The sun, vitamin D, and the skin are closely linked but it might seem crazy to say that sunshine heal your skin. We all recognize that the sun affects that skin, but whether this is negative or positive will depend on who you ask. Many people crave that sunkissed glow from a day at the beach and swear by the sun to reduce skin conditions, while others fear sun exposure due to growing concerns about skin cancer.
Questions, unfounded assertions, and fears abound. Can the sun help heal your skin, or will it only damage it and lead to painful sunburns and potentially deadly melanoma? Let’s dig into the science behind the true power of sunlight and explore how sunshine can heal your skin.
Benefits of sunlight for skin conditions
This annoying, itchy rash is an autoimmune-related disease triggered by stress, infection, and cold temperatures. It is characterized by thick, red skin and silvery scales and causes rough, patchy skin. Psoriasis is commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet.
Studies have shown that people with psoriasis are usually deficient in vitamin D, especially in winter.
Most doctors prescribe topical creams, ointments, and medication for psoriasis, but light therapy (phototherapy) might be the most effective remedy. Light therapy exposes the skin to a concentrated burst of UV light and has been shown to eliminate even severe psoriasis.
Consider talking to your dermatologist about light therapy to treat your psoriasis or simply get out in the sunshine. Daily sun exposure to the affected area is especially beneficial for moderate cases and can help boost immune response and reduce inflammation.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is one of the most common skin conditions, particularly affecting children under 18. The National Eczema Association estimates that one in ten people will develop eczema during their lifetime.
Eczema creates patches of itchy, red, dry, cracking skin that can cause discomfort, sleep loss, embarrassment, and further skin infection. Since it is primarily caused by the immune system and environmental triggers, battling this skin condition can be frustrating.
While keeping the skin moisturized and staying hydrated are undoubtedly helpful, sunlight could be the key to eradicating it. Studies have shown that UV exposure releases the vasodilator nitric oxide in the blood. This protects your heart and triggers an anti-inflammatory response that reduces psoriasis.
Many people with eczema notice a decrease in their symptoms in the summertime when UV exposure and vitamin D levels are higher. Keep an eye on your flare-ups. If you see that heat and sweat cause your eczema to worsen, avoid the hot midday sun.
Do you have inexplicable small red bumps on the backs of your arms, torso, or legs? If so, you might have keratosis pilaris. This condition, often confused with body acne, is prevalent and usually goes undiagnosed, as it doesn’t usually cause itching or discomfort.
Driven by excess keratin production, these bumps are simply blocked hair follicles and are not harmful, meaning keratosis pillars doesn’t require treatment.
However, it can be unsightly and embarrassing. After all, who wants “chicken skin” to show every time you wear shorts or a tank top. Thankfully, the sun could help you in your quest for smooth skin.
For many people, UV exposure causes this condition to disappear entirely in the summertime. If you struggle with keratosis pillars, lean into the sunshine, letting the healing rays hit the affected area. Try to get sun exposure even in the wintertime to keep the bumps at bay. Believe it or not, sunshine could heal this annoying skin condition.
Studies have shown that phototherapy could help treat infants with jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Parents should be highly cautious when exposing babies to the sun as they can quickly get too warm or sunburn. Controlled UV exposure should be performed under a doctor’s supervision.
Is tanning healthy?
Unfortunately, this question isn’t as cut and dry as many might suggest. A tan is simply an increase in melanin in your skin due to sun exposure. While technically, any tan is a sign of damage, fluctuations in skin tone come with the change in seasons and varying intensity of the sun.
As you spend more time outdoors in the summer, your skin produces more melanin to protect the skin from UV rays. This process is normal, and each person’s skin tone and tanning response are slightly different. While you shouldn’t bake in the sun intentionally to get that coveted bronze skin, tanning from appropriate sun exposure is safe.
Does the sun cause aging and wrinkles?
The concept of photoaging, or the increased appearance of age from cumulative sun damage, keeps many people indoors and in the shade concerned about speeding up the natural aging process. Ultraviolet rays can penetrate the outer layer of skin and lead to wrinkles and dark spots. However, wrinkles also come from internal factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet choices.
Plus, wrinkles are a natural part of life, and reaching your golden years is nothing to be ashamed about.
Remember that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with dry, sagging skin since this essential vitamin is involved in renewing the epidermal cells in your skin. Therefore, avoiding the sun could lead to the very thing you are trying to prevent!
If you are concerned about sun exposure and wrinkles, you can apply an organic mineral-based sunscreen to your face whenever you head into the great outdoors. Just make sure that you expose other body parts to the sun to ensure vitamin D production.
How to sunbathe for healthy skin
Sit outside for 10-30 minutes each day: Avoid the peak afternoon hours when the sun is blazing during the summer months. Instead, get in some morning sunlight before you head to work and catch a few of the day’s last rays just as the sun is setting.
If you have a darker complexion or live far from the equator, you may need more sun exposure for the same benefits. We recommended going naked to give your whole body a healing sunbath.
When the sun is weaker in the winter, midday exposure is the best for clearing skin conditions and encouraging vitamin D production.
Avoid getting sunburned: Sunburn is the opposite of healthy skin and could contribute to the development of skin cancer. While some sun exposure is essential and beneficial, too much can be harmful.
Choose an organic mineral-based sunscreen and cover your skin with a light layer of clothing if you plan to be out in the hot sun for long periods.
Moisturize regularly: Moisturize your skin before and after sunbathing with an antioxidant-rich moisturizer such as coconut oil or aloe vera for added hydration.
Sunlight: The key to good health
Contrary to popular opinion and mainstream professionals who tout the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, there are immense benefits to appropriate, safe sunbathing. Sunshine can heal your skin. Glowing skin, relief from rashes, and decreased chronic inflammation make your daily dose of sun a no-brainer. Combine your “sun time” with a walk, yoga, or meditation for even greater well-being.
Remember, good skin starts from within. Drink plenty of water, eat an organic, 100 Year Heart Diet, consume plenty of free-radical-fighting antioxidants, limit toxins and heavy metals in your life, and take supplements when necessary. Get outdoors and soak up some sun!
Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well
Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD 2022