Sun Exposure – Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Some sun exposure is actually good for you. Shocker!
There has been a lot of hoopla about sunscreen lately.  Is it safe? Is it necessary? Is it all hype?
Yes, yes, and yes!
If you plan to be outside for more than 20 minutes, then yes, you should use sun protection.  That could mean hats, umbrellas, a shady spot (that’s not next to water), or a little mango butter – yes mango butter, or eating antioxidants.  Yes, EATING antioxidants like berries! After all – you are what you eat! Antioxidants are what help to repair the skin DNA damage after over exposure to the sun.
If you plan to be outside for more than 20 minutes, then more protection may be in order like sunblock. (More on that another day).
Our bodies actually use the light from sun rays to convert cholesterol into natural vitamin D which has a lot of great anti-inflammatory and protective properties.
If you are eating a well-balanced diet that contains healthy fats then your body will have the good cholesterol and bacteria in your gut that it actually needs to produce its own activated vitamin D once your skin has been exposed to the sun’s rays (more on cholesterol and gut bacteria at another time). This vitamin D is very essential to our health and well-being.  It is the UVB rays that help convert the substrate cholesterol into active vitamin D. It is overexposure to the UVA rays typically that is detrimental and linked to certain types of cancers including skin cancers. (Bear in mind, however, that controlled amounts of UVA rays are used in Medical therapy for eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. So controlled, small amounts of UV rays can be beneficial if used properly under the guidance of a medical professional.). The problem that arises with some of these chemically based broad-spectrum sunscreens is that they actually can block both UVA AND the helpful UVB rays.  If you plan to be in the sunlight for less than 20 minutes, which you should try to do about three times a week, then sunscreen may not be necessary at all depending on your skin complexion. If you are of a lighter hue and tend to burn quickly and easily, then you may want to consider applying something. Here’s the beauty of it- something as simple as mango butter or shea butter applied to the skin can block some of the sun’s harmful rays. That can get you to an Sun Protection Factor, SPF, of about four. Mixing in other botanicals like green tea, milk thistle, reservation, curcumin (turmeric), sweet almond oil, and others can increase the protective factors even more!  So for brief exposure to the sun (like WALKING to go eat during your lunch break – hint, hint) for less than 20 minutes in a non-tropical climate zone using butters can afford you enough protection while still allowing your skin to get the rays that it needs to produce the vitamin D that your body desperately needs. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium (see figure above) and also is an awesome anti-inflammatory and anti cancer nutrient.  If you are at risk of, or suffering from osteoporosis, or bone loss of any kind, simply increasing your calcium intake isn’t enough. Your body also needs vitamin D so that it can actually absorb the calcium that you are consuming. Yes, there are supplements of vitamin D available. However, most of them are synthetic and your body doesn’t know exactly what to do with synthetic chemicals. There are better options for obtaining vitamin D. Just a little bit of sunlight three times a week might do it! Making sure that you have enough good fats in your diet like coconut oil, MCT oil (the medium chain triglyceride found in coconut oil – I put some in my coffee every morning.  Yum!), avocado oil, and pasture raised, farm fresh eggs which will naturally have much brighter egg yolks due to the richer type and amount of nutrients including that good cholesterol that we need to make vitamin D.
Local health food store organic egg (top right) vs a farm fresh egg from a farmer’s market (bottom left). Vive la difference!
Happy healthy living!
Until next time….
Take Home Tidbits:
  • Sun exposure for up to 20 minutes three times a week may be good for you.
  • Vitamin D is produced once the sun’s rays hit your skin if you have enough good fats in your diet
  • Vitamin D is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer hormone.
  • Botanical ingredients may be effective protection from mild amounts of sun exposure.
If you have a known allergy or sensitivity to any of the alternative solutions mentioned, then please try other options. Use your best judgement if you burn easily in the sun, use sunblock!!
Supportive Documents
UVB rays and Vitamin D
Vitamin D as an anti inflammatory
And I could go on and on….
Vitamin D as an anti cancer molecule
Again, I could go on and on but you get the point…
Botanicals as UV Protectants
Mangos and sun protection