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2500 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
372 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
by Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB & Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, LDN, CDE
”Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Light is the basic component from which all life originates and is energized. We have managed to disconnect ourselves from sources of natural light with our fluorescent lights, indoor lifestyles, glasses, contact lenses, sunglasses, processed foods and overcooked foods. Sunlight is an important biological nutrient. The sun can re-charge our emotional and mental batteries, and decrease depression. However, overexposure is dangerous - as it can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, premature aging, wrinkles and painful sunburns. The sun doesn’t discriminate.
Natural sunlight on the skin (with no sunscreen) promotes the synthesis of Vitamin D, an essential vitamin needed by the human body. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, a strong immune system and protection from certain cancers. NOTE: Skin that has been repeatedly treated with sunscreen solutions apparently produces a lower quantity of Vitamin D. Your Vitamin D level can be checked in a routine lab test. It is generally safe to take 1000-2000 IUs of Vitamin D per day as a supplement.
How many minutes in the sun (with no sunscreen) is safe? This topic is very controversial. The American Medical Association recommends that everyone get 10-15 minutes of direct sun (with no sunscreen) several times per week to promote natural Vitamin D production. The American Academy of Dermatology, however, states: “there is no scientifically validated threshold level of ultra-violet (radiation) exposure from the sun that allows for maximal Vitamin D synthiesis without increased skin cancer risk”. The Academy recommends getting Vitamin D that occurs naturally in foods, foods fortified with Vitamin D, and from Vitamin D supplements.
How can we enjoy the sun, yet protect ourselves and those we care about? First of all, get some background on what all the abbreviations mean! The sun emits several types of rays or ultraviolet radiation. The main ones are UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) and UVC (ultraviolet C). UVC rays are mostly absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer and do not effect the skin.
UVA rays stay constant all year round and are the main type used in tanning beds. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are a major source of wrinkles and skin damage. They are considered the most damaging (compared to UVBs), partly because we don’t feel a “sunburn” happening with UVAs. Some studies indicate that UVAs can also pass through glass: e.g. when you are driving along in your car. (UVBs do not pass through glass). UVA rays also can pass through CLOUDS. (So, a cloudy day does NOT mean a day for skipping sunscreen.)
UVB rays are ultraviolet rays that are strongest in summer months when the Earth is closer to the sun. This is “the sunburn ray” or “tanning ray”–which is responsible for most of the tanning changes in lighter skin tones. UVBs affect the outer skin layer or epidermis. UVB rays can start effecting certain skin types in 60 seconds. Both UVA and UVB rays can be very damaging to the skin. Excess sun exposure can promote collagen breakdown (collagen makes skin look more youthful), create damaging free radicals in the body, interfere with DNA repair, and decrease optimum functioning of the immune system. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.
What is SPF? SPF = Sun Protection Factor. The SPF number tells you how long you can stay in the sun without burning from UVB rays. (The SPF number does not address other kinds of skin damage from UVA rays). What do the numbers mean? EXAMPLE: SPF 15. If you normally start to burn at 15 minutes, SPF 15 lets you stay in the sun ~15x longer (3.5 hours) without burning. SPF sun screen numbers indicate sun screen protection from UVB rays only. . However, broad spectrum ingredients are incorporated into some products to offer protection against both UVB and UVA rays.
How do you choose healthy sunscreen products? All products are not equal in quality and safety. Some ingredients can actually enhance skin damage and some contain toxic products that are absorbed into the body. Some products like sunblocks will deflect UV rays, whereas sunscreen uses chemicals to absorb UV rays. Both help to reduce UV exposure but neither eliminate exposure completely.
Expiration Dates: Products are generally designed to be safe and effective up to 3 years. (check expiration dates.) However, many experts recommend buying new products each year.
TIPS for CHOOSING SUNSCREEN PRODUCTS:
“When you see the weather report and it says ‘partly cloudy’ and then the next day it says ‘partly sunny’—what’s the difference?” ---author unknown—
Enjoy the Natural Sunlight, and Protect your Skin!
Book: 52 Small Changes by Brett Blumenthal
Berkeley Newsletter: “SunScreen Safety” by Lynn Marie Bower. (from the Healthy House Institute) http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com/a_1087-Sunscreen_Safety
http://www.ewg.org Search article: “Does Your Sunscreen Work?” and “Skin Deep”.
http://mayoclinic.com/health/sunlesstanning/SN00037 At bottom of Mayo Clinic article, check out other skin care articles, e.g., “Best Sunscreen: Understand Sunscreen”; “Sunscreen Options,” “Does Sunscreen Expire?” “Skin Care: 5 Tips for Healthy Skin.”
http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm258416.htm “FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens (2012)
Originally Posted on June 7, 2011 by wellnessshifterladies