Let the Sun Shine In
Our bodies and bones need the sun. Our skin is designed for sunshine. Ample time in sunshine turns on a cosmic conversation, a banquet of information that percolates our pores, cells, and soul. When we merge our bodies with the sun’s rays, pores dilate deeply below the epidermis to receive the seminal influence of the sun’s confluence, melting and melding with our body’s ways to produce melanin and to lubricate the skin, organs, muscles, and marrow. Wise interaction with the sun presents revitalising, illuminating nourishment for numerous body functions.
Currently, we live in a sunlight-deprived society; and according to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, this deprivation is harming us, as we deny our bodies and minds the recharging vitality of the sun. The fine filaments of our bodies are covered with thousands of vitamin D receptors designed as antennas for the sun’s rays. Our cells have a DNA code and photons that require energy and information from the sun. Sunlight is a key that unlocks the nourishing energies that sustain our life.
While debates abound on if the sun is good or bad, we have forgotten our part: what do we offer these rays? It takes two to tango. The crux of our current crises is the sun as the culprit for skin carcinomas, mutating moles, wrinkles, and melanomas versus the sun as the giver of the sunshine vitamin D, a steroid hormone that illuminates our immune system and benefits every organ and cell.
It is true that our skin can be vulnerable to sunburn, and repeated sunburns can cause visible damage, though despite the negative press linking sun exposure to skin cancer, there lacks consistent scientific evidence to support it. For example, people with the greatest risk of melanoma are not those with the greatest cumulative solar exposure.
A sampling of a few research study conclusions sheds a different light on some common conceptions. One study found that malignant melanoma is less likely for adults and children who work and play outside. Another study showed that melanoma is far more common for people who work indoors. A review of studies showed no correlation between sun exposure and melanoma. In his extensively researched book The Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth!, Dr. Bernard Ackerman, the founding father of the field of dermatopathology (the study of skin diseases), substantiated that “there is no proof whatsoever that sun exposure causes melanoma.” He wrote, “The calculations now in vogue [about the incidence of melanoma] will be shown to have been inaccurate woefully … and that the sun, now incriminated as the major culprit responsible for an ‘epidemic’ of melanoma, will be rehabilitated from its status current of pariah, our worst enemy, to its place rightful, all things considered, namely, humankind’s best friend.”
The results of a 1982 study conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published by the medical journal The Lancet demonstrated that fluorescent light exposure from indoor work (and this was back in 1982 when most of the workforce was yet to stare at a computer screen all day) creates twice the incidence of melanoma than outdoor work in the sun. Office workers, exposed to high levels of artificial lighting during the day with minimal exposure to sunlight, had the highest risk of developing melanomas and mutations in their cells.
Lack of sunlight and our culture’s epidemic lack of vitamin D3 are linked to cancer, overwhelmingly, in more than 2,500 studies. Several studies confirmed that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with sun exposure, and increase with sunscreen use.
There is also a lack of scientific evidence that sunscreens prevent skin cancer. However, synthetic suncreams do prevent sunburns. Let’s look at how this is achieved. When we apply sunscreen, sun-shielding chemicals that block UVB rays are absorbed into our skin; UVB rays do cause burns after extended time in the sun. SPF, sun protection factor, is a designation that can be used only for synthetic ingredients that have been laboratory tested to prevent sunburns. Yet SPF creates a false sense of security by disabling our skin’s early-warning protection, the sunburn, against overexposure to the sun. Essentially, sunscreen anesthetizes skin. UVB rays—the rays blocked by sunscreens—are also the nourishing rays that spark production of vitamin D in the body.
UVA rays become harmful when they are separated from their UVB ultraviolet partner by sunscreens. Current studies suggest that it is isolated UVA that damages DNA. So, slathering on sunscreen actually inhibits the much-desired vitamin D and allows the undesired penetration of isolated UVA while UVB is blocked. (Receiving hours of direct sunlight through a window will also separate the UVB and overexpose skin to UVA. Many drivers, for example, have one forearm that is more freckled than the other.)
With ingredients of oxybenzone, polymers of petroleum, parabens, and PABA, these chemical-laden lotions also block our skin’s ability to breathe; our skin’s cellular-respiration process is inhibited from inhaling oxygen and exhaling toxins and carbon dioxide. Likewise, as we soak up the sun, these chemicals bake into our bodies. Oxybenzone, an active ingredient in many sunscreens, is a powerful free-radical generator that is noncarcinogenic—until exposed to sunlight!
