Supplement with Sunshine: Vitamin D, Sunscreen + When To Avoid Those Rays

Apply, reapply. Apply, reapply. It’s been the unofficial mantra of summer suncare since before we were buying our own SPF. While its important to keep our skin protected, the sun is not the enemy: Its rays restore our vitamin D levels, can clear a troubled complexion and can boost our mood (and keep us cool long after we’ve gone indoors).

Lately there’s a lot of talk about how much screen and shade we actually need — and what we’re missing out on by overdoing it. Every dermis is different, and we urge you to listen to your intuition and do your homework on the  sunscreen vs. au natural debate. We’ve asked women’s health expert, Nicole Granato, to weigh in…

The sun offers a plethora of healing and restorative properties for our bodies; affecting our mood, immune system, hormonal health, and even works in an anti-aging fashion. This is far from the fear-centered ideologies about avoiding the sun due to its harmful skin-zapping and youth-sucking effects — the sun is not something to shy away from! But as with everything, it’s important to indulge safely. Here’s what you need to know…

Sun yourself wisely. Start slowly but surely, and start in the Spring so that you may create a protective tan with phased-in exposure. Adequate amounts of sun preps our bodies for the darker, shorter winter months, and is preventative medicine against the winter blues (otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D.)

Timing (and Intuition) is key. While it is true that skin can be vulnerable to sunburn, and repeated sunburns can cause visible damage, we shouldn’t hold an ‘all or nothing’ attitude. Sun dosage is a personal prescription dependent upon the condition of your skin, and your natural skin pigmentation: fairer skins will need to start slow and low, whilst darker skins will be safer to throw themselves in at the deep end. Tune into your innate warning system: if skin starts to feel warm, seek shade. Start with a few minutes a day, build-up, and remember to flip! To avoid sunburned skin wear a hat and cover skin with clothing, or use a natural sunblock with zinc oxide when spending extended hours in the sun. Uncoated zinc oxide effectively blocks and reflects, rather than absorbs the sun’s rays – it also won’t leave you looking like a lifeguard’s white nose!

Vitamin D is IMportant. Vitamin D is so important to our health that Mother Nature provided a way for us to make it in our own skin. UV rays in the form of sunlight touching the skin activate our body’s production of vitamin D, and roughly 90% of our vitamin D is obtained via our own skin’s production. To allow this synthesis we need to expose our skin to the full-spectrum of the sun’s rays — meaning through the car window doesn’t work, and the application of sunscreen puts immediate blockage to this! In short vitamin D is known to influence over 2000 genes in our body – which speaks volumes in terms of the importance of having direct contact with the sun, and how essential it is for joyous health.

Vitamin D is also essential to immunity, therefore a deficiency means that your body will be less able fight off pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and fungus that cause infections. Yes – the sun can even play a key role in ridding pesky candida overgrowth, and uncomfortable digestive issues.

Bare as much as you dare. In order to synthesize enough vitamin D to meet your body’s requirement I suggest getting into the sun at least 3 times a week, 15-20 minutes at a time, and preferably before 11am or after 4pm – which is precautionary against sunburn by avoiding the hours when the harmful rays are most penetrating. Also when sunning: bare as much skin as you dare! We even have vitamin D receptors in places where the sun don’t shine, uttering just how much our bodies are biologically crying out for some of those warming rays.

The sun is anti-aging. In terms of achieving smooth and supple skin, vitamin D is also responsible for letting the cells know when to die,  allowing new, healthy ones to replace them. If we think of this in skin-related terms, vitamin D is the messenger that tells our old skin cells that they’re past their sell by date, and to scoot on over and make way for the production of new plump, healthy cells — thereby welcoming in a glowing complexion. This is in part why we literally look healthier during the summer and after being on vacation.

Sunshine is the finest cosmetic. The sun is also antimicrobial, which helps make the skin immune from pimples, acne and minor infections. The sun’s antimicrobial action zaps away any pathogenic bacteria that may otherwise cause acne, and its balancing action can also improve conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

sunscreen, sometimes. Sunscreens made from synthetic ingredients create a false sense of security by disabling our skin’s early warning system – i.e. sunburn – which keeps us from indulging in too much sun, too fast. Most sunscreens only block UVB rays – the rays that cause sunburn – but not UVA rays. Over the long run, people wearing synthetic sunscreens unknowingly overexpose their skin to UV radiation – which is one of the reasons why the sun gets a grizzly name for causing aging and wrinkles since UV radiation contributes to cell damage.

The UVB rays blocked by sunscreens are also the rays we depend on for vitamin D. Melanin, the pigment that tans our skin, as well as high levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood both act to prevent sunburn – meaning the sun provides us with its own inbuilt sun-protection system upon interaction with the skin. It really is that clever, and all the more reason to ditch the sunscreen on occasion.

Supplement with Sun. Think of spending time in the sun as important as taking your daily dose of supplements: the goal is to absorb the sun’s benefits and make the most of all its healing properties, whilst also being sensible and preventing damage from sunburn. The sun has the ability to make us more energized, happier, healthier, and to bolster our immune system – all for the pleasurable act of languidly lying in the bask of its rays. The healing benefits of the sun are always at our disposal, even on cloudy days, since the beneficial rays still filter through cloud cover – so there’s every reason to bare your body to the altar of sunshine. Rejoice in the sunshine – wise interaction with the sun reaps revitalizing, illuminating nourishment. Thank you, Sun.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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