We have all been told that a little bit of sun is good for us. And why wouldn’t it be? After all our star, the sun is ultimately what brings us life. The heat keeps the earth from being frozen over. Rays from the sun feed plants which in turn feed us, not to mention keeping us in orbit! But what about the negative reputation the sun has? Premature ageing and even cancer are blamed on the sun and its UV rays.
One day we are told to cover up and avoid harmful rays, the next we are told to soak up some of that vitamin D! We have been told to apply sunscreen, but what about the chemicals in some sunscreens? What is the best sunscreen for kids?
Our goal here is to set the story straight, state the pros and cons of sun exposure and debunk some of the myths.
Let's talk about the human body. We are not plants so why would we need direct sunlight? It turns out that if you had no direct sunlight whatsoever it would be extremely harmful for you. It would have a negative effect on your vitamin D levels.
Without adequate vitamin D, calcium absorption is inhibited, potentially leading to Osteoporosis and other health problems later in life. The human body does not produce vitamin D on its own. This means we need to find it from an external source. You are not able to absorb enough vitamin D from food alone but some sources of edible vitamin D include:
-Fatty fish eg. tuna and salmon
-Fortified foods like some soy milks, orange juice, dairy products, cereals and tofu
-The sun is still one of the easiest sources, and best of all it’s free!
We know that sun exposure can actually improve your mood, this is because the vitamin D derived from sunlight causes serotonin to be released from your brain and naturally improve your mood.
On the flip side a lack of sunlight can effect our mood in a negative light, for some people the shorter winter days especially can negatively affect our well-being. A lack of sunlight can cause serotonin depletion and in extreme cases bring on symptoms of depression.
It is common to hear the term “getting the winter blues” although the official term is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Winter depression. Estimates put the percentage of people seriously affected at 4-6 percent (10 Million Americans), with another significant number suffering from mild SAD.
Colon cancer and heart disease have also been linked to low vitamin D levels. Colon cancer takes over 50,000 lives each year in the USA. Although low vitamin D levels is not the only risk factor according to The International Journal of Cancer 15 March 2011 for every 10 nanograms per milliliter increase of Vitamin D in the bloodstream there was a 15 percent decrease in Colon cancer risk and an 11 percent decrease in breast cancer risk.
It is unsurprising then as to why the winter vacation in the sun is a popular pursuit for so many of us.. As if we needed another reason!
So we have established that SOME sun is good for us. But, how much time in the sun is ideal? And when is the best time to apply a natural sunscreen? What is the best sunscreen to use?
Like most things,it's complicated!
The darker your skin, the more slowly your body will produce Vitamin D. Also Vitamin D production is also slowed down by the aging process. Another factor to consider is that if the sun is not overhead (between 10am and 3pm) most likely the suns ultraviolet B rays are not able to penetrate the sky.
A good rule of thumb is if your shadow is longer than your body length its most likely your body is not creating Vitamin D.
Also if you live 37 degrees higher than the equator or 37 degrees lower, the sun will not be effective for producing vitamin D as it never gets directly over head during the winter.
In the southern Hemisphere think New Zealand, Tasmania, and the southern tip of Chile/Argentina. In the Northern Hemisphere the 37th Parallel roughly passes through Atlanta Georgia, San Francisco California and Tokyo Japan.
For most people allowing 10-15 in direct sunlight on your torso and limbs is fine. However always protect your face and ears as those areas are the most sun exposed.
Here are some of the most popular sunscreens designed particularly for the face. We favour Zinc based sunscreens as they do not absorb directly into the skin like regular chemical sunscreens. Watch out for oxybenzone, avobenzone and octocrylene on the label as these chemicals are toxic and are absorbed into the blood stream.
Aveeno Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 88ml
This sunscreen is designed to be the best baby sunscreen so you know it will be gentle on the skin! It contains Naturally sourced zinc oxide and colloidal oatmeal. It protects from UVA and UVB sunrays and is water resistant and non irritant.
Ombrelle Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 120ml
This is one of the best sunscreens for sensitive skin. It is 100% mineral based made with titanium dioxide. Sun and water resistant for 80 minutes. It is a hypoallergenic lotion fragrance and colorant free.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 88ml
This is a Zinc based sunscreen with SPF 50. It protects from UVA and UVB sun rays. It is Hypoallergenic and free of fragrances, parabens and dyes. 80 minutes water/sweat resistant.
Sun Bum clear zinc oxide face cream, SPF 50 30 ml
Zinc oxide based with Aloe and vitamin E added. UVA and UVB protecting. Water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Hypoallergenic and coral reef friendly. Non comedogenic, Oxbenzone free, paraben free, PABA free and Oil free.
The best sunscreen for dark skin
Palmers cocoa butter formula eventone suncare SPF 50, 0.5 oz. Specially designed to not leave white residue on the skin. Vitamin E added. Paba, paraben and phthalate free. 80 minutes water resistant.
Cover FX clear cover invisible sunscreen broad spectrum SPF 30, 10 FL OZ
This sunscreen applies completely clear, leaving no white or grey residue. It has been designed specifically for concerns of African and Latino people! A great primer to wear under make up.
Junetics pure energy brightening day cream SPF 50, 1 OZ
A day cream with broad spectrum SPF 50, complete defence against UVB/UVA. Paraben free, Phthalates free, Sulfate free, Triclosan free, Nitrosamine free and Petrolatum free.