These carcinogens are now being recognized as agents that actually increase disease by way of their free-radical-generating properties. Sunscreen ingredients are also known to accumulate in our lipid layers, increasing our intake of free radicals, xenoestrogens, oxidized amino acids, and damaged DNA. Promoted as necessary to preserve skin from aging, sunscreen ingredients actually alter the innate intelligence of our cells, increase carcinoma risk, and prevent vitamin D production. Refuse to use sunscreens that restrain this vital cosmic connection, and let the sunshine in.
Our bodies are designed to be exposed to the rays of the sun, and our skin contains all the necessary mechanisms to extract and produce beneficial nutrients from it. The interaction of sun on skin is our human form of photosynthesis. Sunlight in the form of UVB rays touching the skin produces beneficial nutrients that our bodies require. Our skin converts sunbeams into regenerative substances of melanin, sulfur, and the steroid hormone, vitamin D. This distinct steroid hormone influences every cell in our body, and is easily one of nature’s most potent champions. I think of vitamin D as golden drops of sun fluid that we all need internally to be optimally well-oiled.
The most natural and effective form of vitamin D is the type that we synthesize when our skin coalesces with the sun—without sunscreen. The best time of day to get out and play in the sun for making vitamin D is morning to solar noon. Time variances, existing melanin levels, geography, and weather are all factors in how much shine one would need to get a good day’s supply of D—of course, there is an app for that.
Our skin’s exposure to sun produces two types of essential sulfur: cholesterol sulfate and vitamin D3 sulfate. Sulfur, cholesterol, and the vitamin D produced in our skin from sun exposure are necessary for optimal cellular health while protecting us from radiation damage. Sulfur and cholesterol protect our DNA from radiation damage that contributes to cancer. They “become oxidized upon exposure to the high frequency rays in sunlight, thus acting as antioxidants to take the heat, so to speak.” Vitamin D3 from oral supplements, which is unsulfured and fat-soluble, is helpful, but it is not bonded to sulfur to make D3 sulfate. Vitamin D3 sulfate is water-soluble and moves freely in the bloodstream, providing a healthy barrier against bacteria; it is “synthesized in the skin, where it forms a crucial part of the barrier that keeps out harmful bacteria and other microorganisms such as fungi.”
Our current sun-fear contributes to the soaring rate of vitamin D deficiency in North America. Nearly 75 percent of adults and teenagers are vitamin D deficient, and we have been on a two-decade-long slide. Skin is like our solar panel, taking in the sun’s energy, and a lack of sunlight disturbs normal cell growth. Research attributes health issues to low levels of D, including heart disease, osteoporosis, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and more.
Where I live in Canada, for about five months of the year the sun is not strong enough for skin to make vitamin D. Still, on sunny days I open my doors to the sunshine and I bask in the prana, the light, and the very fresh air. I make sure that my diet is rich in fats and greens, and I do find it essential to apply transdermal vitamin D cream and transdermal patches of vitamin D as well as supplement with an oral D3 and K2 combination.
My advice is to enjoy sun-kissed skin to create an ample supply of sun-made vitamin D reserves during the sunny seasons to resource you through the winter months.
Wise Interaction with the Sun
We do want to avoid sunburns, yet getting sunburned is actually easier on our DNA than processing the cell damage from being in the sun with synthetic sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks our biological mechanism called melanin that was designed to guide our skin’s interaction with the sun. When we get sunburned, our ancient photoprotective melanin ensures that only a tiny fraction of our DNA is damaged by the absorbed photons. Our DNA naturally transforms 99.9 percent of the photons into heat. In this instance, heat is harmless! The remaining 0.1 percent of the photons is what causes sunburn. In DNA, this conversion of photons into harmless heat is extremely efficient. However, sunscreen damages DNA indirectly and without the warning signal of a burn. It is this indirect DNA damage that is responsible for mutations.
Sunscreen causes indirect DNA damage because the photons are not efficiently converted into harmless heat. This understanding of indirect DNA damage led to new research, like the 2007 study at the University of California, San Diego, that reviewed seventeen studies of sunscreen use and melanoma. The researchers concluded that there is a significant correlation between sunscreen use and skin cancer. And in 1998, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that children who were frequent users of sunscreens had a significantly higher chance of developing moles and freckles.
