Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away!

sunAaah, summer – lounging in a chair, splashing in the water, enjoying life in the sun, relaxing from all the stress of the modern world, listening to such upbeat tunes as You Are My Sunshine.

At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now summer is itself something more to stress out about.  The warm, bright, life-giving sun is now to be feared and avoided, and if not, then approached only with an army of sun-screens, sun-blockers and sun-protectors at the ready. We all seem to have all become experts on SPF factors and UV rays. What used to be a simple pleasure has become a guilty pleasure, full of worry and anxiety, particularly for our children. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Here are a few simple realities:

1. The sun is the source of life, health and longevity.

2. The health benefits of direct sunlight are well-documented in tens of thousands of studies.

3. Even in the case of Vitamin D, a critical element in health, sunlight is the best source by far.

The extensive research on sunlight is now supporting what common sense has long told us – sunlight is critical to our health

So, why are we so fearful of the sun that we feel we need to protect ourselves against it? In a word: skin cancer, or more precisely (to keep it to one word), melanoma. And yet this widely-known ‘fact’ is a myth.

The myth of sunlight causing melanoma is on a par with the cholesterol myth. It persists (blog) angry sundespite a lack of evidence. As Dr. Mercola states, our fear of getting skin cancer from the sun has resulted in a dramatic decrease in Vitamin D levels, an essential element for health “as a result of being scared sunless by those spreading misinformation that the sun causes melanoma.” In fact, increased Vitamin D due to sunlight actually protects you against melanoma.

We cannot live without the sun, and if we armour ourselves against it, our health, and life, suffers.

Sunlight, like all things in life, is subject to two basic rules – you can have too much of a good thing (there is an optimal dose for everything), and how much you can handle depends on your level of health to begin with – the healthier you are the more you can handle. Children learn about the optimal dose early on from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Baby bear’s bed, porridge and chair, in contrast to those of Mama and Papa Bear, are ‘just right’. Common sense tells us the second is true.

So, the best approach to the sun is to be as healthy as possible, and then you will be able to handle reasonable amounts of direct sunlight without getting burned. If you are not that healthy, then as in all things you have to proceed with more caution. Just as after a surgery or illness, you can’t immediately resume your normal level of activity, you need to ease into direct sunlight slowly, a few minutes at a time. This goes for those who travel to the ‘sun’ spots for vacations. Your body is not yet able to handle the intensity, and 20 minutes a day is enough for the first few days, until you can handle more.

The natural internal radiant energy of your body is able to meet and match the sun’s energy so that it provides all the benefits without any harm. The more radiant energy you provide (‘radiant health’), the more sun you can handle. I am blond-haired and blue-eyed and have been able to handle the sun without any need for sunscreens. Mind you, I follow the old adage, proven by research, that ‘only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon-day sun.’ This is a good rule of thumb to observe. The sun is most intense between about 11 AM and 2PM generally, and when you are most likely to get too much (‘get burned’). Cultures in more tropical climes developed a way to avoid the sun at this time, called the siesta. You can follow their sage example and stay out of the sun as much as possible during this time. Even when I have occasion to be outside and can’t avoid the sun at those times, I simply wear a hat, which along with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. The parts that are still exposed don’t get sun-burned and I don’t put anything on except maybe some coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil is a great natural way to lessen the effects of the sun (look for USDA Certified Organic or other reliable organic label). Even though it has an SPF factor of ‘only’ 10, that is still enough to block 90% of the UVB rays that are involved in the production of Vitamin D in the body. Coconut oil is also a way to lubricate and hydrate the skin, so I use it if I have to be out in the intense sun, but not otherwise.

If you feel you need to use a commercial sunscreen, here is a site that provides guidance on the best brands.

Remember also that a higher SPF is not really necessary. An SPF of 15 gives you 93% blockage of UVB rays (versus 90% for coconut oil), SPF 30 only 97%, and going to SPF 50 only increases that to 98%. 90% blockage of UVB rays should normally be enough.

If you take one thing from this article today, let it be ‘the sun is life-giving if you use common sense’. Mind you, as my mother used to say, ‘what’s common about it; most people don’t seem to have it’. Let’s hope your healthy tan will show others that you do still have what it takes!