Safety in the Summer Sun

The more sun we get, the more potential Vitamin D we may manufacture; however, absorption is a key factor, and washing with soap after sunbathing has a lot to do with it. In fact, Vitamin D absorption from sun exposed skin is decrease if the exposed skin is washed with soap and water within the initial 48 hours after exposure.  (Click here to read what Dr. Mercola has to say). The body needs time to manufacture and then absorb the “Vitamin D” (which is really a hormone – ask your health provider for details). Dr. Cannell suggests that, depending on ‘when’ you bathe – that is, how long after your skin was exposed to sun, you can interfere with absorption of Vitamin D.  Click here to read the studies he cites.

As noted above “Vitamin D” is really a hormone. Unlike ‘vitamins’ which are supplied by food or supplements, ‘hormones’ are actually manufactured by the body. In order to get the most of that experience, MANY organ systems pitch in. In other words, ‘the body’ needs to work as a team. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes an entire body to get the benefits of sun exposure.

Vitamin D is necessary for a variety of reasons. It facilitates healthy bones, heart and more . . . and the Sun is our friend regarding inspiration to the body to produce it.  What role do sunscreens play in helping or hindering the process? These are important questions that have a wide range of answers, depending what schools of thought are followed. Your trusted health care provider is your best resource, especially when evidence-based research supports recommendations.

Is there such a thing as a ‘safe’ sunscreen?  Great question.  I advise my patients to avoid eating, drinking, breathing and absorbing chemicals – as a general rule.  To protect skin from over-exposure, I strongly recommend

  • eating foods that facilitate protection (from the inside out),
  • seeking out shade when necessary,
  • wearing protective clothing, and
  • using sun screen sparingly.

Examples of protective foods:  green tea, carrots, red peppers, spinach and salmon (click here for details).  (A nutrient called ‘lutein’ is of tremendous protective value for the eyes as well as the skin.  Click here for details). Shade: umbrellas, hats, trees.  Clothing: light colored, cotton. choose fabrics specifically designed to protect your skin. Click here for details.

Topical sunscreens (i.e. creams, gels, lotions and sprays) should have as few ingredients as possible (unless they are organic and otherwise facilitate wellness) and, those they do have need to be non-toxic. I recommend products with the main ingredient: zinc, which provides evidence-based skin protection.

What about “SPF” ?  Don’t be fooled by “SPF” (sun protective factor) since the higher numbers don’t necessarily mean greater protection in the way you expect. Dr. Weil suggests that ‘SPF’ greater than 15 is not as protective as the public believes.  Click here for details on that.

An organization that keeps your safety in mind: The “EWG” (Environmental Working Group), based in Washington D.C. advocates for health-protective policies (click here for details). For an example of a sunscreen they recommend that is organic and fragrance-free click here.

Is there a website with information I can trust? For a wonderful, well researched list of products that meet these criteria, please click here.  It will take you to “” – and I encourage you to explore that website at your leisure for the many ideas Katherine shares about a wide variety off topics.

To summarize: Sun safety can be simple if you keep a few points in mind:

  • enrich your summer food & drink intake with recommended (sun protective) foods
  • get to know your body (fair skin with light hair & eyes tends to burn faster than darker skin with dark eyes & hair)
  • take special sun protective supplements during the summer months to decrease your tendency to burn

Here’s to a wonderful, safe, & healthy summer experience!  ~Dr. Iankowitz

Additional resources regarding

. . . The color of your eyes might suggest that a lutein supplement might help protect your skin AND eyes from sun damage. click here for details.

. . .  Sun exposure, Vitamin D, and types of supplementation (D2 vs. D3).  There are two major types of Vitamin D and they are NOT  ‘identical’ – read what Dr. Mercola has to share about this (valuable when choosing to supplement your Vitamin D on a daily or weekly basis with oral intake).

. . .  Heart health:   Does low Vitamin D3 negatively impact the heart?  –read more about how,  ” . . . Diabetes may predispose to an even greater risk of vitamin D deficiency because of bowel motility disturbances, fat mal-absorption and an association with celiac disease . . .”

. . . Foods rich in Vitamin D:   Vitamin D Fact sheet by the Institutes of Health – read about what foods are highest in Vitamin D (it isn’t only cod liver oil – although that’s a GREAT source!)

Vitamin D Dosing Recommendations from the Mayo Clinic – read about the amounts and kind of Vitamin D that have been used to address a variety of health concerns in adults (ages 18 and over).

Why is Vitamin D necessary at all?  – read what Dr. Andrew Weil has concluded.

Vitamin D2  is not a bio-available BUT might be ‘safer’. D2 (ergocalciferol) vs. D3 (cholecalciferol) 

Do YOU think this study used sufficient amounts of Vitamin D?  OR are the conclusions possibly erroneous, relation to this as a limitation?  

About the Author: Dr. Iankowitz is an ANCC board certified advanced practice nurse, in private practice as founder and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC.  Dr. Iankowitz is the editor and author of several articles and books, and founder of Universe’Secretary.

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