Summer is fast approaching and many people are using self-tanners in hopes of limiting their exposure to UV rays. We are told by doctors, mostly dermatologists, beauty experts and health officials to avoid the sun’s rays as it will cause cancer and damage to our skin.
We have lived with the sun for hundreds of thousands of years. The human body has survived and evolved even with this constant exposure to the sun, something that we are supposedly so vulnerable to.
The truth is, the human body utilizes sunlight to help our skin produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is important to our body as it’s needed to protect against cancer, build strong bones, improve our immune systems and suppress inflammation.
From the Huffington Post:
Western medicine has made a practice of telling us to abstain from things that are bad for us in extreme quantities, when in fact those same things; fat, salt and sunshine for example, are very good for us when consumed wisely and in moderation. In the case of sunshine, our UV paranoia is contributing to a silent epidemic: Vitamin D deficiency. It’s silent because most people don’t know they are deficient. And it’s deadly, because this deficiency can lead to cancer and a multitude of other diseases. But we’ve been brainwashed into believing that even small amounts of sunshine will harm us, and told to slather on sunscreen, which blocks vitamin D production and exacerbates the Vitamin D deficiency induced by our modern, indoor lives.
Studies show that as many as three out of four Americans suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine (a leading scientific journal), found that 70 percent of Caucasians, 90 percent of Hispanics and 97 percent of African Americans in the US have insufficient blood levels of vitamin D. Indeed, it’s thought to be the most common medical condition in the world, affecting over one billion people and we now have research showing just how essential vitamin D is to health.
Now it’s best to be safe and smart about when you expose your sunscreen-free body to the sun. There are those with certain characteristics that make them more vulnerable to the sun’s rays.
If you have a history of skin cancer or severe sunburns you have a higher risk for the sun to cause skin damage and potentially skin cancer. Other personal characteristics that make a person vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays include those with fair skin, a history of skin cancer or have a large number of moles.
If you have fair skin you have less melanin, the pigment that gives our skin color. The production of melanin is a way our body protects our skin from sun exposure. Those with fair skin will typically burn instead of tanning.
Location also has a significant effect to your risk for skin cancer and sun damage. If you spend a lot of time outside in the sun you will be exposed to more UV rays than a person who stays inside. The sun’s UV rays are the most harmful between 10 am and 3 pm.
Those living closer to the equator are exposed to intense UV rays, and surprisingly those living at higher altitudes can be exposed to more radiation than people living at sea level. This is because there is less atmosphere to filter out the UV rays, so you are receiving direct sun exposure.
DID YOU KNOW? If you are above 8,000 feet you are potentially exposed to 40% more UV radiation.
Healthy sun exposure doesn’t usually cause the problems, but sunburns do. You can’t expect to come out of winter and hit the sunlight for hours without expecting a sunburn. The skin needs to build up a tolerance gradually.
As we all need different levels of vitamin D to ensure our body’s are healthy, it’s difficult to say how much exposure to the sun we need. An average would be 15-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure two to four times a week. After that protect yourself with light clothing and hats, or perhaps sunscreen depending on how long you will be exposed. Sun exposure requires precautions. It needs to be intelligently used or there will be harmful consequences.
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