Summer is in full swing and people are hitting the beaches and soaking up the sun. How can that wonderful feeling of warmth on our skin be so bad for us? Do we really need to hide from the sun or is avoiding the sun what’s bad for us? Where is the balance?
Our bodies crave the sun and there are good reasons for it. We need the sun. UV rays improve our mood, energy level and help regulate melatonin. Sunlight exposure boosts the production of nitric oxide in our body, which helps lower blood pressure and benefits heart health. A sensible amount of sun is said to prevent problems like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and infections. It helps the body to absorb calcium, thereby keeping bones strong.
The benefits of regular sun exposure are illustrated in one of the most comprehensive studies yet to look at the connection between vitamin D and early mortality. Researchers from Sweden, after compiling the results of a 20-year research project they started back in the early 1990s, found that avoiding natural sunlight, or slathering yourself with sunscreen every time you go outside can actually double your risk of premature death. The study out of the Karolinska Institute in Solna evaluated nearly 30,000 women over the course of two decades, tracking their outdoor behaviors in conjunction with rates of cancer and early mortality. During this time, the women were asked to fill out questionnaires at certain intervals indicating how often they went to tanning salons or spent time outside in direct sunlight without sunscreen. At the end of the study period, a total of 2,545 women died, and many of these women had previously admitted to spending little or no time outdoors in the sun. On the flip side, women who regularly spent time in the sun, allowing their skin to absorb vitamin D from the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, had much lower rates of early death. Overall, women who avoided the sun were determined to have a doubled risk of dying early. “The results of this study clearly showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group,” stated lead study author Dr. Pelle Lindqvist about the findings. “Sun exposure advice which is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful for women’s health.”
Protecting our skin from the sun maybe more complicated than you think. The EWG (The Enviromental Group) finds persistent problems with the ingredients and marketing of sunscreens in America. It’s hard to believe but 80% of the 1700 products that they examined this year offer inferior sun protection and contain ingredients that are not good for us. Popular brands, including Neutrogena, have been found by EWG to promise safe sun protection but don’t deliver. To avoid irritating chemicals, chemicals that are banned in other countries, you should read the labels.
So now that you know some of the benefits of Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, enjoy the wonderful feeling you get from a bright sunny day. Have some fun in the sun! That does not mean to go out and bake like a lobster. Safe sun exposure and using safe sunscreen products is essential for optimum health. Below is a list of EWG Hall of Shame sunscreen products.