Navigating Healthy Sun Exposure

This may seem contrary to what we are commonly told, but the sun is actually good for you!

According to vitamincouncil.org, your body is designed to get the vitamin D it needs by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight. Skin synthesizes vitamin D through solar UVB radiation, the factor sunscreen is designed to protect against and the rays that can cause burning.

Vitamin D production is vital to many healthy functions of the body. To list a few:

  • The immune system, which helps you to fight infection
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
  • Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development
  • Anti-cancer effects

“People are spending less time outside and when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D,” says Kim Pfotenhauer, D.O., a researcher on the recent study published by The Journal of American Osteopathic Association.

That being said,  exposure can and should be done strategically. There is no need to tan or burn your skin to get the vitamin D you need. Vitamincouncil.org recommends exposing your skin for a short time (sometimes as little as 6 minutes for the fairest complexions), which will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day! According to Pfotenhauer, “a simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people.” Additionally, Vitamin D supplements can also provide support, if small exposure to the sun is not available.

Check out this source for recommendations on healthy sun exposure for Vitamin D.

Though research now shows that moderate, frequent sun exposure is healthy,  overexposure and intense exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. With overexposure, you begin to burn and inflammation occurs. The inflammation triggers the skin’s natural melanin production which is what creates a tan. Though a tan seems pretty, it is actually functioning as an umbrella to cover and protect the trauma happening underneath that leads to accelerated aging, hyper-pigmentation, and potentially deadly cancers.

According to esteemed sunscreen expert Brian Diffey, Ph.D., D.Sc., “Apprehension about vitamin D status should not be a reason to withhold sunscreen application during extended periods of exposure to strong sunlight.”

So let’s talk about effective application:

  • Enough sun exposure could lead to sunburn and even skin cancer regardless of race and skin tone. Everyone should wear sunscreen when in prolonged sun exposure. 
  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapplication every 2 hours is important and even more frequently if you are swimming or sweating. 
  • Sun protection is no longer allowed to claim “waterproof” or “sweat-proof”. Read the application directions carefully for most will say something like, “water resistant up to 40 minutes even after the skin gets wet” which means you still need to reapply every 40 minutes and definitely once you have come out of the water. 
  • A higher SPF number is not always better. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 will block 97% of the harmful ultraviolet rays. Anything additional has only slightly higher protection and does not make the sun protection last longer. 
  • SPF sprays are rarely my go-to. They are definitely convenient, but an application can be uneven and often not enough.  Additionally, they should never be used on the face. Inhalation of SPF and propulsion ingredients can be potentially harmful. However, if this is your application of choice, it is important to apply a thick layer and rub into dry skin. For face, go to a lotion or stick application.

Last but not least, here are a few of my Soap Hope favorites for great sun protection!

Derma-E Natural Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 30, Face and Body Formulas

This formula utilizes clear, nanoparticle-free Zinc Oxide, for chemical-free broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection without irritating skin or clogging pores. No silicone’s! Plus, it’s fortified with antioxidants like Vitamin C and Green Tea, which are shown to offer an additional layer of UV protection and antioxidant support.

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen (Unscented)

Known for their solid formulas that support the skin against harsh elements, Badger makes some of the best protection in a simple formulation. Pure Zinc Oxide loaded in a blend of nutritious oils and butters, gives you a healthy, full-spectrum mineral protection with no toxins and no silicones. Not my choice for application to the face but definitely powerful for the body when planning a long day in the sun.

Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen Lotion 30 SPF Spray

For those who love a spray application, this one utilizes full-spectrum mineral protection in a pump…no potentially toxic propulsion ingredients! It is also chemical free and loaded with yummy antioxidants to boost the skin’s protection and recovery from prolonged exposure.

Amy Halman is an award-winning, holistic skin therapist, speaker and product development specialist in the natural beauty industry. As owner of EcoBlend Therapies, she is dedicated to a Deeper Beauty Conversation, connecting each client’s unique body wellness, nutrition, lifestyle, stress and energy levels to optimal health of the skin.

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