We spend a lot of time telling you to run and hide from the sun's UV rays under generous layers of sunscreen... and we still do (to a point). However, we'd be wrong if we failed to point out that the sun does have SOME positive effects on the body. So here's a list of all the positive and negative effects the sun can have on you, and how to get the best out of your time spent soaking up some rays.
Sunlight Lifts Your Mood
Sunlight increases seratonin production in the brain which is associated with an enhanced mood, so it's no surprise that our seratonin levels are typically highest during the summer months. It also comes as no surprise that seasonal affective disorder is prevalent during the winter months when sunlight is scarce. The increase in seratonin leads to a natural increase in activity for most people, leading to a reduction in stress as well. It's fair to say that the sun does quite a bit to combat the blues, so if you're feeling a little down don't hesitate to turn to the sun for a little boost.
You'll Sleep Better
Did you know that sunshine actually has an impact on the brain and its regulation of melatonin production?Melatonin is what regulates our sleep, and our brain starts releasing it about two hours after sunset. It all boils down to our circadian rhythm, and once the sun goes down and melatonin production goes up, your body will fall into a sleep routine that works best for you naturally. So during the summer when the sun is shining for more hours each day, you'll generally feel more awake. Just be sure to skip the cell phones around this time of day because they throw off enough light to interrupt your natural sleep patterns.
You Naturally Produce Vitamin D
We need vitamin D in order to have strong healthy bones and a fortified immune system, and it takes just 15 minutes of sun exposure each day to get all the vitamin D that your body needs. However, you should still keep your face covered in sunscreen because it turns out your arms, shoulders, and other exposed areas are sufficient to absorbing enough sunlight to get your daily dose. This way, your ultra sensitive and susceptible face skin stays protected and safe from UV damage and aging. Dr. Tomar recommends spending about 15 minutes in the sun around both sunrise and sunset because it will regulate your circadian rhythm and give you enough UV exposure to produce vitamin D. And it's generally safer at these times of the day because the rays are less direct and less likely to be harmful.
If it's exceedingly gloomy where you live, there's no harm in getting your vitamin D levels checked and using a supplement. It's great for your bone health and immunity, and we suggest getting your levels checked if you don't see much sunlight where you live. Based on all the evidence, at a minimum, we recommend vitamin D levels of 30 ng/mL.
UV radiation speeds up the breakdown of collagen, and in turn it can prematurely leave your skin sagging and loose. Draining your skin of all its moisture can lead to a host of problems from itching, flaking, cracking, collagen loss, depletion of elastin, deep wrinkles, age spots, and more. But investing in a good SPF now might help you avoid having to invest in skin tightening and corrective treatments later on in life.
Don't believe us that the sun can significantly age you? Just ask the gentlemen in the photograph below who spent decades driving a truck without sunscreen.
It isn't immediately obvious how badly you've been burned, but sunburns are regarded as probably the most annoying side effect of too much sun exposure. The full impact of a sunburn takes several hours to appear, but once it does we're all too familiar with the stinging discomfort and unpleasantness that ensues the moment we attempt to take a shower post-burn or change our clothing. It's terrible, so if the damaged skin cells aren't enough to convince you to wear some sunscreen, just remember how sunburns feel and that should be enough of a reminder. Just an FYI, if your burn has started to blister call a doctor.
Heat rash is fairly common and it happens when sweat gets trapped under the skin. It can present as bumps, pimples, and blisters in areas where skin tends to fold. It can be especially unpleasant when it appears in the groin, underarms, and neck. Since it's usually a result of sweating, try to keep cool as much as you can to prevent it. However, we do not recommend applying any creams or ointments to treat it. Just clean your skin and apply powder if you need relief.
If you're one of our patients, you've heard us speak ad nauseam about applying sunscreen in order to prevent skin cancer, and we'll say it again. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma are all very real possibilities when you repeatedly expose your skin to sunlight unprotected. So slather up with SPF 30+ and check your skin frequently for oddities. For a list of what to look for, look here.
Heat Stroke and Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is when your salt and water loss reaches a critical point, and it's your body's response to spending too much time in the sun and sweating excessively. You'll start to feel dizzy, weak, irritable, thirsty, nauseous, and a headache will set in. You might also notice that your temperature is higher than normal too. If you leave this untreated and don't seek cooler shelter, shade, or water, you run the risk of it progressing to heat stroke. Heat stroke is when the body's temperature rises rapidly, leading to confusion, coma, hot dry skin, seizures, and even death. So if you're spending some time in the sun, keep water handy and pay attention to your body when it doesn't feel right and get into some shade.
For more information about sunscreen and UV damage, please contact our office at 561-805-9399 for recommendations on SPFs and treatments that can reverse UV damage and spot potential skin cancers before they become serious. And to pick up a sunscreen, visit us at SupriyaMDSkincare.com and grab one of our two go-to SPFs.