Ok, I’m back with another addition of “Steve’s Self-Help Recommendations” – at least that’s the informal name I’ve decided to go with in this little series of blogs to help answer a common question I get: “How can I get the most benefit from my acupuncture sessions?” As we’re plowing through spring into summer here, I thought this time I’d address what has become a fairly controversial topic…
Now that spring is here and summer just around the corner, the “experts” are out in droves, insisting that if you plan to do anything outdoors beyond sprinting to the mailbox and back, you should slather on the sunscreen – or better yet, wait til nightfall to get the mail and just stay out of the sun altogether!
With all the warnings about it being the leading cause of skin cancer, as well as wrinkles and premature aging, all of this (mis)information paints a very one-sided picture. I’d like to share some facts that you are very unlikely to hear on the news or conventional media to try to balance the viewpoint a little.
Far from being a danger to us, sunlight exposure is vital for our well-being. Here’s a few facts about sunlight exposure you may not have heard:
- Lowers blood pressure by causing Nitric Oxide to be released.
- Reduces risk of cancer (even skin cancer!) by elevating Vitamin D
- Alleviates depression and other mood disorders
- Reduces risk of autoimmune diseases such as Type I diabetes and MS
- Reduces risk of Parkinson’s
- Improves bone strength
But what about the dreaded skin cancer!?
Well, here’s some more facts for you: from the 1930’s til the early 2000s, our ‘national sun exposure’ has gone down in the neighborhood of 90%. In that time, melanoma (the deadly form of skin cancer) has increased nearly 3,000%! Clearly there is much more to this than meets the eye.
Now, too much sun exposure does increase the risk of the ‘non-lethal’ skin cancers, but a diet high in antioxidants has been shown to slash that risk. Most importantly, like I mentioned before, sun exposure reduces your risk of internal cancers as well as a whole host of chronic diseases – and the mortality rates of these are a lot more disconcerting than melanoma. It’s been estimated that for every death from a ‘sun-related illness’, there are 328 deaths from diseases related to sun deficiency.
Then what about sunscreens?
Well, the FDA has acknowledged that 14 of the most common active ingredients in the most common sunscreens – ones you’re very likely using – have not been shown to be safe! In fact, at least one ingredient – oxybenzone – which is found in an estimated 70% of sunscreens has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor which throws off your hormones, and it is known to be harmful to water life. The only sunscreens that are safe are titanium or zinc oxides which essentially turn your skin white and reflect the suns rays. A simple rule of thumb that I follow is: if it absorbs into the skin, you don’t want to use it.
So here are a few tips that I use to regulate my time in the sun:
- A bit of sun each day is much better than several hours on the weekend. That’s what causes burning and damage to the skin.
- When you first start to see some pink developing on the skin, that’s enough for the day.
- Better than sunscreen is very light clothing that covers everything, hats, umbrellas, and shade.
- “Internal sunscreens” such as berries and other antioxidants such as astaxanthin are very important as well to protect your skin from the inside out.
I hope that I’ve been able to take some of the fear out of being in the sun, and to show you that it has numerous benefits to it, as long as we’re sensible and safe about it.
See you on the beach!