“The Earth has received the embrace of the sun, and we shall see the results of that love.” -Tatanka Iyotake
The ancient Greeks called it heliosis. Today we call it Heliotherapy. Have you heard of it? It’s the use of natural sunlight for the treatment of various disorders. Original Olympic athletes would sunbathe to strengthen their nerves and muscles. In the 1800s, it cured people of smallpox and tuberculosis (1). Indian Ayruvedic doctors use it to treat everything from arthritis to eczema. It helps treat acne, boost mood levels, and gives us the precious gift of life.
As humans, just like everything else on this planet, we have evolved and continue to grow with the never ending gift of love the sun provides. We’re designed to rise and set just as the sun does, our circadian rhythms gently falling into a peaceful harmony. To eat the nourishment that grows under the sun’s rays. To be charged up like a battery, from our radiant energy source. And yes, to spend time letting the sweet vitamin d be absorbed deep into our cells.
The sun allows us to blossom, just as it does the sweet flowers we so lovingly enjoy.
Today we are constantly bombarded with fear filled messages about sun exposure. And while yes, we do need to be conscientious about how we spend our days in the sun, avoiding it all together is not the answer. Like every other thing on this planet, we need the sun to thrive. So let’s have a discussion around how we can do this safely.
Conventional sunscreens tend to be chock full of parabens, petroleum, and chemicals we can’t pronounce. They contain endocrine disruptors that harm our natural production of hormones, and ingredients that harm our planet’s bodies of water, while seeping into our bloodstream. While we of course want to avoid sunburns, when we begin to turn red from sun exposure, it is our bodies’ warning sign to find shade.
When we block this warning sign, we are exposing ourselves to excessive amounts of sun damage.
Instead of thinking of sun protection, let’s think of sun optimization. How we can best optimize our time spent in the sun. So how can we get our helio-cake and eat it too?
Diet. How we interact with the sun is more than skin deep. Our diet directly effects how the sun’s rays interact with our skin. Eating a diet full of leafy greens, fresh veggies, fruits, and healthy fats is one way to help promote healthy sun exposure. Going for organic, and minimal processing if you have access to that.
Time outside. If you’re not used to spending time in the sunlight, start little by little. A few minutes at a time can work wonders. Your needs are going to vary depending on where you are in the world, the time of year, your genetics, and many other factors. Bare as much as your body as you feel comfortable with, keeping in mind that some areas may be more sensitive than others. Use your intuition, and pay attention to your skin. If it begins to feel warm, move out of the sun, or cover yourself.
Coverage. Not only are hats the ultimate accessory, they can also be a crucial component in your sun optimization plan. Layers, light scarves, and umbrellas can also come in handy.
Sunscreen. There are some great options out there. Go for zinc-oxide based organic sunblocks. Or use one of these DIY options:
- Mix pure vitamin C powder in 10% solution with water. Mist onto skin, and allow it to soak in. Repeat again before going outside.
- Jojoba, sesame and coconut oils, as well as shea butter offer a small amount of protection from the sun. Can be great for day to day use, but use cautiously.
- You can purchase non-nano zinc oxide to make your own sunblock at home. It is essential to buy non-nano, as these particles are too big to be absorbed into your bloodstream. You can mix this into your favorite lotions, or make your own with one of the oils listed above, as well as Vitamin E. While essential oils are a great addition, be sure not to use citrus. These are photosensitive, and may cause negative interactions with the sun.
Got too much sun? It happens to the best of us. I know how hard it is to peel yourself off the beach when you’re blissed out from those glorious rays.
Here are some tips if you get a bit too toasty:
- Aloe vera! Fresh is best if you can. If you buy bottled, try to find one with minimal ingredients. A drop or two of peppermint and lavender essential oils in the aloe, will help to cool and soothe the skin.
- Rehydrate from the inside out. Drink plenty of fresh water, herbal teas, aloe water, or coconut water.
- Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with water, spray onto skin as often as needed. You can also make a cool compress with this mixture and apply to skin as needed.
- Vitamin E oil helps repair damage from the sun. It can also be ingested orally, and is in many foods like nuts, avocados, and mangoes.
- A cool bath may help soothe the intensity of your burn.
- Some people swear by raw yogurt, whose probiotics may help heal the skin.
We are so lucky to be supported the brilliant life force that is the Sun. Let’s honor it, while we honor ourselves, by practicing safe sun optimization.
Now get out there. You’ve got rays to soak up.