THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN
This issue, Grace Pickford explores the benefits of sunshine for our mental and physical wellbeing.
Imagine if there was an all-natural way to simultaneously clear troubled skin, lower anxiety and depression, improve sleep, and boost your immunity…
You’re in luck.
It can be easy to forget that human bodies function as one intricately connected system. Everything is joined, so if we are missing just one vital ingredient, the cake will be too dry or the soup will be tasteless. Our minds and bodies exist in an intertwined relationship where the cogs are oiled by many internal and external factors.
What is this secret ingredient, we hear you ask?
The well-known risks that are associated with over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays, including skin and eye damage, are very real dangers of spending too much time in the sun without protection.
However, it has been found that a lack of access to the sun can cause just as much harm to your health as getting too much. The sun is one ingredient that, when missing, can have detrimental impacts on your mental and physical health.
Not getting enough sunlight over long periods of time can cause a variety of problems including depression, problems with skin, weight gain, cognitive issues, weak bones, and some cancers. It can also affect people mentally, as without sunlight serotonin levels drop, and this is associated with higher risks of experiencing depression.
Spending just 15 minutes in the sun can have incredible benefits and we will divulge all, just keep reading!
VITAMIN D The Sunshine Vitamin
One of the sun’s many miracles is the process of Vitamin D production that occurs in the skin when it comes into contact with the sun’s rays. When the skin is exposed to UVB radiation from sunlight, a photosynthesis occurs which triggers a process of converting cholesterol in the skin to produce Vitamin D.
Why is it so important? Vitamin D is vital to the body’s overall health and well-being. It regulates at least 1000 different genes that govern almost every tissue in the human body. It is also responsible for lowering high blood pressure, protecting against inflammation and improving the brain’s functions.
The Sunshine Vitamin is vital in providing the nutrients necessary for keeping healthy bones, teeth and muscles as it helps to regulate the amount of calcium in the body.
SEROTONIN The Happy Hormone
“Don’t worry! Be happy!”
Sunshine is the Willy Wonka of the serotonin factory – the hormone responsible for warding off low moods and stress.
It is a well-known fact that sleep is one of the greatest medicines, and the production of serotonin can improve the amount and quality of sleep that we get each night, having a domino effect on our mood and stress levels.
We all exist within the 24-hour daily cycle of light and dark. At night, the hormone melatonin is released, and during the day, sunlight triggers the production of serotonin. It is the balance of these hormones that keeps our internal body rhythms balanced and functioning healthily.
Cortisol is our stress hormone, which is highest in the morning. It has been discovered that watching the sunrise and catching sunlight early in the morning will reduce stress and help you to sleep better and get your body patterns back to a healthy rhythm.
THE DARK SIDE
Creeping in the shadows are the prominent repercussions of overexposing the skin to the sun’s UV rays. After sitting out in the sun for longer than just 15 minutes without protection, short term damage can become visible in the form of sunburn. However, continuous over-exposure to the sun can lead to long term damages such as certain cancers, as well as the acceleration of the process of ageing in the skin.
Heat stroke is another danger. This is the experience of feeling faint and exhausted after being in the sun for too long. It can lead to damage of the brain and internal organs. If you are already dehydrated, heat stroke can be detrimental to your health.
It is recommended to wear a broadspectrum sunscreen, meaning protection from UVA and UVB radiation, of at least 30 SPF every day.
For those with oily or acne-prone skin it can be difficult to find an SPF that will sit comfortably on top of their daily moisturiser or underneath makeup. Here are a few SPF products that we recommend for all skin types so that everyone can stay protected whilst enjoying the sun’s benefits:
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturiser SPF 40 £30 at lookfantastic.com
A zinc-based sunscreen for oily skin types, this SPF is cruelty free and contains zinc oxide making this a mineral sunscreen. Physical/mineral sunscreens will sit on top of the skin and absorb the sun’s harmful rays, unlike their chemical counterparts which work by absorbing into the skin first before absorbing UV rays. As mineral sunscreens are less irritating, they are great for oily or acne prone skin. This product is also free from colourants, harsh chemicals and parabens, as well as being noncomedogenic.
Dr Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Colour Correcting Treatment SPF 30 £12 at lookfantastic.com
For dry uneven skin tone, this colour correcting SPF powered by Korean skin care technology is a useful sun protector for those in need of a little help in cooling redness, blemishes and discolouration.
Simple’s Protect ‘n’ Glow Radiance Booster SPF 30 £3.99 at Boots.com
This little pot of goodness claims to provide protection from blue light, pollutants and UV rays. When applied, it leaves a glow to the skin without feeling overly oily, making it a contender for all skin types. It is also suitable for sensitive skin types due to Simple’s ethos of using no artificial fragrances, nasty chemicals, or alcohols. This is a great drugstore option for those wanting a mini miracle worker to protect their skin.
Supergoop! Unseen sunscreen SPF 30 £30 at cultbeauty.co.uk
Loved by the likes of model Ashley Graham, this no parabens, no fragrance,cruelty free, universal skin protector sits at a higher price point but with celebrities praising its formula, it may be a winner for your skin.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
Up to 90% of the Vitamin D that your body needs to support healthy skin, teeth and bones can be absorbed naturally by the sun, but recent studies show that three-quarters of the British population have inadequate levels!
If the sun can’t be accessed on a daily basis (calling all Brits) there are certain foods that can be introduced into your diet which can provide that all important dose of Vitamin D.
Fish and eggs are healthy options, and those who are vegan need not despair as mushrooms, fortified orange juice and milks including soy, almond, and rice also provide the extra boost of vitamins. There is also the option of taking Vitamin D supplements.
Sunlight can help with the process of curing skin troubles such as rashes and eczema leaving you with a healthy glow. But if you are worried about skin damage or you don’t have enough access to the sun, there are ways of adding vitamin D into your skincare routine for a topical dose of the Sunshine Vitamin.
Topically, Vitamin D acts as an antioxidant that helps fight free radical damage, reduces oxidative stress to the skin, and wards off signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles. Find it in daily creams, serums and face masks – just keep an eye out for the ingredients list.
You can read more of Grace’s work on Twitter @pickford_grace