Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Psalm 148:3
One day when I was a kid, my dad was feeling generous and gave me the choice of getting a big trampoline (something he was adamantly against because he was sure I’d “break my neck”) or a swimming pool.
I was shocked that he would actually get me a big trampoline! But I tried to play it cool and asked him which one would cost more.
“The swimming pool,” he said.
“I’ll take the pool,” I said, smiling at my victory.
Dad smiled in return. Only later did I figure out that he had planned on putting in a pool all along and just wanted to seal the deal on me not asking for a trampoline anymore. It worked.
Well-played, Dad, well-played.
Something I wish I had known back then (besides humility) is that all those hours spent sunscreen-free in the swimming pool could have a major impact on my health. Hindsight.
But now that I’m a bit more health-aware, I’m taking measures to protect not only my own skin but my children’s as well.
The Skin Cancer Foundation declared May as Skin Cancer Awareness month. But now, in the midst of the summer months and swimming season, it’s a good time to re-examine what causes skin cancer and how it can be prevented.
And God saw the light, that it was good. Genesis 1:4
Is the sun good for us?
By now, most of us know that Vitamin D is an important hormone that is converted by our skin after exposure to the sun. The sun is necessary for adequate vitamin D production in the skin to be used throughout the body.
The list of things Vitamin D does is impressive. Vitamin D can really be a game-changer for your health.
Among its benefits are:
Builds bone strength and durability
Improves muscle strength, balance, and agility
Boosts immune function
Stabilizes blood sugar
Kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more
Helps increase heart health
Brain and nerve protection
Prevents cancer (insert screeching brakes sound here!)
First off, I’m super impressed by all that vitamin D does aren’t you? This list is not even the half of it! Makes me want to get. in. the. sun!
Did you notice that Vitamin D is linked to cancer prevention?
It’s not that sun exposure always causes cancer. It’s that too much OR TOO LITTLE sunlight can cause cancer.
Yet, it seems like news of cancer is so widespread, many people are avoiding the sun altogether. But then we risk missing out on all those positive health benefits the sun can provide.
We need the sun for life. But we need to use it sparingly.
So the best way for skin cancer prevention is …
Judicious amounts of sun exposure. Balance. Moderation. Intentional, controlled time spent in the sun.
In other words, don’t be a sun-lovah or hater.
For light-skinned people that means maybe 15 minutes or less of sun exposure per day depending on the season. But dark-skinned people may require six times that amount! (source)
And if you’re someone like me who wants some practical ideas you can apply right now, Here are 7 ways to get enough (but not too much) sun:
1. Wear long sleeves and pants/skirt year-round
Seems counter-intuitive but it’s really a simple way to control the amount of sun you get. If it’s a hot day, you can push your sleeves up for a bit to let the breeze cool your skin in the shade. And to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, pull your sleeves back down again.
Full coverage clothing in the summer may sound crazy, but really it just makes sense. After all, we were meant to be covered in robes of light.
Just Think about it though. To keep a casserole from overbaking do you uncover it or cover it? I usually grab a cookie sheet and put it on top of the casserole dish to keep the direct oven heat from drying the casserole out.
It’s the same with our skin. If we want to preserve it from overbaking, it should be covered.
For a good balance of sun exposure for health reasons, we can start with our skin slightly uncovered for a short time and then covered the rest of the time.
Some say that you can get enough sun exposure from only exposing your hands and face to the sun while others recommend sunbathing larger areas for a set amount of time each day. Either way, no one recommends being a sun worshipper anymore, so dress with skin-protection in mind.
Be aware that not all clothes are created equal and some are so porous they let the sun’s rays through. so Still plan to find shade especially during the peak sun hours.
The good news is that even swimwear is becoming more full coverage and UPF rated. So finding clothing that’s both modest and sun-protective for swimming is getting easier!
2. Use a natural sunscreen
This is great as a backup plan. What to use when you don’t have a hat, are swimming, can’t find shade, or just want some extra protection.
We use GreenScreen and it works well for us. It is thicker than the non-natural sunscreens I’ve tried Which helps me feel more protected. it’s also easy to see if it has washed off or not.
You can check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) site for ratings and recommendations of other sunscreens.
3. Wear a hat
After I’ve had my necessary sun exposure for the day, on goes the hat. I have the Sloggers Wide Brim Sun Hat (which is rated UPF 50).
It is fabulous!
I also love that it has the lanyard to keep it in place on windy days. and so I can let the hat hang down behind me when I’m not wearing it.
It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Seriously.
4. Use a Parasol
Para = “protecting against”
Sol = “sun”
Did you ever play with a parasol when you were a kid? I have this little white lace parasol that was a staple for playing dress-up when I was little. My daughter still plays with it today.
Using parasols is something that culturally I don’t see anymore here in the U.S. But in other countries, using an umbrella for sun protection is still apropos. And while wearing a hat and keeping the skin covered is a good thing, having the extra shade from an umbrella can make a huge difference in taking the heat down a notch.
Just make sure the umbrella isn’t a plain old rain umbrella but rather made for the sun. Otherwise it doesn’t have adequate protection and seems to just make it feel hotter.
5. Mind the time of day
The sun’s rays are the most harsh between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 or 4 p.m. During the summer. those are the hours to avoid sun exposure.
During the winter, depending on your location, that may be the best time to get out in the sun for vitamin D.
6. Remember your hands and eyes
Wear garden gloves (or sunscreen) on your hands and UV-protective sunglasses if you’re going to be out for extended periods.
It is also helpful to use an umbrella and to seek shade whenever possible once you’ve met your sun exposure quota for the day.
7. Have a healthy lifestyle
There are so many other lifestyle habits that make a difference in your body’s ability to use the sun’s rays to make vitamin D. Without them, we might not be able to get the vitamin D we need from the sun even if we are spending the “right” amount of time in it.
Eat real food. Get enough rest. Do real exercise as a way of life. Drink plenty of water. Have a positive outlook. Have faith and hope. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Keep your home and body clean.
There are really so many factors in skin health and cancer prevention that it’s a risk factor just ignoring one area of health.
What it all comes down to is this: For cancer prevention we need to have a good health plan and live it.
Health doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive, or complicated.
It just needs to be consistent, doable, and enjoyable. Everything else is just gravy. And even though gravy is great sometimes, it’s not always necessary. Sometimes potatoes are super yum in their plain, uncovered fabulousness. And sometimes with a squeeze of fresh lemon instead of gravy.
(Is anyone else getting hungry??)
So let’s go outside and enjoy the sun. Pure. Simple. Worry-free. His way.
The Lord is our sun and shield. He showers us with kindness and grace. He will not withhold anything good from those who love and obey Him. O Lord, how happy are those who put their trust in You! Psalm 84:11,12
- Korkmaz, N., Tutoglu, A., Korkmaz, I., & Boyaci, A. (2014). The relationships among vitamin D level, balance, muscle strength, and quality of life in postmenopausal patients with osteoporosis.J Phys Ther Sci, 26, 1521-1526.
- Kotz, D. (2008). Time in the Sun: How Much is Needed for Vitamin D?U.S. News and World Report.
- Skin Cancer Foundation.Prevention Guidelines.
- Ware, M. (2016). Vitamin D Health benefits, facts, and Research. Medical News Today.
Note: Affiliate links are included in this post for products I personally own and recommend.