While The Sun Still Shines... , 0 Comments

Summer is nearing its end (say it isn’t so!) but there is still plenty of time to get outside and take in as much of the warmth and brightness of August as you can! In fact, for those who are continually applying and reapplying sunblock, or hiding in the shade or under large hats and long sleeves, these habits can actually become harmful. While it is important to understand your body’s limits and never allow yourself to burn, exposing your bare body to the sun is vital to maintaining optimal health. It is estimated that at least 32% of adults and children in the US are deficient in Vitamin D. It just so happens that I myself was diagnosed with this condition at the beginning of June! Vitamin D, often called ‘the sunshine vitamin,’ is an often-overlooked component of overall wellness (most likely due to skin cancer fear-mongering). The fact is that Vitamin D is not a substance that is easily supplemented via pills or even diet. Our bodies are made to produce 90% of our Vitamin D via a reaction in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight… and when we are obsessively slathering ourselves in SPF, that doesn’t happen.

But what about skin cancer?! A very real concern, there are a few simple steps that you can take to safely obtain your daily dose of Vitamin D. First of all, we can make sure to time our sun exposure correctly. The sun is at its strongest, and most damaging, between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. By being out of doors in the early morning or late afternoon, we can avoid the most potent UVA/UVB rays. If you are lucky enough to be at the beach, a stroll by the waves before breakfast or a pre-dinner jog on the sand is a great way to get your blood flowing, while simultaneously knocking ‘get some Vitamin D’ off your daily checklist. It is imperative that you not wear sunscreen and try to expose as much of your bare skin to the sun as possible. You want to make the process of absorbing Vitamin D easy on your body, and nothing makes it more difficult than physically blocking the sun’s rays! Secondly, keep an eye on the time. The average person will need only 15 minutes of uninterrupted sunshine to get their fix. If you are fair-skinned, you may need as little as 10 minutes, while those who have a darker complexion might need as much as 25.

If you’re still skeptical about baring your epidermis sans SPF, perhaps the list of conditions resulting from Vitamin D deficiency will sway you into the sun! The complications range from the physical (hypocalcemia, rickets, cardiovascular disease) to the mental and emotional (depression, dementia, schizophrenia), and are not exactly my idea of summer fun. And if premature aging of the skin is the thing stopping you from pointing your naked self skywards, drinking just one cup of green tea a day (if you have been out in the light) can help fortify your body against early signs of aging. Studies have shown that green tea is full of powerful antioxidants, which fight off the hallmarks of passing years and prevent sun damage. So if you’re a tea person (as I am), brew yourself a cup and enjoy it al fresco, basking in the sunshine and in the knowledge that you are doing your body some good. And if you'd rather forego the caffeine, by all means! To each his, or her, own!

- Maria Vasylivna