Wise Interaction with the Sun
Imagine this: At an appointment with your doctor, he advises you to spend unblocked time in the sun to preserve the health and beauty of your skin …
“Properly aired and sunlit, skin becomes velvety, supple tissue, absolutely immune from anything of the nature of pimples, acne, and incapable of infection. Sunshine is the finest cosmetic. Skin, well-pigmented in response to sun-bathing, becomes firm and strong, but at the same time delicate and soft. Followed, by a filling out of the exposed skin and a smoothing away of wrinkles results from sunbathing. Increased beauty is the outcome.”
This renegade advice is in Sunlight and Health, written by an English physician in 1929. In contrast, today most doctors and dermatologists wax weary about ultra-violet hazards, while public health campaigns advocate for avoidance of the sun. They tell us to shun the sun and fear exposure from even short jaunts, like walking from the parking lot to the mall. While the sun remains the same, we sure have changed. In pursuit of healthy, beautiful skin, we now avoid the sun and inject fillers into faces, apply chemicals to acne, and spray on fake tans filled with DNA damaging dihydroxyacetone.
We have been lobbied into a loss of sunlight. It is true that our skin can be vulnerable to sunburn, and repeated sunburns can cause visible damage. Yet, our interaction with the sun need not be "all or none!" If we are wise, we can enjoy a healthy and happy relationship with our ancient friend, the sun.
Let’s consider the best protocols for wisely riding solar wavelengths.
1. Upon the altar of sunshine, what we ingest determines how our skin responds to sunlight. Skin cells must be strengthened and nourished internally with real food and water to receive the full blessing of interacting with the sun. Well-nourished skin responds better to sunlight, and sun-ripened food is more nutritious. We can create an internal SPF with an antioxidant-rich rainbow diet of sun-grown Super Power Foods, herbs, and luscious fats brimming with nutrients -- all contributing to our internal sunscreen.
Summer is a great time to indulge in sun-ripened fruit, vegetables, and herbs that build an internal SPF. Take tomatoes, for example; researchers in the UK have demonstrated a 30% increase in sun protection after eating a tomato-rich diet. 16mg of lycopene, the red antioxidant found in tomatoes, seems to be the key.i Other SPF foods include: watermelon, green tea, turmeric, red, green, and yellow peppers, watermelon, and berries.
Also, save room for chocolate! Pure, unprocessed, and unadulterated chocolate has 4 times the amount of phenols and catechins as teas, and these compounds protect the skin against sunburn.
Many of the skin issues that are called “sun damage” are really the result of malnutrition. The recipe for wrinkles and dark spots is our current standard diet of processed food produced in the shadows of pesticides and factory farming. The transfats, plasticizers, bromide, formaldehyde, coal tar derivatives, color and flavor additives, and fluoride, commonly found in processed foods create reactions in our bodies that trigger collagen breakdown, inflammation, age spots, and hyper-pigmentation. The rampant use of polyunsaturated-fatty-acids found in every processed food item impairs intercellular-communication, suppresses immune functions, damages our DNA, and on top of all of that, is linked to wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
This is the difference between cooking with PAM or coconut oil. Organic healthy fats and essential fatty acids, direly depleted in the North American diet, are really needed to amplify the benefits of the sun’s rays. Cold-water fish, meat and dairy from pasture-raised animals, and nuts, as well as coconut and olive oils are beautiful sources of dietary fats.
2. Recover your skin's integrity. The skin’s outer layer is a thin coating of oils that provides natural anti-bacterial, anti-wrinkle, and sun-screen protection. The integrity of this layer is damaged by soaps, scrubs, chemical peels, and synthetic moisturizers. (These things also disrupt vitamin D production.) Washing and moisturizing the skin with essential oil serums and botanical oils, as well as dry brushing, regenerates the skin's top layer, supports the collagen, and feeds the skin’s immunity.
Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun ~ Khalil Gibran
3. Sun yourself wisely. Start slowly but surely, and start in the spring so that you may create a protective tan with phased in exposure. Melanin, the tanned-skin pigment, produced in the spring prevents sunburn in the summer. Melanin is our ancient biological mechanism of photo-protection designed exclusively to support our relationship with the sun. Melanin in the skin transforms 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation into heat that is easily dissipated, allowing us to sidestep radiation damage that contributes to cell damage. Far more effective than sunscreen, melanin lingers in our skin long after the sun’s rays have set.
There are many, many reasons to avoid synthetic sunscreens, and here are two that may be new to you:
Sunscreens made from synthetic ingredients create a false sense of security by disabling our skin's early warning system – the sunburn – which keeps us from indulging in too much sun too fast. Most sunscreens only block UVB rays, the rays that cause sunburn, but not UVA rays. Over the long run, people wearing synthetic sunscreen1 unknowingly overexpose their skin to UV radiation. Unfortunately, sunscreen prevents them from receive any of the benefits of exposure…
UVB rays blocked by sunscreens are the rays we depend on for vitamin D. The interaction of sun on skin is the human form of photosynthesis; sunlight in the form of UVB rays touching the skin activates our bodies production of vitamin D. Scientists are only just beginning to discover how desperately our bodies need skin-made D. In North American, the rate of vitamin D deficiency is soaring -- over 75% -- and research attributes the host of rising health issues, including heart disease, osteoporosis, juvenile diabetes, MS, and cancer, to the epidemic of D depletion.
