Sunlight has many health benefits. It’s not just essential for Vitamin D production for stronger bones and teeth. Sunlight boosts immunity, brain and heart function, mood and eyesight.
After a long, wet and grey winter… there’s nothing like sunshine to feel perky and energetic. Libido gets a boost too.
Our skin needs sunlight to stay healthy.
But there is a lot of debate about sun exposure for those of us living in temperate climates.
Beauty practitioners are taught to avoid any scrap of sunshine for fear of sun damage and premature ageing. Even passengers on flights are told they need to drown in sunblock…many chemical based sunblocks use components harmful to the body eg Benzophenone 2 lowers thyroid function, Octyl-methoxycinnamate increases facial aging, Oxybenzone disrupts hormones…
What with sunshine being blamed as the main cause of hyper pigmentation, lines and wrinkles as well as the Darth Maul enemy of our collagen and elastin, it’s easy to see how fear mongers have you lathering on UV protection regardless of where you live, the climate etc.
Certain ancient philosophers and traditions knew that sunlight carried with it the full spectrum of light, that our bodies need.
The Greeks called sunlight therapy – heliotherapy. Ancient yogis used sunlight to keep the body well with Atapa Snana. Our eyes, for instance need full spectrum lighting to function well. (So wearing sunglasses all the time is not a healthy thing to do.)
I grew up in sunny South Africa and never wore sunblock. I hated the feel of it on my skin and the way it greased up my pores making my skin feel slimy or sticky. I wore a hat, covered up my burnable areas with a T-shirt and sat in the shade in the hotter times of day. My skin probably did age quicker but my bones felt strong and my mood in the sun great. I got a little bit of sunshine every day, it wasn’t famine before feast. I never had seasonal affective disorder. Not so in the UK… daylight bulbs are in my office now.
However living in the UK where the sun is very limited in appearance and the days are very short makes a huge impact on mood, energy. I now take Vitamin D supplements (when i remember!) And turning 48 this year means thoughts of strong bones and healthy hips. Those grey hairs are a little warning sign to take care!
The sun is the major source of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is used in making strong bones and a deficiency of it is on the rise. Certain supplements and a healthy diet can help your body cope with the sun. Thge best source of Vitamin D is via sunlight (source) as it may last twice in the bloodsteam than ingested Vitamin D.
Naturally orientated doctors will advise you to get 10-30 minutes of unfiltered sunlight on your skin every day.
The human race has evolved in the sunshine (not underground caves). We are designed to work with sunlight. With the internet, kids are spending less times out doors. The change to family structures and support systems is also a cause to this where parents are run ragged and reply on electronic babysitters. Living in apartments or high rises and lack of open spaces. Not to mention the fear of kidnapping, drug use, or worse.
When I was young we roamed the local neighbourhood on our bicycles or roller skates.
What are the options?
- Sudden exposure to the sun for a long time will cause burning. The trick to do it in small doses.
- You can prepare your skin for extra sunlight exposure before a sunny holiday with vitamin E on the skin. A good tip if you work in an office and never see the sun except on weekends or holidays.
- There are chemical based suncreams (which my skin/pores still can’t stand the feel of) and natural options include titanium and zinc oxide (inorganic minerals) that reflect light away. They stay on the surface of the skin and are not absorbed.
- Argan, sesame, red raspberry, coconut do have inherent levels of SPF but cannot be relied on exclusively to prevent burning.
- A higher level of SPF does NOT provide significantly higher coverage or longer times of protection.
- There are clothes with inbuilt SPF eg swimsuits/rash vests – cover up the arms, back of the neck.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses.
- Stay in the shade when it’s scorching and have limited spells in the sunshine.
- Ease yourself into the light. Get your 10-30 minutes every day.
- Even in winter 10 minutes outdoors on an overcast day will give your body the full spectrum of light it needs. You might still need a lightbox if you suffer from SAD.
- #1 tip- Never ever fall asleep in the sun – this will burn. Promise me you won’t do this.
- Imitate those nations who live in sunny deserts and wear loose cotton clothing that covers the arms and legs. Merino wool also has SPF properties so is useful for travellers who need to dress for multiple weather zones. My favourite merino is Icebreaker from NZealand.
- Your skin colour determines whether you have any inherent SPF (fair skin has zero) whereas dark skin has a natural SPF of up to 13. Which explains why your Celtic origin person fries within minutes of summer sunshine and it takes longer for Mediterranean or African origin folks to feel frazzled.
- And develop your intuition too to know when you need to be out in the fresh air getting sunlight, notice how your mood is affected, usually for the good.
- Notice how being stuck indoors/underground for too long you get a sense of cabin fever, raging appetite and affected sleep?
- Eat foods rich in lycopene such as (cooked) tomatoes, watermelon, hibiscus, rosehips and red peppers.(Source.)
- Check your fatty acid balance – you may need supplementation with cod liver oil for the omega 3 and vitamin A content.(source).
Sunlight is key to our wellbeing and all you need to is exercise some moderation and sensibility to get the benefits from it.
PS (If you do overdo it, lavender essential oil, aloe vera gel, and homeopathic Cantharis & Belladonna. Pick these up at your natural wholefoods store well in advance.)
Choose products rich in rosehip seed such as this serum