Summer is finally here, and with it comes longer days and more sunshine! Many of us have come to love the sun and the healing benefits it has to offer. In recent years however, the sun has been more recognized for its damaging effects than for how it can positively affect our health. This is due in large part to an improper relationship with the sun, which, with some slight adjustments, can help us to safely enjoy the many benefits the sun has to offer.
Sunshine serves several critical functions in the body, including the production of vitamin D, which is vitally important to our health. Vitamin D:
- Strengthens bones and the immune system
- Reduces the risk of various cancers, including breast, colon, kidney, and pancreatic cancers
- Regulates at least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body
Unfortunately, some of the media messages about sun exposure have focused entirely on the negative, and as a result, Vitamin D levels in the U.S. have been steadily declining over the last two decades, creating a growing epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. By taking a few precautions and making some small adjustments, we can safely enjoy the healing benefits that the sun has to offer.
There is a tendency to overdo it when exposing the body to the sun’s rays, often resulting in damaging sunburns. To help protect ourselves, we must acclimate to the sun, starting off slowly and gradually building up our sun exposure over time.
The best time of day for sun exposure is early morning to about noon. Allow the sunlight to shine on your unprotected arms and legs for at least 15 minutes, and work up to 30 minutes. After this amount of sun exposure, covering up for prolonged periods of time is very important. One third of all skin cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year are located on the face, neck, head, and hands. With this in mind, it makes sense to wear a hat. Our gardening hats offer UPF 50+ protection to the more delicate skin tissue of the face and neck, as well as the top of your head. (Most people think their hair provides sun protection. This is a myth!) Available in a Men’s style and a Women’s style, they’re handwoven of natural straw, a lightweight, breathable, and sustainable fiber and have a 4” brim for greater coverage.
Choose the healthiest sunscreen
Synthetic sunscreens may effectively block the sun’s rays, but many of them use filtering (SPF) agents that are toxic and are absorbed into our skin, creating a host of potential health problems. The commonly used SPF chemical, oxybenzone, penetrates the skin, acting like estrogen in the body, and is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cell damage, and low birth weights, among other problems. Other chemical SPF agents include Octinoxate and Oxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate and Octisalate, and Homosalate; these should all be avoided.
For a much safer and more natural approach, opt for the FDA-approved, all-natural ingredients Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These natural minerals form a broad-spectrum barrier that remains on the skin, with little if any penetration into the body. Try our Solar Goo Sun Protection Stick as a safe alternative to using chemical sunscreens. It’s an all-natural combination of 20% zinc oxide, organic coconut oil, and organic shea butter that safely protects your skin from the sun, even in water. It’s also fortified with calendula flowers, sunflower oil, and non-GMO vitamin E to soothe your skin, all while providing SPF 30 protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.
Protect your eyes – but don’t overdo
Sunglasses have become mostly a fashion statement in recent years. While protecting our eyes is important, they do need some natural sunlight. When a full spectrum of light is received by the eyes, our bodies produce hormones and neurochemicals that keep us happy and healthy. Wearing sunglasses all of the time will block this amazing process, as well as reduce our immune systems and nightly dose of melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep.
It’s best to use sunglasses more sparingly. Wear them only when you’ll be in the sun for prolonged periods of time, or when the sunlight is intense. Use common sense; certainly protection is called for if you’ve just had cataract or other eye surgery, and when spending a day at the beach or anywhere the sun’s rays reflect off water and snow. Our Polarized Solar Shields are perfect for anyone who needs a high level of protection. They provide maximum UV protection and conveniently fit over your regular prescription glasses.
Hydrate your skin
Dry skin is not just a winter problem. Too much sun exposure and stressors such as air conditioning and chlorine in pools take their toll on the skin’s integrity, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, rashes and other irritations. Well-hydrated, healthy skin is less likely to have a negative reaction to sun exposure. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ; nourish it with Sweet Almond Oil. This pure sweet almond oil is absorbed quickly, leaving behind well hydrated skin. It’s also easy to incorporate into your daily routine–simply warm a little oil in your hands and massage into your skin, or add a few drops to your bath for a little extra skin-boosting nourishment.
Boost your internal sun resistance
The real secret about sun exposure that almost no one in conventional medicine is talking about is that you can significantly boost your internal sunscreen by eating a clean, healthy diet loaded with antioxidant-rich foods and superfoods.
The more natural antioxidants you have in your diet, the more sunlight your skin will be able to handle without burning. The greatest levels of antioxidants are found in the most colorful foods, so eating a variety of richly-colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to load up on antioxidants. Among fruits, cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries rank the highest. Top vegetable choices include red, orange and yellow peppers, and dark leafy greens like kale and chard.
Though there is no legal or medical definition, a superfood is a food or supplement powerhouse of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Superfoods like chlorella, wheat grass juice, and broccoli sprouts have an abundance of antioxidants as well. One of my favorites however, is the supplement astaxanthin. Very well known for boosting your skin’s natural resistance to sunburn, astaxanthin’s fat-soluble carotenoids are actually transported to skin cells where they protect those cells from UV exposure. For maximum benefit, it should be taken each day, as well as one hour before heading out into the sun.
Wishing you an enjoyable and safe sun season!
By Gardner Orton, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and a Proprietor of The Vermont Country Store
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using any of the products in this article.