Far more effective than sunscreen, protective melanin lingers on our skin and in our blood in the form of vitamin D long after the sun has set. To preserve the juiciness of sun exposure, lubricate with organic botanical oils before, during, and after sun exposure, and be sure not to soap the skin’s surface, which disrupts the process of these regenerative substances
While being campaigned into sacrificing sunlight, we have been told and sold on shunning the sun, and we fear exposure of the sun’s rays reaching our skin. Although overexposure makes our skin vulnerable to sunburn, and recurrent sunburns can cause visible damage, there is more to the story than the sun being the sole perpetrator of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. Our interaction with the sun need not be “all or none!” If we are wise, we can enjoy a healthy, happy relationship with our ancient friend, the sun.
Here are the best protocols for wisely imbibing solar wavelengths.
1. Eat Sun-Harmonizing Foods
Upon the altar of sunshine, what we ingest determines how our skin responds to sunlight. Skin cells must be strengthened and nourished internally with real food and water to receive the full blessing of interacting with the sun. Less food is needed when we are satiated with solar rays, and well-nourished skin responds better to sunlight. Sun-ripened food is also far more nutritious. We can create an internal SPF with an antioxidant-rich rainbow diet of sun-grown superpower foods, herbs, and luscious fats brimming with nutrients—all contributing to our internal sunscreen.
Summer is a great time to indulge in sun-ripened fruit, vegetables, and herbs that build an internal SPF. Take tomatoes, for example: researchers in the United Kingdom have demonstrated a 30 percent increase in sun protection after eating a tomato-rich diet. The key seems to be 16 mg of lycopene, the red antioxidant found in tomatoes. Other SPF foods and beverages include pigment-rich, beta-carotene-bursting foods such as watermelon, green tea, turmeric, leafy greens, liquid chlorophyll, and berries. Also, save room for chocolate! Pure, unprocessed, and unadulterated chocolate has four times the amount of phenols and catechins as teas, and these compounds protect the skin against sunburn.
Organic, healthy fats and fresh-pressed essential fatty acids, direly depleted in the North American diet, are really needed to amplify the benefits of the sun’s rays.
2. Recover Your Skin’s Integrity
The skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, contains a thin coating of soothing sebaceous oils that provide natural antibacterial, antiwrinkle, and sunscreen protection. The integrity of this layer is damaged by surfactants, scrubs, chemical peels, and synthetic moisturizers. (These things also disrupt vitamin D production.) Washing and moisturizing the skin with botanical serums, as well as gently dry brushing, regenerates the skin’s top layer, supports the collagen, and feeds the skin’s immunity.
3. Sun Yourself Wisely
Start slowly but surely, and start in the spring so that you may create a protective tan with phased-in exposure. Melanin, the tanned-skin pigment, produced in the spring prevents sunburn in the summer. Melanin is our ancient biological mechanism of photoprotection designed exclusively to support our relationship with the sun. Melanin in the skin transforms 99.9 percent of absorbed UV radiation into heat that is easily dissipated, allowing us to sidestep radiation damage that contributes to cell damage. Far more effective than sunscreen is rebuilding your body’s melanin base that further enhances the health of many body systems.
The D Minder app will calculate your geographic location, current cloud cover, and time of year to let you know how long to bask in the sun’s rays and how much vitamin D will be generated that day. The best time of day for sunning is morning to solar noon. Bare as much skin as you dare. The dosage depends on the condition of your skin and your natural skin pigmentation. Tune in to your innate warning system; if skin starts to feel warm, seek shade. Start with a few minutes a day and build up. Remember to flip!
4. Recap the SPF
Sunscreens made from synthetic ingredients create a false sense of security by disabling our skin’s early-warning system—the sunburn—which keeps us from indulging in too much sun too fast. Most sunscreens block only UVB rays, the rays that cause sunburn, but not UVA rays. Over the long run, people wearing synthetic sunscreens unknowingly overexpose their skin to UV radiation. Unfortunately, sunscreen prevents skin from receiving any of the benefits of engaging with the sun’s rays.
Sunscreens are hazardous to our health and the vitality of the oceans. Scientific studies confirm that the synthetic sunscreen chemicals of oxybenzone, octinoxate, benzophenone, and butylparaben wash off swimmers’ and surfers’ skin into the water, killing and bleaching coral reefs. An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off annually into the world’s oceans, endangering the symbiosis of sea life. “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is undergoing the most severe bleaching event in its history, as corals along the reef expel the symbiotic algae that provide them both with their rich colors and food.” Beyond coral bleaching, studies also suggest oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupter among marine creatures such as shrimps and clams.
