Embrace the Rays: Why Mindful Sun Exposure Is Actually Vital to Your Health

As summer barbecues, bike rides, and beach days abound, your sun exposure naturally increases, and so do the ads for sunscreen. But before you cover up, lather up, and reapply, take a moment to consider whether those measures are doing more harm than good.

Benefits of Vitamin D:
Sometimes it feels easier to reach for that bottle of sunscreen without truly understanding how beneficial mindful sun exposure actually is. In fact, the sun is critical for a healthy, strong immune system.

It may sound crazy due to the fear-mongering over the sun causing cancer, but medical studies are showing the correlation between increased sun exposure and a decreased risk and mortality for several cancers including bladder, breast, cervical, colon, endometrial, esophageal, gastric, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, rectal, renal, and vulvar cancer. In addition, as the latitude decreases and UV doses increase, populations see a decrease in risks for autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

This positive relationship between sun exposure and a decreased risk of cancer and disease illustrates the importance of sunshine and its vitamin-D-producing benefits.

That said, it's important to note that medical studies have shown that chronic, excessive sun exposure increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Wait, but weren't we just discussing how important sunshine is to our well-being a few sentences ago? Before you throw your hands up in confusion, this is where the mindful adjective comes into play.

While UVB wavelengths can damage our DNA when our bodies are overexposed to the sun, the right amount of sunshine kicks off a positive chemical and metabolic chain reaction that has a wealth of benefits, including:

  • Vitamin D production
  • Stronger skin barrier (epidermis)
  • Pain relief
  • Mood booster
  • Mitochondria support for focus and memory
  • Protection against cancer
  • Metabolism booster

So, how do we achieve the right balance of mindful sun exposure without experiencing any side effects?

Mindfully Managing Sun Exposure:
Step 1: Be mindful of your timing:
This includes the time of day and how long you are in the sun.

Depending on your geographic location and the tone of your skin, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour a day will give your body enough sun to convert into vitamin D, no sunscreen necessary! Checking the UV index of your location is a smart way to determine how much time you can spend in the sun without protection to reap the benefits, without damaging your skin. Another important variable to take into account when planning your time outdoors is that the midday sun will be stronger than early in the morning or late in the evening.

Step 2: Be mindful of the food you eat:
The food you eat is the fuel your body uses to create skin cells and your microbiome. If you fill your body with processed foods and sugary drinks, your skin cells will respond to the sun in a different way than if you were to make healthy choices.

Eating a balanced, healthy diet and upping your intake of omega-3 can increase your body's natural UV resistance.

Foods high in omega-3 include:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Egg yolks

Step 3: Be mindful of which sunscreens you choose:
Have you heard that legislators in Hawaii are banning the use of certain sunscreens on their beaches because it damages marine life? If it's toxic enough to kill marine life, why do we still use it on our skin?

According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2018 report on sunscreen, oxybenzone is still a featured ingredient in two-thirds of the non-mineral sunscreens on the market, despite its hormone-disrupting qualities and hazardous effect on the environment.

You can avoid these toxic sunscreens by doing some research, choosing products approved by the EWG, and stopping by Terra for our mindfully chosen products that are safe for you, your family, and the environment.

When you spend extended periods of time in the sun, a healthy, nontoxic formulation of sunscreen is an important protective measure that will support your skin's natural UV barrier. Consider treating sunscreen as more of an accessory for those special occasions, rather than a daily necessity.

A Healthy Relationship:
This summer, remember that a positive relationship with the sun is good for your body. With the right mindset and a balanced approach to sun exposure, you can soak up all of the incredible benefits without the damaging side effects of overexposure.

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