How to Protect Yourself from the Sun Naturally + Benefits of Sun Exposure

How to protect yourself from the sun naturally

Today we’re going to talk about the sun and no, I’m not talking about the dangers of being in the sun. We’re going to talk about why sun exposure can actually be very good for you, how you can protect yourself from the sun naturally, and why slathering yourself with conventional sunscreens might not be the best idea. I’ve received quite a few questions from you about this topic as summer is approaching. So I thought it had to be now or never!

Oh, and can you spot Jimmy the Kitten? He decided to finally show his cute face in the middle of the video, so, if you’d rather watch me talking than read this long blogpost (and if you want to see Jimmy), just click Play here:

Let’s get started!

Sun exposure protects us from cancer

So why is sun exposure so good for us? Well, there are quite a few reasons. First of all, it protects us against some cancers, for example, lungs, kidneys, breast and even skin cancer. And you might be wondering: why and how is that possible? Isn’t sun supposed to be causing skin cancer?

Well, research from Stanford University actually shows that moderate sun exposure helps our skin fight against damage from the sun. It converts the inactive Vitamin D3 into the active form, which then helps the immune cells in your skin fight against damaged cells and infections.

Sun exposure is vital for the synthesis of Vitamin D

Moderate sun exposure produces Vitamin D, and I’m sure you’ve already heard that but Vitamin D is very important for healthy teeth and bones. But it does other great things for our body, too:

  • It strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure.
  • It keeps your mood stable, so no depression, mood swings and things like that when you’ve got enough Vitamin D.
  • It also reduces insulin resistance.
  • It protects from cancer as well.

Confessions of an ex sun-o-phobic

I’d like to make a confession. I used to be one of those people who always hide from the sun and slathered myself with sunscreen from head to toes. I thought I was helping my acne and preventing scars, but I didn’t know how many good things I was missing out on. I’m not even talking about all the the chemicals that my skin drank throughout those years.

People like that are more susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency, which then means that their teeth and bones are in danger, and their immune system gets weakened.

Some researchers even go as far as to say that more people die from Vitamin D deficiency than from actual sun exposure.

That’s quite a thought. But it’s probably (sadly) very true!

Why using suncreens isn’t a good idea

First of all, of course you know how much I hate everything to do with chemicals. So that’s the first reason why conventional sunscreens are bad. Those chemicals are carcinogenic, they disrupt our hormones and make our skin more vulnerable to the sun instead of actually protecting it. Read more about the dangers of chemical sunscreens here.

But that’s not all! It also gives us a kind of false feeling of invincibility, which means that we can spend hours and hours in the sun. You know, sun burn is supposed to be a very useful alarm for us to get the hell out of the sun. But when it’s not there, we can end up spending the whole day in the sun. Even if you’re not burning, it doesn’t mean that sun damage isn’t there.

A lot of sunscreens only protect from UVB rays but not from UVA. UVB’s are basically the ones that make your skin burn and become red or tanned. They don’t actually cause too much damage because they don’t go very deep into the skin. It’s the UVA’s that cause cell damage but they don’t give you any warning – it doesn’t make your skin burned.

A lot of the sunscreens protect only from the UVB’s, so you don’t get burned or red, you don’t get warned, but you still get sun damage.

Tips for natural sun protection

So what can we do to protect ourselves from the sun naturally? Well, there are quite a few things we can do.

  1. First of all, you could try and keep a balanced circadian rhythm. What that means is basically not going to bed too late and getting enough sleep. It also means getting sun or bright light exposure in the morning or early afternoon, and avoiding bright light in the evening not to disrupt our natural sleep cycle. A great way to do that is a program called f.lux, which basically calibrates the light of your computer, makes it more yellowish in the evening, which I think is great.
  2. Another thing you could do is rethink your sunbathing hours. Just like I mentioned before, there are two different types of rays: UVB and UVA. It’s the UVA’s that are really dangerous for us. But they don’t give us any tan – it’s the UVB’s that do that. In the early morning and late afternoon, there are more UVA’s than UVB’s in the air, so you basically get less tanned or less burned but you also get the same amount of damage from the UVA’s. So here’s just a thought for you: maybe it’s worth spending less time, say 15 minutes, in bright midday sun and get lots of UVB but less UVA than spend hours and hours in the afternoon thinking that your skin is not going to get damaged, but you’re not going to get a lot of tan either.
  3. Another tip is not to shower before going to sunbathe because sebum on our skin is actually the best natural sunscreen… well, maybe not the best, but it’s our own natural sunscreen. It’s there to protect us from the sun and other environmental factors. So if  you wash it off and then go out to sunbathe, your skin will be more vulnerable to sunburn. It’s also important not to wash off the sebum from the skin after sunbathing for at least an hour because your body needs time to complete the Vitamin D production.
  4. What to do if you’re going to be in the sun for a long time? For example, if you’re going to the beach for the whole day or if you’re going to hike in the mountains? Well, in that case, just cover up with light clothing and wear a wide-brimmed hat. You’ll be totally fine! There’s no need to slather yourself with chemicals!
  5. Remember, if you don’t put chemicals on your skin, if you don’t over-exfoliate it, if you retain that wonderful protective layer of sebum on your skin, your skin will be much stronger and will be able to protect itself much better.

Foods that offer natural sun protection

  • First of all, eating saturated fats is great, and that includes things like coconut oil, oily fish, such as salmon, butter or clarified butter called ghee, farmed eggs, creams, etc.
  • Things like chocolate, coffee, green tea, red wine, grapes – they’re all great as well.
  • Polyphenols in some berries, especially blueberries, are great, as well as some nuts, such as pistachios, and some grains.
  • A very well-known vegetable that’s very very protective is the tomato. It has something called lycopene, which protects us from the sun, and it’s especially good if tomatoes are cooked because more lycopene will get absorbed.
  • Other protective foods include broccoli, kale, cabbage, mustard greens, yams, yellow, green or red peppers and cod liver oil.

