How much sun do you need and is tanning good for you? There are two sides to every debate and your unique answer is found somewhere in the middle regarding this very complex question.
The indoor tanning industry wants you to think that tanning is completely safe but they are biased. I being somewhat of a tanorexic may also be biased in favor of tanning. So don’t rely on everything I say either, as the complete truth. Why is this?I look better with a tan.. and my makeup looks better. I look better bronzed compared to when I am fair. My eyes look more green and my teeth look whiter. I even like the way my lighter spring and summer clothing looks next to my tan. Yes, sunless tanner kind of works when I have paleness overload.
- 75% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. So yeah we need a little bit of natural sun in our lives. I have read reports that you can get a tremendous boost in only 10 minutes outside, naked, in the noontime sun. But how many of us our going to be outside mostly, naked in the noontime sun? I know I have a day job so this is not remotely possible for me, most days of the week. So occasionally, I have stopped by a tanning salon to get some rays, yes, I am a bit ashamed of myself.
- It is possible to get Vitamin D from a pill but could there possibly another benefit to being in the sun. Eastern medicine calls for activation of the pineal gland aka the pituitary gland. Sunlight stimulates production of hormones which help us wake up in the morning. If you need a coffee fix in the morning it may also be helpful to have your coffee during the morning sunrise. Our sleep cycle is also influenced by a hormone called melatonin. This complex, yet vital hormone is produced at certain times of the day and peaks at night. If you have depression or trouble sleeping it may be due to the lack of ultraviolet light, especially if you are depressed in the winter and spend most of your time in a house with the blinds drawn. Seasonal Affective Disorder is very common in the northern hemisphere during Winter and in the southern hemisphere during Summer.
The flip side is that the SPF and sunless lotion companies want to keep their billion dollar industry profitable so they are biased as well. Selling you on the fact that the sun exposure is bad for you in any amount, you will purchase as many sunblocks and creams as you can afford. Sunscreens are a must for the folks who spend extended time out in the sun, and we really do need them in our lives. The sun can and will damage your skin if it is overexposed. Mother nature doesn’t always do what is best for us, unfortunately. She did give us the plague after all.
- Tanning can cause premature aging and make skin look wrinkly and dry. Wrinkly and dry is not beautiful.
- Over exposure can damage the DNA and this can lead to skin cancer.
There is one side who wants you to think that tanning is going to kill you after turning you into a prune. And yes, some people do develop skin cancer and unfortunately the deadly type of cancer called melanoma which can lead to death, so this is true for a small percentage of humans. But we as humans have evolved under the sun, why would we evolve in sunlight if the sun was so horribly bad for us? Our skin absorbs the ultra violet light from sunlight and produces a hormone, yes a hormone necessary for bodily functions, known as Vitamin D. The sun is the giver of life. The stars, these fiery suns of the universe created us. The elements in our bodies are composed of exploding star dust which is kind of a miracle in my eyes, truly a reason to worship the sun, of course in minimal daily amounts:).
How much is minimal daily amounts?
There are many different variables that contribute to question of how much sun exposure is OK for a certain individual.
- What kind of skin type are you? There are six skin types on the Fitzpatrick Scale that range from Pale White to Deep Dark Brown. All types needs some sun exposure. Maybe only seconds for the very white type 1. Does your family have a history of skin cancer? If yes, this should be factored in to your exposure limit as well. If you have brown or dark brown skin you will want to spend a bit more time in the sun to absorb your necessary amount. Do you burn often and never tan. You are a level 1. You should expose yourself to very minimal amounts of sun. Perhaps even the amount that you would get walking to and from the car in a parking lot.
- Where do you live on the planet? It would seem that the closer that you live to the equator the more UV exposure you would be exposed to. NASA, however publishes UV exposure maps that suggest this is not always the case, as atmospheric moisture blocks some UV radiation in South America . But yes, for most of us the farther away from the equator the less UV we absorb from the sun. Our skin types correlate to the UV map. Darwin’s natural selection is not the only thing that contributed to the evolution of our skin color. UV absorbtion has a greater influence on skin color evolution than natural selection in my opinion.
- What type of year is it? Of course during the Summer us northerners are able to tan and absorb UV rays, however in the winter not so much. So taking a vitamin d pill in winter and getting a bit of daylight by opening the curtains is some good advise.
- Get some daylight in your life and if possible sleep while it is dark for a healthy circadian rhythm.
Take Away – Use common sense and do not burn yourself, ever. Limit exposure time to very minimal amounts and then reach for a hat, cover up and the sunscreen or head for the shade. The amount of time it takes to get a minuscule amount of color without pain or redness is your ultra violet exposure limit. A light base tan before going on vacation helps keep you from getting burned while lying on the beach. Maybe mother nature knows a little bit about nourishing and protecting us humans after all.