue light
Healthy sun exposure
Let's begin this conversation with the obvious disclaimer - Terra Tonics does not advise nor would ever advise getting sunburnt. Sunburn undeniably causes damage to your skin so put the baby oil away! Some people burn more easily than others, and this is due to several factors - genetics, prior sun exposure and diet. We'll look at this in a later article.
We hope by the end of these articles, we can help you make an informed decision about exposing yourself to the sun in an intelligent manner.
Let their be light!
The sun is the source of all life. The miraculous ball of fire that blesses every day sending its energy to all life forms. It's the ultimate expression of love.
Many cultures have worshipped the sun as a god. In Egypt, it was Ra. Ra was the God who created all life on earth. In Hinduism, Surya, a Sun God, is glorified as all-seeing and sheds light on good and evil actions alike.
The sun symbolises rejuvenation and rebirth. It is the giver of life, yet, in recent decades, it's been branded as the taker of life.
Sunlight touching your skin produces beneficial nutrients that your body requires. Your skin converts the sun's rays into regenerative substances of melanin, sulfur, and the all-important vitamin D. Our bodies are covered with thousands of vitamin D receptors designed to receive the sun's rays, as our cells are coded to receive the sun's energy.
Is not actually a Vitamin — Vitamin D is a prohormone and prohormones are substances that the body converts to a hormone. It builds bones and muscles; it is also an anti-inflammatory. It helps make enzymes and proteins that prevent diseases; it directly affects ageing and keeps you young. High Vitamin D levels have been linked to a stronger immune system; low levels are linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, poor mental health and cancer. Recently low Vitamin D levels have been associated with increased severity of covid.
For your skin, Vitamin D has also been shown to help with psoriasis and eczema.
Statistical studies usually find dark skinned populations living in colder climates tend to be Vitamin D deficient as melanin in the skin acts as a natural sunscreen. As we age our bodies also produce vastly less Vitamin D, a 70 year old produces 4x less vitamin D than a 20 year old. Body Fat also reduces the bioavailability of Vitamin D as it is not released into the bloodstream but stored in the fat.
We are yet to know the full extent of this incredible hormone's positive impact. Considering that nearly every cell and tissue in our body has Vitamin D receptors, it is one of the most important regulators of our health. Yet this vital hormone is also one of the most common deficiencies; it's estimated that up to 50% of the population worldwide are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.
It's not surprising as sunlight exposure has dramatically decreased in the last hundred and ten years due to city living with nearly all of us moving indoors. For example, the occupation of farming has reduced by 96%. Interestingly, ultraviolet radiation is considered by many the leading cause of melanoma, yet we're indoors now more than ever. Still, melanoma has increased by 3,000% over the past century.
Your body can produce a small amount of vitamin D from certain foods however not enough for optimal health. We should all look to supplement with Vitamin D particularly in the winter months however the Vitamin D we get from sunlight stays active in the body longer. Just as with getting vitamins from food, is more effective consuming the full spectrum nutrients than single compounds when possible. The full UV spectrum allows for optimal use by your body.
When supplementing with Vitamin D, you want to be taking around 3000 IU a day. Your body best absorbs Vitamin D supplements when combined with K2 and magnesium. You also want to take your Vitamin D in the morning as it also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. The same as how exposing your body to sun in the morning will help you sleep at night.
When you apply sunscreen, the sun-shielding chemicals that block UVB rays are absorbed into your skin. The UVB rays are what cause your skin to burn. SPF sunscreens create a false sense of security by preventing our skin's early-warning mechanism, sunburn, against overexposure to the sun. The UVB rays blocked by sunscreens are also the rays that cause vitamin D to be produced. So you're spending all this time in the sun but getting none of the benefits.
Unless your sunscreen is full-spectrum, it won't block UVA rays. UVA rays become harmful when separated from their UVB ultraviolet family. UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin and play a significant role in premature skin ageing. There are approximately 500 times more UVA rays in sunlight than UVB rays. This separated UVA is what damages DNA. Most windows also do the same and separate the UVB and overexpose the skin to UVA. Hence why you'll see such notable damage to people's hands who do a lot of driving.
Synthetic sunscreens are also full of harmful toxins - oxybenzone, polymers of petroleum, parabens, and PABA. These sunscreens further prevent our skin from breathing. Your skin is designed for inhaling oxygen and exhaling toxins and carbon dioxide. Sweating is how your body detoxifies, another genius function of our natural interaction with the sun. This natural mechanism is disrupted by synthetic sunscreen. As you soak up the sun, these chemicals are literally baked into your body.
Oxybenzone is the active ingredient in more than two-thirds of sunscreens. It is a powerful free-radical producer and becomes carcinogenic when exposed to, you guessed it, sunlight.
Oxybenzone has also been proven to have detrimental effects on coral reefs. Oxybenzone can cause coral bleaching that reduces the ability of coral to recover from the already damaging effects of global warming. Even a tiny amount of oxybenzone can harm or kill corals by damaging its DNA.
These harmful ingredients found in synthetic sunscreens are also known to accumulate in our lipid layers, increasing our intake of free radicals and damaging our DNA. Only last year, more than 70 sunscreens were removed by the FDA for containing carcinogenic ingredients.
Choose sunscreen made from natural ingredients. Ideally you're only using it at certain times of the day and allowing your skin to receive the benefits of the sun during the sun safe hours. More on the sun safe hours in another article.
Two of our favourite sunscreens are:
Clean Collagen and UV
The finger lime in Clean Collagen offers anti-oxidant protection against free radicals caused by the sun in high UV hours. The high vitamin C also reduces the visibility of sunspots and reduces redness caused by sunburn. The Ferulic Acid in Finger Lime can help protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays, but also helps reverse some of the damage from too much sun exposure.
Clean Collagen can be applied both pre and post sun exposure and is extremely powerful at working synergistically with the sun and your skin, though it is not a replacement for an all natural sunscreen and covering up your skin during the high UV hours.