This is a subject I revisit every year, but I feel it's always worth sharing again as there is so much misunderstanding around suncream and our health.
Oh how I love the summer! There is nothing quite like that feeling of warm sun on bare skin. How many of us manage to absorb that happy feeling without the underlying fear of “but I haven’t put suncream on!”? I would guess by and large that the vast majority of you feel this way as, scare tactics from doctors, dermatologists and above all the sun cream manufacturers have worked well to convince of the message that sun cream should be slapped on the second we see a glimpse of sun (and some go even further to convince you to wear it all year round!).
As a result, a lot of people avoid the sun like the plague, or else slap on sun cream if they are in the slightest bit of sunlight. They live in constant fear of skin cancer and feel they are doing the right thing to prevent it. The sad truth is that some of the chemicals in the sun cream can contribute to the same skin cancer that we are trying to avoid, and less well known is that an equally a poor diet and other environmental toxic factors can also seriously contribute to developing skin cancer. Alas there is no profit in eating fresh food or using more natural products in and around your home and so this message rarely gets communicated.
We have to bear in mind that the skin care industry, especially sun creams, is a multi-million pound global industry, and that along with the help of mainstream medical establishment and the media we have been convinced that the sun is enemy number one when it comes to skin health. Here’s what you won’t hear: sunlight’s good for your skin and critical to your overall health and wellbeing. Get enough of it, and you’ll actually massively reduce your risk for a wide range of cancers.
Sunscreens are very good at blocking UVA rays. Yet even that presents a problem, because your skin needs exposure to UVA rays to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for good health and research over the last 10 years has shown it insures the healthy functioning of just about every system in your body. Vitamin D is also the most potent cancer fighter in the world. Some of the more vital actions of vitamin D include vitamin D’s protection in tissue inflammation that contributes to heart disease and arthritis and it also helps the pancreas control insulin to regulate blood sugar. There are many, many more other benefits too long to list here!
18 months ago a study published in the journal ‘Anticancer Research’ in the USA found that sunlight can reduce the risk of death from 16 types of cancer in both men and women. There are far more reasons to expose yourself to sun and vitamin D to prevent cancer, than there are reasons to worry about sun exposure causing cancer. We’ve been sold a patsy. If sun cream is the answer to preventing skin cancer then why is that we spend millions on sun protection (in the UK that’s over £260 million p.a.) and yet skin cancer is still on the rise? Sun cream is big business.
The best way to keep your skin healthy is through; plenty of antioxidants (CoQ10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid) in your diet which fight off the free radicals that cause wrinkles, sunspots and cancer; Vitamin C , which reduces inflammation and vitamin A, D and E which all contribute to good skin health. Antioxidants have been found to fix UV damage to DNA, which causes skin cancer and pigmentation. Today’s nutrient depleted modern diets have a lot more to do with skin cancer than sun exposure. Are doctors really the best advisors on preventing skin care when diet plays such a huge role in the health of our skin (and overall body) when they have little or no nutritional training? (a couple of hours at most in medical school).
Of course I’m not advocating that you spend all day basking in the sun, but use some rationality when it comes to skin care and your exposure to the sun. We must also bear in mind the other end of the scale, that is lack of sun exposure being incredibly bad for your health. This is particularly evident in people with darker skins no longer living in their natural climate, in such cases we see massive increases in vitamin D deficiency type illnesses like diabetes and osteoporosis. Of course we can also liken the overuse of sun cream to the lack of exposure to sunlight, which is effectively what happens if we slather ourselves in sun cream on every sunny day. Vitamin D has become a big area of research in recent years and researchers are increasingly finding that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention.
In the words of the highly respected Dr Mercola, who is always at the forefront of the health and medical field, “I believe the evidence is quite clear; your likelihood of developing deadly skin cancer from sun exposure is nowhere near as high as you have been led to believe in the past. The benefits of normalizing your vitamin D levels FAR outweigh any risk you may have from optimal sun exposure. “
Here are some great tips to make sure your getting enough of the sunny vitamin:
- Do not shower straight after sun exposure as vitamin D will simply wash straight down the plug hole. Yes, you may not be aware of this put you can quite literally wash the vitamin D off your skin. So leave it a few hours to absorb and do its magic work.
- Letting the skin go a very slight tinge of pink (and I don’t mean burning) means you have absorbed plenty of vitamin D.
- The lighter your skin then the less vitamin D you need to absorb and the less sun exposure you need, so of course dark skin needs a lot more and is perfectly developed this way (it can be as much as 10 times more). Isn’t this starting to make sense when we step away from the marketing messages? Like all of my health recommendations, forget the marketing and fear tactics and look at your own body and gauge how much sun exposure works for you – use your own skin as a guide.
- Wear a hat to protect the delicate skin on your face and get your skin to develop its own SPF by exposing yourself gradually over time. By the end of the summer your tolerance to the sun should be far higher than at the start.
- When you are having ‘sun time’ you need to be exposing at least 40 % of your body to get sufficient vitamin D.
- I am sure most of us have experienced the increased propensity to burn the day after a night on the tiles and a few too many drinks. Making sure the body is always well hydrated is key. Drinking lots of fluids, making sure you have lots of good fats and oils in your diet and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and reducing processed foods and sugar will also do much to protect your skin naturally. The lycopene and antioxidants in tomatoes have been found to be particularly effective.
- If you are going to use sun creams pick ones without nasty chemicals in which can possibly cause DNA damage, and use those with natural minerals instead. There is now a really good selection to choose from. Research by the University of California that the chemicals in some creams can actually trigger free radical damage that can then lead to skin cancer. In fact many have suggested that the rise in skin cancer goes hand in hand with the rise in use of chemical sunscreens.
If you feel you need help with enriching your diet to improve your skin and/or your overall health, then here is a link to the form where you can contact me for an enlightening conversation around your health:
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