The best time of day for sunning is morning to solar-noon. Bare as much skin as you dare. The dosage depends on the condition of your skin and your natural skin pigmentation. Tune in to your innate warning system; if skin starts to feel warm, seek shade. Start with a few minutes a day and build-up. Remember to flip!
4. Botanical oils preserve the juiciness of your sun exposure.
Plants, too, require wise interaction with the sun. Almost all plant oils offer some degree of ultraviolet protection to their own tissue – and ours. Officially, the term SPF can only be used to reference synthetic sunscreen ingredients, but plant oils do offer a range of protection that can gracefully extend our time in the sun. Plant oils of virgin coconut, jojoba, olive, and seabuckthorn applied to the skin provide a measure of sun protection. Raspberry seed oil also has potential use as a broad range sun protectant. Under a spectrometer, raspberry seed oil absorbed both UVB and UVC rays while scattering UVA; it may provide an equivalent of SPF-25.
Essential oils, the distillates of plants, are especially adept at harmonizing the sun’s rays with our skin. Rich in antioxidants and cell regenerative activity, they nourish and heal the skin:
If you ever burn, aloe mixed with a drop or two of peppermint, lavender, or seabuckthorn offers soothing relief and quickens healing.
Geranium, frankincense, and sandalwood essential oils are also really great skin-sun harmonizing oils. These oils, as well as rose, can improve the appearance of hyper-pigmentation.
We love to be in the sun, so we formulated an organic elixir of plant oils as a cooling canopy and deep drink for our skin; Everybody Loves the Sunshine uses the rich oils of desert jojoba, virgin coco-creme, red raspberry seed oil, seabuckthorn berry oil, tamanu berry, and the essential oils of schizandra berry, immortelle, carrot seed, rose-otto, Cape chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, ginger, lavender, turmeric, calendula and palmarosa. This beautiful formula harmonizes your skin with the sun.
We want to avoid sunburned skin, so for extended hours in the sun that exceed your natural melanin protection and plant oil oversight, wear a hat and cover skin with clothing. Or, use a natural sunblock with zinc oxide, like Everybody Loves the Sunshine with Zinc. Uncoated zinc oxide effectively blocks the sun’s rays – and unlike the white stuff on lifeguards' noses, it won't paint the skin white.
A mixture of pure vitamin C powder in a 10% solution with water may also help the skin welcome the sun. Lightly mist the solution onto exposed skin, allow it to soak in, and re-spray once again before sun exposure.
5. Wear sunglasses only when necessary. Our eyes need the sunlight, too. Sunlight in the eyes is the most direct path of communication between the sun and our brains, and our good health and good mood hinges on it. When the full spectrum of light rays is intercepted in the retina, it is positively encoded in the brain and sets in motion the juicy hormones and neurochemicals that help us stay happy and healthy. This process works even if we are in the shade, but not if we are wearing shades.
The blue part of the sunlight spectrum is absorbed by the lens at the back of the eye, which stimulates the suprachiasmatic nucleus (the body's master clock) in the hypothalamus and the pineal gland. In turn, they synchronize the production and release of neural and hormonal messengers including melatonin (not melanin). Melatonin is mostly widely known as the circadian rhythm hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. It is also a powerful immune booster and anti-aging antioxidant that protects nuclear and mitochondrial DNA and delays neuro-degeneration. Wearing sunglasses and spending our days indoors blocks blue light reception and reduces our nightly dose of melatonin.
As we age, the photoreceptive lens starts to get cloudy, inhibiting the full absorption of the needed blue light. This leads to master-clock confusion and the under production of hormones, like melatonin, and neurochemicals. A 45 year old's lenses absorb only half of the amount of blue light as a child's lenses. The lenses of the elderly are often quite opaque, and this may explain why rates of sleep problems, immune issues, and some mood disorders, like depression, increase in the elderly. As your years increase, the more time you need to spend outside to receive the sun's fullest blessing and the night's best sleep.ii
Children also need to be outside in the sun as natural light is crucial for healthy eye development. Ophthalmic research shows that spending three hours a day in natural light reduces the risk nearsightedness in children. Sunlight triggers dopamine production in the eye, which stimulates normal growth.iii
We can safely satisfy our eyes' need for sunlight by practicing the ancient art of sun gazing. Slowly acclimatize the eyes to sunlight by enjoying the gentle rays of sunrise and sunset.
Rejoice in the warm sunshine, and let the elements feed your skin and spirit. Engage it with grace. Greet it with self-knowledge, wisdom, and a well-nourished body and all will be well.
Thank you, Sun, that just happens to be in exactly the right place in the universe.
Nadine Artemis, the founder of Living Libations, is the author of Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, and Renegade Beauty: Reveal and Revive Your Natural Radiance, which was named one of “The Top 10 Books on Skin Care” by The Strategist of New York Magazine. She is a respected media guest and contributor, and her products have received rave reviews in the New York Times, LA Times, Elle, People, Vogue, and Hollywood Reporter. Described by Alanis Morissette as “a true-sense visionary,” Nadine crafts elegant formulations and healing creations from rare botanicals that have skin glowing around the world. Her concept of Renegade Beauty encourages effortlessness and inspires people to rethink conventional notions of beauty and wellness.