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The Return of the Prodigal Sun
By David Sandoval
Posted: May 19, 2008, from the April 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
For years, doctors and health advisors have been spreading the warning that sunbathing is dangerous and can lead to skin damage: wrinkles, dryness, sun spots, and melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Well, now there’s a change in the tide. The sun is coming back. People are suffering from sun deprivation, I believe, and that lack of sun could be compromising their health.
Healthy sun exposure
The sun provides many health benefits for the body, including exposure to far-infrared light, which is therapeutic and cleansing. More importantly, though, sunlight helps provide the body with a vital nutrient: vitamin D. The body was designed to be a “solar collector” that manufactures or synthesizes this essential nutrient metabolically, and it is commonly known that vitamin D helps to reverse osteoporosis, strengthen brittle bones and assist in the formation of strong teeth.
What many people may not know is that a lack of adequate sunlight weakens the immune system and allows cancers to proliferate in the body. Recent studies suggest your body needs up to 1,000 mg of vitamin D per day to cut the potential risk for ovarian, colon and breast cancer in half.1,2
So, how much sunlight is enough? How much is too much? Well, the answer is really pretty simple. According to Kat Arney, science information officer with Cancer Research U.K., people actually need relatively little sunlight to absorb adequate amounts of vitamin D. I recommend about 40 minutes of direct sunlight per day in the winter and 30 minutes per day in the summer.
Now you are probably wondering, “How does someone get the proper amount of sunlight during the winter?” In order to collect all the sunlight one needs, the only exposure necessary is the hands, palms up, and the face exposed
for 15–20 minutes in the morning and 15–20 minutes in the afternoon. Remember, the sun still holds dangers for those who overexpose, though. That’s why it’s important to encourage using sun protection if you’re planning to stay in the sun for more than 30–40 minutes.
Dangers of sunscreen
There are two reasons sunscreen can be dangerous. First, many of the sunscreens used in the United States do not adequately provide protection from the effects of harmful sun rays. Second, sunscreen gives people a false sense of security. Users believe they become immune to the sun due to the fact that they are “protected.”
There are actually two types of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB. UVA includes solar rays from 320–400 nanometers that cause the skin to tan and burn. The shorter UVB light, at 290–320 nanometers, is what most sunscreen works well for, which is good since UVB light is what leads to sunburn and skin cancer.
However, UVA rays actually cause wrinkles and skin damage, and they are just as intense in the winter as in the summer. These rays can penetrate water, clothes and clouds, so even when people don’t realize it, they are affected. Unfortunately, most sunscreens only protect against UVB. A sunscreen should always match the skin type, and never trust an SPF number above 15, as it is not that much more effective. So always choose a sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection; both are needed to avoid the skin damage that leads to wrinkles and contributes to signs of aging.
Repairing the damage
When dealing with overexposure to the sun, however, more is required than just using sunscreen. Additional steps need to be taken to repair sun-damaged skin, as well as to avoid sunspots and cancer. The following are a few natural options. By adding these miracles from the earth to a daily routine, UV-damaged skin can be transformed into something radiantly beautiful and youthful.
Aloe vera. At a 40-times concentration, this plant has been clinically proven to increase basal activity by 200–300%.3 This means younger, fresher, firmer skin within only a few days. Aloe also contains polysaccharides that hold antioxidants such as vitamin A, which is vital to skin repair; vitamin C, vital to collagen formation; and vitamin E, vital to elasticity, in the blood serum up to three times longer, meaning they have more time to affect the skin.
Amino acids. Certain amino acids and peptides actually tighten and firm the skin, creating the appearance of a mini lift. They also can help regulate the osmotic pressure of skin cells, creating equal distribution of moisture, which can dramatically smooth out lines and creases, and lift sagging chins, lids and cheeks.
Green foods. Green plants oxygenate, alkalize, increase circulation and detoxify your skin with the power of chlorophyll, enzymes, peptides and trace minerals. They include: chlorella, an algae that detoxifies heavy metals and purifies skin; spirulina, which boasts abundant carotenoids, tocopherols and essential fatty acids; and wheatgrass, barley grass and alfalfa, which rejuvenate the skin.
Dark fruits. Pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and other red, blue and purple pigmented fruits contain amazing compounds like ellagic acid, which fights skin cancer; anthocyanins that reduce swelling, increase circulation and stop heart disease; and dozens of other compounds that give the complexion a glow.
Bamboo shoots. These delicacies of Asian culture contain the most bioavailable silica known to science at 70%. Silica makes hair, skin and nails strong, long and beautiful.
Other treatments that come from nature and are great for sun-damaged skin reparation include natural plant enzyme peels using papaya, mango and pineapple. These are gentler treatments, removing only 300–400 micromillimeters of skin cells. Also, it takes less than 20 minutes, and leaves the skin without redness, swelling or downtime for the client. This peel is the perfect complement in conjunction with microdermabrasion.
Another good treatment is exfoliation using volcanic pumice, muscadine grape skins, blueberry skins, aloe vera and grapefruit seed extract. These ingredients infuse the skin with antioxidants and detoxify with powerful, natural compounds.
So remember, like anything good for you, too much sun can be bad. But avoiding the sun completely can deprive a person of an important aspect of skin health. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
1. ED Gorman, PhD, MPH, Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem and
Mol Biol, 97 (1–2) 179–194 (2005)
2. CF Garland, PhD, The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Am J Publ Health, 96 (2) 9–18 (2006)
3. WB Bowles, Aloe vera gel and its effect on cell growth. Parfümerie Kosmetik, 75 660–661 (1994)