We live in a country that celebrates sun, surf and sand – embracing the great Aussie outdoor lifestyle. Like me, many of you would have grown up watching the iconic Slop, Slip, Slap ads and being drilled with sun safety messages. For years, we’ve been told to coat ourselves and our children in sunscreen, wear hats and protective clothing and to avoid the midday sun. With Australia having the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world it is an important message, and we all should avoid overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, some experts are now suggesting we need find a better balance and not avoid the sun completely. Vitamin D deficiencies can also have significant health consequences. Today we explore this issue and look at balancing sun safety and your health.
Is not getting enough sun harmful?
A major study in Sweden followed the sun habits of 30,000 women for 20 years. In the observational study, researchers found that women with normal sun exposure habits did not have a significantly increased risk for malignant melanoma or melanoma-related death. In fact, it found that restricting sun exposure could have negative impacts on overall health.
“The results of this study provide observational evidence that avoiding sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality. Following sun exposure advice that is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful to women’s health.”
The importance of sunlight and Vitamin D
When you expose your skin to sunlight, your body produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D, although referred to as a vitamin, is actually a steroid hormone that affects up to 3,000 genes in your body. This potent hormone benefits your body by strengthening the immune system, bone health, and muscles. Sunlight producing Vitamin D may also help to:
Reduce your blood pressure: Since the 70’s scientist have looked at connections between sunlight and cardiovascular disease, with clinical experiments proving that ultraviolet light reduces blood pressure.
Assist in avoiding some types of cancer: Evidence suggests a 30 to 50% reduction in risk for developing colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer by increasing vitamin D levels.
Cut the risk of heart attack and stroke: Another benefit of reducing your blood pressure! http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507195807.htm
Improve your mood: Studies also show links between mood and Vitamin D levels.
In an interview with Science Daily, Dr Richard Weller Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh goes so far to say that;
“We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for the lack of sunlight.”
Today, some experts estimate up to 85% of people have a Vitamin D deficiency. Considering this, it’s no wonder there is a focus on better understanding the benefits of sunlight rather than only concentrating on the dangers.
Finding the balance
Some quick tips on how you and your family can reduce the risk of skin cancer but still get the benefit of Vitamin D.
- Get the medical low-down!
Visit your GP and check your current Vitamin D levels and also make sure you have a skin check annually, as early detection is important.
- Consider the time of day.
Try spending a short amount of time in the sun early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun’s rays are less harmful – ten minutes may be enough to top up your Vitamin D levels.
- Seek a shady spot.
Find shade between 10AM and 4PM, when the sun is at its strongest.
- Avoid burning.
If you are spending longer periods in the sun cover up using shade, clothing, hats and sun protection. Our tinted moisturisers make it an easy one-step process in your skin care routine.
- For the littlies
In you have an infant under 6 months, limit sun exposure by using shade and light weight clothing as sun lotion is not recommended. For children over 6 months, use protective measures and try natural sunscreens like our Tomato Sun Cream with sunscreens.
- Don’t forget your lips!
Try our petroleum-free Citrus Lip Balm to keep your lips hydrated while outdoors and completely avoid painful chapping from sun or wind burn.
Like everything in life, the motto of moderation applies! Enjoy the sun safely and in moderation so you can also reap the rewards of letting a little bit of sun-shine-in!
Have you or anyone you know ever had a Vitamin D deficiency? Have your say on sun safety and finding the balance…