Sunburn is not ideal. No arguments there. But the frequency with which the big “C” word is mixed up with sunshine is ridiculous when you think about how rarely cancer is brought up when discussing processed food, sedentarism, or cell phone use.
I anticipate many family members will gasp when I refuse to baste my son in chemical emollients this summer, but I couldn’t possibly imagine an aunt or uncle slapping a donut out of his hand or offering to put their cell phone in airplane mode!
I do not mean to suggest that the sun has no ill effects or that we shouldn’t take measures to protect ourselves and our children, but to point out that our entire modern lives are built around habits and structures than are detrimental to the epigenetic expression of our DNA, the least of which is sun exposure. If anything, we are not getting enough sun. (Epigenetics is a fancy word that describes the way genes for certain traits are able to either switch on or remain dormant based upon how you live your life. For example, even if you are born with a predisposition toward a certain disease, you may be able to evade that fate by making healthier choices.)
There are populations that spend most of their time in the sun and have very low rates of cancer. When those same people migrate to the U.S., they suddenly develop cancers because their diets change, their exposure to EMF’s increases, and their immersion in natural movement patterns is depleted. Clearly, sun exposure is not the only, or even the most critical, factor in skin cancer prevention.
The underlying paradox is that vitamin D is needed to PREVENT skin cancer; vitamin D triggers apoptosis, or healthy cell death. Without apoptosis, endless cell division leads to cancer. The contact between sun rays and bare skin is unequivocally the most efficient way to absorb vitamin D and sunscreen blocks this process.
Typical brand-name sunscreens are also chock full of fun toxins like petrochemicals, which disrupt the endocrine system by fitting into the same receptor sites as our natural hormones, thus obscuring healthy cellular communication and enzymatic processes. Topical petrochemical exposure is even more harmful than ingestion since absorption via the skin bypasses digestion and allows the chemicals to be stored in fatty tissues.
Dangers of chemical sunscreens
- Disrupts the endocrine system and increases estrogenic activity
- Increases cellular damage and generates free radicals
- Indirectly damages DNA with carcinogenic ingredients
- Absorbs UVB rays, but lets most UVA through
- Sunscreen washed off into the ocean endangers sea life
According to the Environmental Working Group, the only two active ingredients for which we have enough information to classify as safe and effective are the mineral UV filters zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Most conventional sunscreens utilize chemical UV filters such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. The risks of using such chemical filters outweighs the benefits.
Benefits of Vitamin Sunshine
The benefits of sunshine are rarely touted. I think it’s about time we fully appreciated this bright burning star that is quite literally a progenitor of life on earth:
- Produces essential cholesterol sulfate + vitamin D3 sulfate
- Stimulates production of melatonin and serotonin
- Our bodies can actually convert the sun’s light into cellular mitochondrial energy. We’re like solar chargers. Or plants.
- UV rays are potent disinfectants; they hinder the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses
- Triggers apoptosis via vitamin D absorption
- Organizes biochemical processes
- Increases muscle tone
- Relaxes nerves
- Increases oxygenation of blood & tissues
- Regulates + boosts hormones
- Supports eye health
- Lowers blood sugar
- Regulates basal metabolic rate
So how do we reap all these juicy benefits in a healthful way?
- Melanin produced in the spring prevents sunburn in the summer! Gradually build your sun-time tolerance as soon as it’s sunny outside. Start with just 5 minutes of ray-soaking a day and add a minute every other day or so. The hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are best.
- Build an internal SPF with your diet: sun-ripened fruits + veggies are sun harmonizing. Increase antioxidant intake with Ningxia Red.
- Spend a safe amount of time in the sun without protection, then apply a mineral sunscreen*. A “safe amount” is going to differ for each person. It may be 5 minutes, it may be 30, but you want to soak up that vitamin D as much as you can without burning! *Beware of “mineral” sunscreens that ALSO contain synthetic ingredients.
- If you have enough of a base color or do not burn easily, you may be able to get away with using coconut oil, which has a natural SPF between 4 and 10. I like to apply coconut oil all over my body and a mineral sunscreen to the areas I typically burn (face, chest, shoulders, tops of ears). Also to consider: Raspberry seed oil
- Don’t wash it off! A significant portion of vitamin D is actually made in our skin’s sebum (oil). When we shower with soap after sun-bathing, we actually wash away our chance to absorb the vitamin. Believe it or not, our skin doesn’t benefit from constant sudsing anyway!
- Stop wearing sunglasses! “When the full spectrum of light rays is intercepted in the retina, it is positively encoded in the brain and sets in motion the juicy hormones and neurochemicals that help us stay happy and healthy. This process works even if we are in the shade, yet not if we are wearing shades.” – Nadine Artemis
- During not-so-sunny seasons use the D-minder app to find the best times of day to catch some rays.
Safe Sun Products + Recipes
- Broad-spectrum SPF 10 or 50 sunscreen protection (To determine application interval, take the amount of time it would take you to burn without protection and multiply it by the SPF – i.e. if it takes you 10 minutes to start to crisp and you are using SPF 10, you would need to re-apply every 100 minutes)
- Blocks UVA and UVB rays
- Water- and sweat-resistant
- Dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic
- Formulated without UV chemical absorbers; active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide
- Contains helichrysum, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, and carrot seed.
- Dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic
- Provides immediate relief by soothing and cooling the skin
- Moisturizes to help prevent peeling
DIY After Sun Spray
Lavender is known for its regenerative properties and is always the first oil indicated for burns. Peppermint’s cooling properties soothe the skin.
Although there are no essential oils that function as sunscreen, there are botanicals rich in antioxidants that are nourishing and regenerative. Any of these oils may be added to a sunscreen or after-sun spray or lotion for enhanced healing.
- Alpha and beta santalol in sandalwood are chemopreventative
- Frankincense, Geranium, Cypress, Helichrysum and Rose prevent abnormal cell growth and may fade hyper-pigmentation
- Lavender, Myrrh and Lemongrass for cellular regeneration
- Carrot seed for wrinkles, sunburn and dryness
Warning: While the above oils are sun harmonizing, others, particularly citrus oils, are photosynthetic. This means that they could actually increase the risk of burning.
Make it a Challenge
Place a bet with a friend to see who can catch more rays responsibly this summer! Loser buys the winner a premium starter kit 😉