Cue age of Aquarius “let the sunshine in”, what a great song. It’s one of those songs that I can play loud with the windows down, the sun shining and the wind blowing through my hair. Hearing the melody creates feelings of joy and wonder, causing a cascade of happy hormones in my body.
Hormones are how we feel our surroundings or interpret our external events internally. It starts with a trigger, it can excite the pathways that create more hormones and this creates a positive feedback loop that will make you crave more.
Now, this can also create a negative feedback loop that will tell you ‘this wasn’t such a good idea’ and the next time when you feel that same stimulus you will take different action. Your brain is a computer that is also living and learning and smart. It will take the input into it and create memories of the stimulus and then determine whether the experience was good or bad for us and tell us what to do the next time the situation arises.
Sun shine is comprised of UVA, UVB and other types of rays that come from the sun. These can be good for us, as in, vitamin D synthesis and stimulating the positive hormone cascade and they can also be harmful, as in, skin cancer and sun burns.
Sunshine is recommended by most doctors for about 10-15 minutes a day and when it hits your skin, you get an immediate sense of well-being and health. This is because your body is creating new, good hormones in the case of vitamin D. We know that vitamin D is good for our health: cardiovascular, bone health, and other systems.
We also know that if we stay in the sun too long we can get sun burns.
Sun burns happen when we have prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. These rays of ultraviolet light are called UVA and UVB rays. In small doses these may be harmless but in large doses they can burn our skin.
We have receptors in our skin that tell us what is going on around us so that we can perceive our environment and then make changes based on that perceived information. So, let’s say for instance, that we are standing on the ground in Los Angeles and we start to feel the ground move, what you are actually feeling is the proprioception receptors in your skin and joints that sense vibration. These sensors tell you that the ground is shaking, more than just a large truck is passing by. Your brain then taps into these memories and says this feels like an earthquake and we better take cover. Or maybe it can compare it to all past experiences and say this isn’t like anything we’ve experienced before and this must be an earthquake.
Sun burns work that same way, at some point, your skin’s temperature receptors will say this is warm and nice. Then it will get hot and then it will signal to the brain, “hey, I’m burning here”. Because sun burns are actually burns of the skin. So when you get a sun burn you are burning your skin. This is not healthy for the body and the body will tell you to protect yourself. Either move indoors away from the sun or cover up your burning flesh.
How to tell the difference
Safety is number one! Unless you have suffered a sun burn before you will not have a memory of when the sun on your skin much for your body is too to handle. In this case, it is better to use some sunscreen to protect your skin from a sun burn.
I know some people are against sun screen and in that case it is best to wear light linen or cotton clothing to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.
Always have extra layers of clothing if you are going to be out in the sun for long periods of time. It is very hard to tell the difference between good sun and too much sun. Once you feel your skin burning, it is too late and you will have already started to burn the epidermis.
So do not wait until you feel the burn.
Types of sun block to wear
The best type of sun block is the one with the least amount of additives. The environmental working group at ewg.org has been resources for finding the least toxic sunscreens. They have brands that are EWG certified and will help you to find the one that’s right for you.
As far as the numbers go, SPF 15, 30, 45, 50, 75. That only signifies how many minutes of sun protection you will have. For instance, SPF 15 is 15 minutes of sun protection, whereas 75 is 75 minutes. Some people think that if they put on SPF 50 that they will have less of a chance of getting burned and this is simply NOT TRUE.
Personally, I use SPF 15 and above on most days and most dermatologists recommend SPF 30 and above.
If you are very sensitive to the sun and can feel the sun even on a cloudy day then I recommend wearing UPF clothes during summer. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor and this is built into the cloth.
This is meant to prevent the ultraviolet rays from penetrating the linen or cotton fibers and reaching your skin.
This is highly advisable if you have a sun allergy, sun sensitivity, or are prone to skin cancers.
Most people can feel the sunshine just like the song says. Most of the time it is a good thing to feel the sun on our skin and know our body is hard at work making our vitamin D to protect us from very bad diseases. If however, you are out for too long in the sun then remember to cover up and protect your skin from sun burns.