FINALLY, summer seems to be hinting at a come back! After a weekend of sunshine and temperatures that didn’t necessitate any form of thermal underwear, it’s time to start thinking about sun exposure, the risks and the benefits.

I’m one of these pasty types that goes red and freckly in the sun, so I tend to avoid it and slather on enough fake tan to appear vaguely human.  But after reading about the possibility of being deficient in Vitamin D, I’ve decided to allow for a bit more sun (although not on my face – I’m on a serious anti-wrinkle campaign and I’m not about to let UVA/B get in the way of that)!

In the words of Jennifer Anniston (circa L’oreal Elvive sell-out) ‘Here comes the science bit’…

For years, research from various health advocates pretty much concluded that too much sunlight can dramatically increases the risk of skin cancers and deadly melanoma.  Sunburn and skin damage from too much sun can lead to premature ageing or skin growths that can become cancerous if untreated. Scientists have discovered that overexposure to UV radiation may suppress the immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, potentially raising the risk for infections. Bad news for tan-aholics and pretty much everyone in TOWIE, Geordie Shore and that ridiculous Welsh one that I can’t even make through the advert for without changing the channel, The Valleys.

BUT…

New research is now revealing that sun exposure can be extremely beneficial to our health and even reduce the risk of heart disease.

We all know that sunshine helps the body to produce vitamin D, which is hugely beneficial as it encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, promoting healthy bones and brain function. Not only have increased levels of vitamin D been shown to aid in weight loss, Researchers from discovered that higher vitamin D levels in healthy individuals have a significant impact genetic illnesses including cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases. Wowsers! (Good news for tangoed reality TV people.)

You can take supplements but the most natural way to increase levels is exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet rays are utilized to synthesize a form of cholesterol already in the body, into vitamin D. So it also encourages decreased levels of cholesterol. Take that Flora Pro-active! (I’m NOT a fan of margarine but that’s a whole other article!)

Vitamin D is not the only benefit of sun exposure. Scottish researchers found that when sunlight hits the skin, a compound is released in blood vessels that reduces blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. According to Dr Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh: “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer”.

Considering that heart disease and strokes kill up to 80 times more people than skin cancer in the U.K. (where the study took place) the blood pressure benefits from sunlight outweigh the risks for skin cancer. And I’m from Scotland – to get enough exposure to cause cancer would be a miracle in itself.

Getting more sunshine and ultraviolet light can make you feel happier and improve sleep as it helps the body produce more serotonin, endorphins and melatonin in your brain. Other benefits include and increase of white and red blood cell production, which enhances your immunity. UV rays from the sun can actually kill viruses, bacteria, moulds, yeast and fungi that may be found on the surface of your skin. So it also acts as a natural antiseptic. And while excessive sun exposure can lead to premature ageing, moderate sunlight has been shown to help clear up some cases of acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

I think the lesson here is don’t burn, don’t go mad, get outside more and enjoy the summer!