Ah, the golden rays of the sun. Nothing feels as warm and comforting during these summer months, but it’s not without its risks. Too much sun exposure, or using the wrong, toxic sun protection products, can weaken your immune system and damage your health. If you want to enjoy the sun in a healthy and safe way this summer, here’s what you need to know about natural sun protection!

The Health Benefits (and Risks) of the Sun

sun protection

When you’re exposed to sunlight, your brain increases its production of serotonin (a mood-enhancing hormone).

There’s a reason the sun “feels” so good on our skin. It’s because it can actually be very good for your physical and mental health! For example, researchers have found that the sun can:

  • Boost your mood. When you’re exposed to sunlight, your brain increases its production of serotonin (a mood-enhancing hormone). 
  • Strengthen your immune system & bones. In one study, just 30 minutes of sunlight gave people several days’ worth of vitamin D, which is essential for everything from strong immune system to strong bones. 
  • Reduce cancer risks. Studies have found that cities with lower amounts of sunlight have higher rates of cancer, including colon cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Increase your skin health and skin complexion. Sunlight exposure may help to treat and heal various common skin maladies, including eczema and acne.

But sunlight is not without its risks

Too much sun exposure releases free radicals, which can lead to cell damage, disease and more. Excessive sun exposure also increases the risks of premature aging in your skin, including age spots, wrinkles and loss of collagen. And ultraviolet light from the sun may play a role in weakening your immune system.

Before you reach for sunscreen, you should also know that many popular sunscreen products aren’t without their risks either! For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that four drugs found in most over-the-counter sunscreen products, such as oxybenzone which has indications for allergies and immunotoxicity, ends up in your bloodstream after applying sunscreen. Levels of this chemical and others skyrocketed immediately after application of sunscreen, and continued to rise for four days after initial exposure.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of the sun, while simultaneously limiting your health risks, consider natural sun protection strategies.

Natural Sun Protection Strategies to Minimize Sun Risks

1. Practice Safe Sun

Minimizing sun exposure when its most harmful is easier than trying to heal, recover or fix sun damage within your body later. Health experts advise avoiding sun exposure between 11am and 4pm when the sun’s UV strength is at its highest.

If you must go outside during these times, you can reduce your risks by:

  • Staying in the shade when possible
  • Covering up with a hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants. And don’t forget your eyes! Sunglasses can help guard against the vision loss attributed to too much sun exposure.
  • Wearing a natural, organic sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

The latter point is important to emphasize.

All-natural, mineral-based sunscreens may be healthier because they’re more stable when exposed to the sun’s harsh rays, and they also pose a lower risk of penetrating your skin’s natural skin barrier.

2. Enjoy Cocoa

sun protection

Cocoa contains antioxidants that boost sun protection.

Do you need another reason to enjoy chocolate?

Researchers at the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology looked at how the antioxidants in dark cocoa affected skin health.

They found that those who enjoyed antioxidant-rich chocolate experienced less damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, including reduced redness.

3. Eat Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene. Studies have found that a diet high in lycopene helps to repair cellular damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet light.

Other great sources of lycopene include:

  • Watermelon
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Papaya
  • Guava
  • Apricot

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A dermatology study, published in the  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that a diet high in omega-3 fats may reduce your skin cancer risks.

Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish (e.g. salmon and sardines), nuts and seeds (e.g. chia seeds or flax seeds), plant oils, and foods that have been fortified (e.g. cereal, yogurt, eggs, etc.).

And finally, because sunburns are an immune response to excessive sunlight exposure, using BioPro Plus and other supplements that support and balance immune health is key. It’s important to think about your immune system’s wellness not just when you’re getting sick, but all year long to support the many ways that your immunity affects your general health and wellness. 

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