Summer Solstice and Sun Exposure


Happy Summer Solstice! 

Throughout history, cultures in the Northern Hemisphere have celebrated these longest few days of the year. The ancient Greeks recognized Summer Solstice as the start of the New Year and it also marked the one-month countdown to the start of the Olympics. Stunning structures like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids served partially as impressive observatories that allowed the Druids and Egyptians to track the sun’s progress toward solstice. Today, we observe June 21st as the first official day of summer, a time for planting crops, planning travels, and enjoying the outdoors.

Getting out in the sunshine has many positive effects to take advantage of when summer finally arrives. Our modern, technology-driven lives give us an abundance of things to keep us distracted and occupied, it’s often easier than ever to spend an entire whole days indoors. It can also be challenging to get outside in the midst of our busy schedules, however, it is one of the most important things you need to do for your health every day. 

Being deficient in vitamin D makes you much more susceptible to illnesses and diseases and has proven to be fatal, given its correlation with many types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate and ovarian. Furthermore, it’s as important to make sure you allow your body three days to synthesize the vitamin D. Using harsh soaps strip key microbiota off our skin needed to synthesize, which means you should only wash your pits and parts! In addition, it’s imperative that your time spent in the sun isn’t accompanied by a layer of sunscreen. Contrary to the popular belief, sunscreen does more harm than good. You can explore “The Metabolic Approach to Cancer” for more in depth explanations, but sunscreen wasn’t invented until 1936 and the first proven case of melanoma was in 1987. So while the sun is often blamed for causing cancer, it’s important to realize that for the past 2.6 million years, humans not only spent far more time outdoors, but they also didn’t wear sunscreen. 

Using sunscreen acts as a direct barrier to the vitamin as UVB is needed to make vitamin D3 – the active form of vitamin D. The high level of protection against the sun that sunscreens provide completely block photosynthesis of vitamin D and reduces circulating vitamin D metabolites. This results in 25(OH) D deficiency unless there is adequate oral intake. In addition to blocking your body from receiving vitamin D, most sunscreens are full of toxins, including synthetic vitamin A and oxybenzone, which can actually cause and promote the spread of cancer, according to a 2011 report issued by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Sunscreens also contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are man-made chemicals that imitate and act like estrogen in our bodies. EDCs are ingested through ingestion of food, dust, water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and through our skin. This means that when we lather ourselves with sunscreens that are loaded with xenoestrogens, they are absorbed directly into our bloodstream. Would we so readily slather sunscreen on our toast, or would we read the ingredients more carefully? It’s almost the same thing (although people are slathering a lot more lotion on their body than they would ever eat…).

Now, I am not saying it’s healthy to get sunburnt, but to be healthy, it’s necessary to spend enough time in the sun. Avoiding the mid-day sun is very important as well as being over-exposed, as our ozone layer is decreasing, making UV rays more potent during that time especially. Thankfully, if you are going to be in the sunshine at the hottest time of day, the EWG issues a report of safe sunscreens every year that are free of hazardous chemicals. I’ve included a few of their 2019 top rated sunscreens for children as well as sunscreens for the rest of the family below:

For children:

For the rest of the family:

You can also explore their 2019 Guide to Sunscreens for an in depth review. 

If you’re interested in learning more about why sun avoidance is harmful for your health, check out Dr. Marc Sorenson’s blog Sunlight Institute and/or his book, “Embrace the Sun.”

If you’d like to do more research on endocrine disruptors, a few excellent resources include the Environmental Working Group, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange and the Silent Spring Institute. 

Let’s not be afraid of the sun, we need the vitamin it offers.