With all the concern about getting sunburn and skin cancer from increased harmful rays due to the thinning ozone layer, it's important to keep in mind that some sunshineis vital to good health. The interaction of sunlight with skin produces vitamin D, a vitalnutrient that is not found in foods that are common in our modern diet.(Vitamin D does occur naturally in egg yolks, liver, yeast, shrimp, salmon, tuna, and fish liver oils,and is added to fortified milk and enriched bread. However, sunlight is still needed tohelp the body synthesize vitamin D from these sources.) Since ancient times, sunbathing was recommended as a restorative for health. Modern studies have shownthat exposure to the sun can increase energy levels, lower blood pressure, enhance the immune system, and have other good effects.
It is important for our bodies to be exposed to natural light on a dailybasis--just as important as getting proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise, so spend asmuch time outdoors as you can. This doesn't mean direct sunlight, or even being inthe sun at all.Shaded light is perfectly acceptable; in fact, it's preferable. You can sit on a screened porch, under a shaded tree, or next to an open window (a closed window blocks the essential ultraviolet rays). At work, go outdoors on your lunch hour.
Take precautions to protect yourself from direct exposure to both UVA and UVB radiation. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and are the principal causeof sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging of the skin. UVA rays have longer wavelengths and penetrate more deeply into the skin, contributing to skin cancer and aging.
The most natural protection from the sun is to minimize your exposure.Allow your skin to adjust slowly to sun exposure. Start by exposing your skin to the sun only a few minutes each day and take care not to burn. Sun damage to your skin is irreparable. It breaks down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, andits effects maynot be visible for thirty years. Minimize your exposure to direct sunlight between ten a.m. and three p.m. when the sun's rays are most intense.
If you need to be in the sun, the most prudent and resource-efficient way to shield your skin from the sun's harmful rays is to wear protective clothing such as wind breakers, shirts, scarves, gloves, and wide-brimmed hats. There are now some catalogs that specialize in special sun protection clothing and accessories that would beworth looking into if you're out in the sun a lot. Special sun-protection fabrics block more than 97 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
There are many lotions and creams on the market, with a wide variety of natural and synthetic ingredients, offering protection that ranges from little or none to complete blockage. Some sun protection product, like zinc oxide ointment, arephysical barriers that reflect or scatter all light. Other sunscreens are chemicalbarriers that absorbultraviolet light.
Sunscreen products are rated with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which indicates how much longer you can remain safely in the sun while wearing the sunscreen than if you were to go unprotected. For example, SPF-2 would allow you to stay outtwice aslong; SPF-30 allows you to stay in the sun thirty times as long.
- SPF-2--4: minimal protection, and permits tanning
- SPF-4--6: moderate protection and permits some tan
- SPF-6--8: extra protection and permits a limited tan
- SPF-8--15: maximum protection, with little or no tan
- SPF-15+: ultra protection, and no tan at all
The general recommendation is to choose a sunscreen with an SPF-15.Other brands are offered for those who tan easily or, at the other end of the spectrum, have veryfair skin that needs extra protection. The average fair-skinned person begins to burn after twenty minutes in full sun. Wearing SPF-15 sunscreen allows that person five hours in the sun before burning. Reapplication of the sunscreen may benecessary, asit can be diluted by sweat or washed of by swimming. Reapplicati on doesn't extend thetime of prote ction, but helps maintain the protection. The SPF system measures only UVB, not UVA rays, so it is important to check the labels foringredients that blockboth types of radiation.
All sunscreens use the same FDA-approved list of active ingredients.Most popularnow are the cinnamates (cinoxate, di-ethanolamin p-methoxycinnamate, andoctylmethoxycinnamate), derived from cinnamon and coca leaves. These and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) offer good UVB protection.
Your natural food store carries a number of natural sun lotions thatwill protect you from UVB rays. There is one sunscreen product that is made with organically-grown oil and biodynamically-grown herbs. A few other natural food storebrands contain organically-grown or biodynamically-grown herbs--check the labels.
Unfortunately, if you want protection from both UVA and UVB rays, youmay needto accept some petrochemical ingredients. Active ingredients ending in"benzone" (suchas dioybenzone and glyceryl animobenzone) offer good UVB protection, butare madefrom petrochemicals. Other petrochemical ingredients found in sunscreens include ethanol, artificial fragrance, and mineral oil (which is drying to the skin).
While sunscreens are widely recommended, there is some concern thatregular use ofeven natural sunscreen can interfere with your skin's ability to produce vitamin D. TheJournal of Clinical Endochronologic Metabolism reports that scientifically controlled studies of skin not treated with sunscreen versus skin treated withsunscreen (SPF-8)demonstrated a large difference in vitamin D production. The sunscreened skin showed no change in vitamin D, while the untreated subjects had blood-level increasesof 1600 percent.
NOTE: The FDA cautions parents not to apply sunscreen to babies untilthey are sixmonths old.
Sunglasses look cool and give your eyes protection from harmful rays,but are mostly made from plastic, a nonrewable nonbiodegradable material. An alternative is to wear a baseball cap or wide-brimmed hat, which allows your eyes and face to be shaded while still allowing natural light.
by Debra Lynn Dadd
Author, Home Safe Home
To contact Debra, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Copyright © Debra Lynn Dadd
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