Sunshine is a vital ingredient for staying healthy and is your best source for essential Vitamin D. Sunlight also provides you with numerous other health benefits such as fighting depression and protection against several types of cancer.
We all need regular sun exposure. However, there are occasions where it is possible you may overdose. Excess sun exposure that causes sunburns is something you want to avoid, as this causes genetic damage to your skin.
The majority of sun damage occurs when you are young, putting children among the highest risk for sunburn. Summer months are a busy time for families with schedules packed with sporting events, pool parties, going to the beach, camping, vacations and many other outdoor activities. While this is a prime time to get your Vitamin D, it is also the time you are most likely going to risk getting sunburn.
TIME IN THE SUN
Many of us are guilty of not monitoring our time in the sun. It's easy to lose track of our "fun in the sun" weekend time -- especially for those of us who have been cooped up in offices for the majority of the week. Make sure you only stay in direct sunshine for short periods, and avoid the sun after 3pm (explained further on).
The solution to stopping sunburn is not as simple as just slapping on any form of sunscreen found on store shelves. In fact, using most types of sunscreens may cause you even greater harm and may actually increase your risk of disease.
The vast majority of today's sunscreens are nothing more than poisonous concoctions loaded with suspect carcinogens. Finding a "safe" sunscreen is about as difficult as getting your kids out of the pool on a hot summer day.
Most recent research has shown that by putting sunscreen on whenever you are in the sun will stop your body obtaining Vitamin D. Now the body is very clever as it uses the vitamin D to create its own cancer protection so it is vital that we expose ourselves safely in the sun without sunscreen.
Of course when it is extremely hot and for prolonged exposure, additional sunscreen is required. However if we wean ourselves off the over-use of sunscreen that we have been frightened into, then we will naturally build up our own defences again, and also will no longer be deficient in Vitamin D as many of us are.
For more information on the 'myth' that sun causes skin cancer please see what Dr Mercola has to say by clicking HERE
TYPES OF SUNSCREEN
It's important to make the distinction between the two kinds of sunscreen agents: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreen agents protect you from the sun by absorbing the ultraviolet (UV) and visible sun rays, while physical sunscreen agents reflect, scatter, absorb, or block these rays. We believe the best type is the latter.
THE TOXICITY of SUNSCREEN INGREDIENTS
Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug because it contains several "active" ingredients. The debate over toxicity of these active ingredients is still a controversy, and so are the FDAs intentions (as they are often seemingly in favour of corporations).
One study found that the main chemical used in sun lotions to filter out ultraviolet light may be TOXIC -- and the chemical's toxicity doubled when exposed to sunlight. Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), which is present in 90 percent of sunscreen brands, was found to kill mouse cells even at low doses in a study by Norwegian scientists. When researchers shone a lamp for two hours to simulate midday sunshine, even more cells died.
A study in the April 2004 Journal of Chromatography found that there is significant penetration of all sunscreen agents they studied into the skin. So, it's a fair to assume that when you use sunscreen your body is absorbing synthetic chemicals.
And if you follow the recommendations on the sunscreen's label to apply generous amounts of the product every few hours, it's likely you will be absorbing your fair share of potentially toxic chemicals. It takes a stretch of the imagination to believe that all of these chemicals will not have any effect on your system.
SO WHAT'S OK?
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil has an average sun protection factor of 10, and is believed to block out harmful rays while moisturising and conditioning the skin, and all this with no toxic ingredients! You need to try this for yourself though, and we recommend a little exposure at a time.
Another active ingredient is Paba Ester (Padimate O), which is among the most natural agents you will find in sunscreen products today.
WHAT ABOUT VITAMIN D?
Ultraviolet B, or UV-B, is known as the "burning ray" because it is the primary cause of sunburn caused by overexposure to sunlight. However, UV-B sunlight produces vitamin D on the skin, and stimulates the production of MSH -- an important hormone in weight loss, energy production, and in giving you that wonderful tanned appearance. It has also been claimed by some health experts that Vitamin D deficiency could lead to improper brain development and could be linked to autism.( see mercola.com for more information.
While longer sun exposure will not increase vitamin D production, it will increase the danger of skin damage. So how do you get enough Vitamin D without getting burned? There are several key factors to consider when exposing yourself to UV-B rays including:
## Latitude and altitude of location - The further north you are the less there is; the higher up you are the more UV-B reaches you.
##Your skin pigmentation - The darker your pigmentation or more tanned your skin, the less UV-B penetrates.
##Weather conditions and air quality - Both clouds and pollution (smog and ozone) can block UV-B
## Time of year - Virtually no UV-B is available in winter months in the U.K.
Sunscreen will block you from getting Vitamin D on the skin, so we recommend using them cautiously, especially if you have a Vitamin D deficiency.
OTHER MORE NATURAL WAYS TO PROTECT YOU & YOUR FAMILY
1. Dress in protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeve shirt and long pants, but don't forget it is possible to get sun burnt through clothes as they generally have only an SPF of 5.9.
2. During the summer, limit exposure when the sun is most potent -- from 11am to 1pm. For your children, reduce exposure to the sun particularly from around 10am onwards. Avoid sun exposure after 3pm as the sun's rays change from being a mix of UVA & UVB rays to UVA only. These are the rays that promote long term damage as they do not stimulate the body's defences (ie vitamin D production).
3. At the beginning of the season limit your exposure to the sun. Progressively increase the time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with less risk of skin cancer.
4. Make sure you have adequate eye protection such as sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection from radiation.
5. Because there will be times when you can't avoid excessive exposure to the sun, carry and use a safe, non-toxic sunscreen.
6. DO NOT SHOWER WITH SOAP as it takes 48hrs for the vitamin d3 that is formed on the surface of your skin to penetrate into your bloodstream. Washing with soap simply washes it away. It is OK to wash the groin and underarm areas but just rinse the rest of your body!
TIPS FOR NATURAL RELIEF OF SUNBURN
Despite some of our best efforts, sunburn happens. Overexposure to the sun could result in a mild first-degree burn, which consists of redness and pain for a few hours after the sun exposure that eventually worsens after the next 24 hours. If it's severely painful or covered with blisters, see a doctor.
Sunburn is burned skin so treat it gently and wait for it to heal. Here's what you can do if you, or your child, suffers from mild sunburn:
1. If you've been in a chlorinated swimming pool, rinse the pool water off thoroughly, don't rub or use a cloth. Pat yourself dry.
2. Take a cool (not cold) bath.
3. Apply fresh aloe vera gel (preferably from an aloe vera plant, if not available see our Aromatherapy section for Aloe Vera Gel) directly to the burnt area. Avoid expensive manufactured aloe gels or lotions -- they are not as effective as the plant itself and they lose their potency over time.
4. Pat cool, sugarless tea over the area -- this works very well for sensitive areas around the eyes. The tannin in tea provides an active soothing ingredient.
5. ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE AND MOST EFFECTIVE - Keep some fresh ripe tomatoes in the fridge while on holiday. Cut a tomato in half and rub over the burnt area, allowing the juice and pips to stay on the skin (this will feel very cold and may sting a little as it draws out the discomfort). Let the juice dry, and once dry it can be showered of with a cool shower. Fantastic for reducing pain - you can even slap it afterwards!! Then apply aloe vera gel or juice to the area to promote healing.
The best remedy for sunburn is and has always been prevention. And if you think you might be in the sun longer than is good for you -- be safe, not sorry!
We wish everyone safety and happiness in their summer holiday!