Here Comes the Sun: Unveiling the Radiant and Risky Effects on the Skin and Body
A sunrise is Nature telling you that it's time to cherish another day on Earth. Enjoy life.
Urbn Madl Ui
We have an interesting relationship with the sun. We cherish beautiful sunrises and sunsets, enjoy its warmth, and owe over very lives to its life giving rays. It keeps our planet alive by providing the warmth and energy for plants to create food and oxygen which forms the base of the food pyramid and the diversity of species on earth.
But the sun also has a risky side -- its UV radiation can cause burns, free radicals, and damage our DNA. Excess sun exposure has been linked to skin cancer.
But too little sun can also have its downside. While the sun is often vilified the truth is that we do benefit from sun exposure in several important ways that can support our sleep, immune health, and more.
Let's explore the benefits of sun exposure and how it affects our skin, bodies, mood, and overall health and how to do so in a safe way.
Here Comes the Sun:
Sunlight is actually comprised of visible light, UVA, UVB, UVC, and infrared light. Visible light accounts for about 50% of sunlight and as the name suggest is the light that is visible to our eyes. It accounts for the colors we see and daylight.
UV light makes up about 5% of sunlight and is invisible to the human eye. UVA makes up the majority and is less intense than UVB radiation, but UVA can penetrate deeper into the skins layers and potentially cause signs of aging and damage to the skin and DNA.
UVB radiation affects the uppermost layers of the skin but is also important in Vitamin D synthesis, which is essential for bone health, immune health, and overall well being. Excessive exposure to UVB rays, however, can cause sunburn as well as aging effects on the skin.
UVC radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth.
How a Little Sunshine Helps the Body:
An interesting finding about sunlight exposure is that it helps regulate circadian rhythm and supports a good nights sleep. Exposure to natural light, especially in the morning contributes to better sleep by regulating biological molecules such as melatonin.
Sunlight exposure is also linked to mood enhancement. Sunlight reportedly supports serotonin production, which contributes to feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema may benefit from sun exposure.
UVB radiation also helps the body make Vitamin D which contributes to bone, blood, and immune health, and supports the absorption of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
Morning light may also help keep fat off. 20 to 30 minutes between 8 am and noon reportedly make the most difference but the earlier the better. Most likely sunlight affects hormones that regulate appetite and if you're outside getting sun you're likely getting exercise.
How Much Sun is too Much?
On the flip side we often hear that sun exposure can lead to skin and eye damage, even cancer. You may have seen warnings of the aging effects of the sun such as wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, and hyperpigmentation. Excessive sun can also cause dehydration and heat-stroke. So how can one enjoy the benefits of the sun while minimizing the drawbacks?
The answer depends on a variety of factors and is different for everyone. It depends on skin tone, where you live, health history, time of day outside, even medication you are taking or skin care products you use (products with alpha hydroxy acids for example or certain essential oils may make your skin more sensitive to the sun).
To support healthy sleep experts suggest getting early morning sunlight, so having coffee outside, getting an outdoor early morning workout, or walking the dog can help.
Experts believe mid-day sun exposure is best for vitamin D synthesis and since windows block UVB rays sitting by a window may not be enough. And while some believe that sunscreen may prevent the body from making vitamin D some preliminary studies suggest otherwise.
In the end common sense and knowledge is key. Exposure to the sun has its benefits and drawbacks. In general early morning exposure is less likely to cause burns and can help support healthy sleep and a small amount of mid day sun exposure without getting a burn can help the body synthesize vitamin D and supplements can help fill the gap.
But the sun is not all bad. It is essential for life on earth and offers many benefits that support health and wellness.
What are your thoughts about healthy sun exposure?
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