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Salute to the Sun: Understand the Benefits and Risks of Sun Exposure

If you are like me, you enjoy the feeling of being outside in the sunshine. Every one of my clients gets an education on how to get the best sun protection and I want to share some of that with you! Spending time outdoors means being exposed to UV Rays, which isn’t a bad thing. There are many health benefits associated with being outside in the sun. Excessive, prolonged and unprotected sun exposure has the potential to cause a lot of damage as well. Being prepared with the right tools, you can fully enjoy your time outdoors, maximize the health benefits and prevent major problems in the future. There’s no need to hide inside. As a matter of fact, avoiding sun exposure can be detrimental to your health.

Here’s some positive perks to stepping outdoors during the day and some risks of excessive sun exposure:

  • Sun exposure lowers blood pressure. Nitric Oxide (helps lower blood pressure) is released into the blood vessels as soon as sunlight touches the skin. The benefits of lower blood pressure include cutting risk of heart attacks and strokes

  • Sun exposure improves bone health. Vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorus in the body. Emerging research also indicates there is a direct correlation between bone density and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin formed during the process of Vitamin D manufacture when sunlight hits the skin. It regulates calcium absorption. When you have higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering fractures.

  • Sun exposure improves brain function. Studies have found sunlight could help spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming, organizing and storing of memories.

  • Sun exposure eases mild depression. Moderate sun exposure increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain that can actually help relieve mild depression. That’s because on sunny days the brain produces more serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical, than on darker days.

  • Sun exposure improves sleep quality. When sunlight hits our eyes, a message is sent to the pineal gland in the brain and production of melatonin (a hormone that makes us drowsy and helps us sleep) is shut down until the sun goes down again. Your body gets a clear signal that it’s no longer night and this helps to maintain a normal circadian rhythm.

  • Sun exposure enhances the immune system. White blood cells increase with sun exposure. They play a key role in fighting diseases and defending the body against infection.

You’ve heard that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. This applies to sun exposure as well. Some of the downfalls of excess, prolonged and unprotected sunbathing are:

  • Sunburn: Typically, there is initial redness, followed by varying degrees of pain, proportional in severity to both the duration and intensity of exposure. Other symptoms can include swelling, itching, peeling skin, rash, nausea, fever, chills and sometimes dizziness. Heat is given off from the burn, caused by the concentration of blood in the healing process, giving a warm feeling to the affected area. Sunburns may be classified as superficial, or partial thickness burns.

  • Sun Spots: You may have sun-derived or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) if the areas of pigmentation are like freckles, and are more apparent with sun exposure and not usually symmetrical on the face. They can appear as a larger cluster of pigmentation in some areas.

  • Aging Skin: Looser, less firmness or thickness of skin and wrinkles. This is caused by the breakdown of collagen & elastin.

  • Skin Cancer: UV Radiation causes Free-Radical damage, which alters the skin’s DNA. These genetic mutations that result can lead to various forms of skin cancer. There are 3 types of skin cancer:

  • Basal Cell

  • Squamous Cell

  • and Melanoma

Bottom line:

Sunshine does have its benefits, but it’s still the number one cause of skin cancer. Experts recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily for a healthy adult. After that, apply sunscreen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30. There are tons of products on the market that offer SPF protection, but you’ve heard me preach against chemical sunscreens. Remember that chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin, with ingredients that can alter your DNA over time, potentially leading to cancer – what we are trying to prevent in the first place! Instead, opt for natural mineral sunscreens that offer protection without the chemicals. Osmosis has some fabulous products for sun protection.

Not sure which sun protection is the best for your skin type and lifestyle? Schedule a personal skin consultation Skin Solutions by Lani.

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