The weather has warmed up, the sun is shining and it’s time for outdoor fun. With hot summer rays and UV Safety Month upon us, I want to debunk a few myths about sunlight and sun protection, and set the record straight with the facts.
It’s been drilled in our heads for years that sunlight is bad for skin and causes damage. Well, yes and no. It’s all about moderation and common sense.
The fact is: Sunlight is good for you!
A day without some sunshine can be unhealthy. On his website, Jack Kruse, M.D. lists 15 diseases, including cancer of all types, that are associated with low vitamin D levels. Check it out.
Other hormones are positively affected too. Studies have found that exposure to sunlight not only stimulates the production of the hormone melatonin, it regulates our body clock and controls appetite, sleep, and sex hormones. Sun exposure makes us feel happy too, because it boosts the production of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. If that’s not enough good news, there’s link between sun exposure and a lower risk of cancers such as breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers, as well as osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases.
So how much sun do we need for good health? About 10 to 20 minutes a day. (For more information on shade versus sun, see my blog Are You Ready for Summer?)
Slathering on sunscreen is generally a good idea – but with some caveats. For one thing, it prevents the skin from making health-protective vitamin D. And it’s not entirely protective against the development of skin cancer.
Consider what research states about sunscreen:
“Every major public health authority – the FDA, National Cancer Institute and International Agency for Research on Cancer – has concluded that the available data do not support the assertion that sunscreens alone reduce the rate of skin cancer (FDA 2011a, IARC 2001b, NCI 2011).”
I talk a bit about this is issue in a video I recorded on sun protection. Another problem is that many sunscreens contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that interfere with the body’s own hormones – chemicals that your skin – the body’s largest organ – readily absorbs. An example of a hormone disruptor in sunscreen is oxybenzone.
So what are we sun lovers to do? Use a sunscreen formulated with 100 percent zinc oxide. It works extremely well, naturally blocking UV rays…and a side benefit is that it causes fewer allergic reactions than other formulas.
The fact is, sunscreen is just one part of being sun smart!
Do smear on zinc oxide, but don’t let it give you a false sense of security that you can stay out in the sun indefinitely. You really need to protect yourself in other ways:
While I’m on the topic of sunscreen, let me add that above a certain level, a higher sun protection factor has little added value.
The fact is, SPF is not a magic bullet.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and you’ll be fine. Also, look for products labeled “broad spectrum protection,” meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
The UV rays emitted by a tanning bed are weaker than the sun’s, but they also penetrate more deeply in your skin. They can also burn you.
The fact is, indoor tanning is health-risky!
I advise against tanning beds. A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that first time tanners under the age of 35 will increase their risk of developing melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer) by as much as 75 percent in just their initial sunbed experience. Also, rays from tanning beds do not provide any of the benefits gained by natural sunlight that I discussed above. Enough said!
There you have it – all the info you need to survive summer and enjoy your days in the sun without hurting your beautiful skin or precious health.
See you at the beach!
I have the perfect recipe to help “sun-proof” your skin from the inside out. My wild salmon salad wraps are packed with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids that helps your skin function at its best and reduces sun-induced inflammation. Eat up!
MAKES 2 TO 4 SERVINGS