5. Bet on Botanical Oils
Botanical oils preserve the juiciness of your sun exposure. Plants, too, require wise interaction with the sun. Plants alchemize sunlight to create a verdant growth. This is the same star that stirs our skin cells and invites our bones to grow. What is on and in our bodies while engaging with sunshine is vital! Almost all plant oils offer some degree of ultraviolet protection to their own tissues. Every kind of light ray has a different impact on the plant’s life process. At the same time, the blossom leads a completely different life with regard to light than do the green leaves (the blossom consumes oxygen while the leaves produce it); it colors and unfolds itself differently within it.
Officially, the term “SPF” can only be used to reference synthetic sunscreen ingredients, yet plant oils do offer a range of skin-shade that can gracefully extend our time in the sun. Plant oils of virgin coconut, jojoba, olive, and seabuckthorn applied to the skin provide a measure of plant-shade. Raspberry seed oil also has potential use as a broad-range sun protectant. Under a spectrometer, raspberry seed oil absorbed both UVB and UVC rays while scattering UVA; it may provide a botanical equivalent of SPF-25.
Essential oils, the distillates of plants, are especially adept at harmonizing the sun’s rays with our skin and further enhance harmonizing our skin with solar rays when added to the lipid oils listed above.
We at Living Libations love soaking up the sun’s rays and getting our daily dose of vitamin D. We created Everybody Loves the Sunshine, a mixture of sun-loving oils, to prepare our skin to welcome the sun's warm rays. Everybody Loves the Sunshine combines the oil of the desert jojoba plant, virgin coco-creme, red raspberry seed oil, seabuckthorn berry oil and tamanu berry with the essential oils of schizandra berry, immortelle, carrot seed, rose otto, cape-chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, geranium, ginger, lavender, turmeric, calendula and palmarosa.
In the summertime, we often long to play outside all day, so we made Everybody Loves the Sunshine with Zinc! Zinc oxide reflects the sun's rays and is a really pure option. Uncoated zinc oxide is purer than both titanium dioxide and coated zinc oxide, which is made with synthetic silicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane.
For extended periods in the bright sun, you may sensibly don a hat and/or long cotton clothing.
Staring at the Sun
Look to the sun for health. Another biological process of sun-energy absorption activates when we have the sun in our eyes. Sunlight enters our eyes and stimulates our pineal gland, which is connected to the hypothalamus, where sun-energy triggers vital magnetic, electrical and chemical reactions in the human body. Science has revealed that sunlight stimulates the production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes a general feeling of calmness, regulates our sleep wake cycle and helps us sleep deeply at night.
Practicing the ancient tradition of sungazing may meet all of your body’s and spirit’s sun needs. The practice is easy; simply look at the sun as it rises or sets. It is safe to look at the sun within the hour after sunrise or within the hour before sunset because ultraviolet levels are at zero.
You will want to begin sungazing slowly to acclimate your eyes to the sun. Start by looking at the sun, during one of the safe hours, for about twenty seconds and then add twenty seconds to your sungazing practice every day. At first, after years of indoor living and screen time, you may have to cover one eye with your palm and alternate eyes, so that you can take in the light without squinting. Allowing your eyes to increase their capacity for light absorption creates less squinting and hence less “crow’s-feet,” as the skin around the eyes is more relaxed. After three months, you will have built up to fifteen minutes a day, and you will likely feel the positive effects: less tension, fewer worries, a more balanced spirit, and increased vitamin D. The effects are truly positive and bring an ineffable brightness to the internal spheres.
Rejoice in the warm sunshine, and let the elements feed your skin and spirit. Engage it with grace. Greet it with self-knowledge, wisdom, and a well-nourished body, and all will be well.
Thank you, sun, that just miraculously happens to be precisely placed in the cosmos.
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light—
good morning, good morning, good morning.
~ Mary Oliver
Nadine Artemis is author of Renegade Beauty: Reveal and Revive Your Natural Radiance and Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, a frequent commentator on health and beauty for media outlets, and her products have received rave reviews in the New York Times, the National Post, and the Hollywood Reporter. Described by Alanis Morissette as “a true-sense visionary,” Nadine has formulated a stunning collection of rare and special botanical compounds under her brand Living Libations. Her healing creations, along with her concept of Renegade Beauty, encourages effortlessness and inspires people to rethink conventional notions of beauty and wellness.