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If you‘re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that I often focus on the damaging effects of the sun. UV radiation from the sun can cause long-term cellular damage, accelerate aging in the skin and can even lead to skin cancer and the formation of cataracts. The potential for each of these is a strong motivation to use effective sunscreens to protect your skin from excessive UV exposure.

However, it's important to remember that direct sunlight can be beneficial for the body. Finding the balance between shielding your skin from UV radiation while allowing your body to reap the benefits of direct sunlight begins with understanding these benefits. Below, I'll explain a few ways in which direct sunlight can have a positive effect.

Seasonal Affective Disorder  

The psychological impact of long-term sunlight deprivation is well-documented. Often, people eat more and sleep more in locations that experience little or no sunlight for long periods. This deprivation can even lead to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder. During seasons when the days grow shorter (thereby limiting sunlight), depression can set in. As as we head into the winter, this can become a serious concern for many individuals.  

As the season progresses, the depression deepens, leading to apathy, a general feeling of hopelessness and even heightened levels of anxiety. Often, these symptoms will become less intense once the season passes, but will return the following year. Access to sunlight (or artificially simulated sunlight as in sun lamps) can reduce the chances of seasonal affective disorder occurring.

Help For Skin Conditions  

There are certain skin conditions for which sunlight has proven an effective treatment. For example, psoriasis manifests as a skin inflammation. In mild cases, it can cause itching and minor discomfort. In severe cases, people afflicted with psoriasis can experience intense discomfort and even perpetual pain. Exposure to sunlight has been known to provide relief to those who suffer from this condition. Similarly, sunlight has also shown mild effectiveness in treating eczema (another inflammatory condition of the skin).

Vitamin D Synthesis  

Our bodies require vitamin D to maintain calcium levels, provide a boost to our immune system and regulate blood pressure. Because several health conditions are related to these factors, many doctors claim that vitamin D can help prevent a host of different cancers, diabetes and even osteoporosis. 90% of the vitamin D produced within the body is manufactured through direct exposure to the sun's UVB rays.

Finding The Balance  

The positive effects of sunlight don't invalidate the need for broad spectrum protection against the sun's UV rays. If you're concerned about the appearance of your skin and reducing your risk of skin cancer, you should still use a sunscreen like Anthelios that offers broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. That being said, sunlight does have its benefits. The key is to find a healthy balance between UV protection and the sun's positive effects.  

Most experts suggest that your body only needs 5-10 minutes of direct sunlight each day to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin D. If you live in more Northern climates, you may want to consider supplementing with Vitamin D during the winter months when UVB rays are too weak to aid its production. Check with your healthcare provider if you aren’t sure.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed] 


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