Read more about protective foods here.

Oils that provide natural sun protection

In addition to everything I mentioned already, of course you can use natural oils to give you some protection if you know you’re going to spend quite a bit of time in the sun.

  • The most powerful one is the red raspberry seed oil, which is supposed to have SPF 28-50. It’s pretty impressive for a natural oil. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. But what I like most about it is that it’s very light, you can hardly feel it, it’s almost like dry oil and it feels great on the skin.
  • Another powerful oil is the carrot seed oil, which has SPF 39-40. Carrot seed oil is an essential oil, so it’s usually diluted with other carrier oils. But it still works very very well and it contains a lot of Vitamin A, so it’s great for the skin.
  • Wheat germ oil has an SPF 20.
  • Shea butter, which has been one of my favourites lately (I absolutely love it) has an SPF 6-8. I like it because it’s very nourishing. It looks very thick, but once you put it on the skin, it absorbs very quickly, doesn’t leave any oily residue on the skin. It kind of looks matte, which I really appreciate. It’s great for anyone with dry skin, but would work brilliantly for anyone with acne-prone skin, too.
  • Macadamia oil and hemp seed oil have SPF 6. Those are great because they’re very similar to the natural human sebum, so they’re not going to clog the pores and they feel very light.
  • Coconut oil has an SPF of 4-10, and it’s probably one of the most popular natural body moisturizers. It also protects from the sun, so it’s brilliant!
  • Jojoba oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil and avocado oil all offer SPF 4. They might not be enough if you’re going to the beach for the whole day. But if you’re just running errands in the city, it’ll probably be just what you need.

Building a light tan base is your skin’s natural sun protection

My final tip is to build a gradual tan base. In other words, you should get your skin used to the sun gradually. So maybe spend 5 minutes in the sun at the beginning of the summer when your skin is still really light, and then increase the time gradually until you have a light tan.

So here you are – my natural tips for the sun! I hope you’ve found them useful! Remember that sun can be your best friend in moderation. So don’t exaggerate it! If you have to be in the sun for a long time for any reason, just cover up with light clothing or a wide-brimmed hat. Enjoy using natural oils to protect yourself, eat nourishing protective foods, and remember to be safe! Sun can be your best friend but it can also be dangerous.

Happy and safe sunbathing!

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Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your points about the benefits of sun. I had no idea some foods were beneficial in offering sun protection.
    I will have to try shea butter for sun protection sometime. I used coconut oil all last summer which worked great except for one day when I was visiting my parents in Georgia and got burnt sitting in the mid day sun too long. ouch. Otherwise it has worked wonders.

    • Hey Kristine, glad you agree! Of course, we’re not meant to sit in the sun for hours, so even coconut oil is helpless if we do. Shea butter is awesome, I think you’ll like it. xx

  2. Raissomat says

    Hy again! I read just what I thought I might 🙂
    I have always hated sunscreen, but at the same time, growing up I have gradually become more sensitive to sunlight. Meaning I get nauseous from it, since my pulse drops strongly from it (which is great usually, but mine is already pretty low). So I started purchasing some “natural brand” sunscreen for days at the beach, and not exposing myself between 11 and 14h. Also a hat.
    I tell you being on summer holidays is difficult for me (but mostly the people with me), constantly dizzy and tired, I’m not a happy camper. Can’t wait to go to iceland or something. Anyway, my boyfriend is a landscape gardener..and a redhead with freckels. He gets the worst burns with hat, sunscreen AND t-shirt. So for now, I don’t feel like taking away the sunscreen from him yet. I mean, he is exposed from 07.00 to 18.00.
    I love the first and the last sunlight. That’s just what I can handle best without any protection. The rest of the day I spend in the shade.

    • Wow, that’s really interesting. My sister is a bit like you, she can’t stand heat and excessive sun exposure. I’m a complete opposite: I craved it so much that I moved all the way to a subtropical island. Everyone’s different. I get a headache and feel exhausted after too much sun as well, though. Just like everywhere else, moderation is key, isn’t it? For someone like your boyfriend who works long hours outside, sunscreen might be necessary. But you could try experimenting with the most protective oils some day, such as raspberry seed or carrot seed oil. They might work just as well. Maybe one day when you can control the time of exposure, e.g. when you’re on holiday, he could give it a try. xx

  3. Hi Vita!
    I was wondering if you had personally tried Red Raspberry Seed oil undiluted on your skin, because i do not want to use sunscreen.. so I thought I could use red raspberry seed oil or maybe mix it with sunflower seed oil ? What do you think?
    Only for those days when I know I will be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Sabrina, I have tried red raspberry seed oil in the past, but not for sun protection. At the moment, I’m using coconut oil for sun exposure and it gives quite a bit of protection. As red raspberry seed oil is supposed to have way more SPF protection, it should be even better. From what I’ve read, raspberry seed oil is also a very light oil and very pleasant on the skin, so I don’t think you need to dilute it with any other oil. xx

  4. Hi! Could you post a link to the actual research that links vitamin D deficiency to skin cancer? Because the blog you linked reference’s yet another article that has been removed from the original website. After a fast search, I found a Stanford newspiece that links vitamin D deficiency to breast cancer in mice (https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2016/03/vitamin-d-deficiency-contributes-to-spread-of-breast-cancer.html), but not skin cancer, and there are other studies that possibly contradict this theory (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/SkinCare/link-vitamin-levels-skin-cancer-risk-study/story?id=14318361).

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