Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sunshine

For the past decade or more, the wisdom coming out from the vast majority of dermatologist offices has been that sunshine is evil incarnate.  The implication has been that almost any exposure to sunlight would result in skin cancer.  While undeniably skin cancer is triggered by skin damage caused by excessive ultraviolet light exposure (i.e. sunburn), sunlight is not skin cancer waiting to happen.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.

The Journal of Internal Medicine reported in March on a Swedish study that found avoiding exposure to the sun was comparable to smoking in terms of mortality risk.  In other words, people who avoid time in the sun might as well be smoking cigarettes; the impact on your health will be comparable.  The reason for this observation is not understood, but most speculations tie it to Vitamin D deficiencies.  Ultraviolet light from the sun on our skin produces activated Vitamin D.  Vitamin D has been proven to improve immune function and reduce cancer risk, in addition to building strong bones and regulating calcium stores.

I do want to be clear.  Getting sunburned is bad, and the damage is cumulative - so, the more sunburns you get the greater your chances of skin cancer.  I also recommend avoiding sunscreens.  Most commercial sun blocking products contain toxins and blocking the sun chemically, or blocking it by staying inside your house are virtually alike.  So what is one to do?  Ideally, you need to accustom your skin to being in the sun.  This involves exposing your skin gradually to increasing lengths of time in it.  If you are forced to be out in the sun longer than your skin is accustomed to, then using a sunscreen is better than getting burned.  But starting early in the summer (or spring even) start exposing areas of your skin that you know will be exposed throughout the summer so that your body can cope with longer exposures when you start playing outside.

The other problem with long exposures to sunlight is that ultraviolet light does tend to age your skin.  Good oils (e.g. avocado, hemp, apricot kernel, or macadamia nut) with Vitamin E added are great moisturizers and provide good protection against the free radicals created by excess exposure to ultraviolet light.