I’ve never been one to shy away from the sun. Despite the dire warnings from the sunshine police, I don’t slather myself with sunblock every time I walk out the front door. I never have. I love feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, and I think nothing is more flattering than a healthy tan.
I know it’s not P.C. to say so, but I LOVE THE SUN. Even though we are warned at every turn about the perils of sun exposure and admonished to make sunblock part of our morning routine, I’ve never bought into the hype. The sun is the most natural thing there is. How can it be bad for you!?
Well, recent research suggests that my instincts might not have been so far off. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but according to WebMD, “It just may be that brief periods of unprotected exposure to the sun are actually good for your skin.” [source]
I’ve been reading about this theory on various natural living blogs and websites. We are learning more and more about the powerful benefits of Vitamin D, and the sun is the very best source of this crucial vitamin, but when we slather ourselves from head to toe with sunblock and avoid the sun during the middle of the day, we are depriving ourselves of the benefits of this rich nutrient.
Yes, you can get Vitamin D in foods and supplements, and you should, especially during the winter months, but some dare say that on sunny days when it is warm enough, you should actually expose part of your body to the sun for 10-20 minutes during the mid-day hours.
“You do not need to sunbathe to get your Vitamin D and we are not advocating people do not protect themselves with sunscreen, but if you put sunscreen on before you step out of the house you will not reap any health benefits provided naturally by the sun. After a short period of unprotected exposure you should cover up or put on sunscreen to avoid sunburn.” [source]
Not only could some moderate sun exposure be good for us, but the chemicals found in most sunscreens may actually be harmful.
From the research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we now have further proof that a very large portion of commercially available sunscreens are NOT safe to use, do NOT last as long as promised, and may NOT protect you from the most damaging rays of the sun.
In fact, many of them give you a false sense of security that encourages excessive sun exposure and can lead to skin damage. They’re also likely carcinogens all by themselves! [source]
Now, before you start sending me nasty emails, no one is suggesting that we go sit on the beach from dawn to dusk without any sun protection. It is definitely important to limit your sun exposure unless or until you have built up a base of protection, and for those pasty white girls like myself, you may always need to wear some sunscreen when you’re going to be on the beach all day.
But what I AM suggesting is that we may have gone way overboard with the sunscreen hype.
My doctor recommends 15 minutes of full mid-day summer sun on at least 50% of the body before applying sunscreen. (I usually go for 30; that is enough time to give my skin that healthy glow that I love, and I don’t burn in less than 30 minutes.) I also practice this approach with my kids.
Too much sun CAN be dangerous, and sunburn is ALWAYS a bad thing, so definitely take precautions depending on your skin type and the amount of time you plan to be in the sun. But before you reach for the sunblock, think about if you really need it. Will you be outside long enough to warrant it?
If so, I advise checking out some of the more natural products available these days. I try to stick with barrier sunscreens as opposed to chemical ones.