I know I’m harping on this here…but sun is so important. And so is vitamin D, the all-important “sunshine” vitamin! I’ve written about it before, and I’ll link those posts below, but I’ve learned more about it since I wrote those and I want to bust a few myths about the sun and vitamin D while I’m at it.
Do You Soak Up the Sun?
Vitamin D is one vitamin — actually, not a vitamin, but a pre-hormone — that we cannot get enough of from diet alone. We are meant to get our vitamin D from the sun, and the sun remains the best source. While we might get 1000 or 2000 IU from food, we could get up to 20,000 IU from the sun, sometimes more!
Most people these days are incredibly deficient in vitamin D. This has huge implications for your health. It affects your hormone levels, your immune system, your bone health, and lots more. (See my older post on vitamin D for more.)
We need a lot more sunlight than we are getting. And a lot of people are worried about sun…mostly, needlessly. They’re worried it causes cancer, or wrinkles. Others are convinced about our need for sun, but believe that late-in-the-day exposure is best to avoid sunburns or skin cancer. So let’s take a closer look at sun exposure!
Myth #1: The sun is mostly bad, and we only need about 10 minutes of exposure per day on our arms (minimal skin) to get enough.
Truth: Nope! The sun is good for us and we need it. Newer research suggests that we need to expose most of our skin (80% or so) for 40 – 60 minutes or more (depending on latitude, time of year, etc.) to get enough vitamin D. This is especially important for those who live further north, and even more important in the spring or fall, times of the year when the Earth is a bit further away from the sun.
Myth #2: Sun exposure is best before 10 or after 3 in order to avoid sun burns or cancer.
Truth: Nope. The UVB rays (the ones that cause sunburns, but more importantly, that produce vitamin D in your skin) are strongest at midday. Earlier or later in the day, the UVA rays that cause real damage and may lead to cancer are stronger. If you go out only before 10 or after 3, you might avoid a sunburn, but you’re not getting your vitamin D and you might be causing your skin more long-term damage. Get your sun midday; just go inside if your skin begins to turn pink.
Myth #3: Sunscreen is safe and required when exposed to the sun; it lets the “good rays” through.
Truth: Actually completely the opposite! Sunscreens typically only block the necessary UVB rays, and do not block the damaging UVA rays. Plus, many common sunscreens are carcinogenic and cause or increase the risk of cancer. This is especially true of those that contain nano particles.
Myth #4: A high SPF is good and will protect against damage to the skin.
Truth: No!! An SPF only measures the amount of “protection” against the very necessary UVB rays! That is all the SPF promises to block. UVB rays are responsible for a sunburn…but also for your body’s vitamin D production. It’s the UVA rays, which many sunscreens do not even address (many do not traditionally block these at all), that cause the real damage, like wrinkles and skin cancer. So even if you constantly wearing sunscreen, you may not be protected against the real damage whatsoever. Worse, many sunscreens have been shown to be carcinogenic, and exposing your skin to the sun while wearing them exacerbates this problem. I can’t say enough about this…you need to be aware!
Get Healthy Sun
If you read the myths above, then you know that you’ve been completely lied to about healthy sun exposure. So how do you get safe sun exposure?
- Get out midday. This is when the vitamin-D-producing UVB rays are the strongest.
- Go in when you’re pink or move into the shade. Choosing light, loose clothing is an option too.
- Avoid sunscreen whenever possible. You need more sun than you think you do, so if you can go without, do.
- Choose a physical barrier when you need a sunscreen. Choose zinc oxide (the “white stuff”) instead of chemical sunscreens. This won’t absorb into your skin so it will be difficult to spread, thick, and leave a white appearance, but it’s far safer.
- Don’t shower immediately after sun exposure. Vitamin D is made in oil on the surface of your skin, and it needs to be absorbed. If you shower too soon, you’ll wash it away.
Aim for 30 – 60 minutes at midday each day. You probably won’t make it everyday — you’re busy, it’s raining, etc. — but try, especially mid-summer. This solstice is this week, so the vitamin D production will be at its maximum (the earth is closest to the sun so the most UVB rays get through)! Try to get out especially over the next few weeks.
Do you get safe sun exposure? Did you know about these sunscreen myths?
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