Sun exposure is essential. 

Over the years, we have been convinced that the sun is dangerous. As a result, we have been hiding from the sun by staying inside or by covering ourselves in sunscreen whenever we are outside. Need not forget that we have evolved with the sun. The sun brings and sustains life. 

There is more information coming out about how lack of direct sun exposure (and the use of sunscreen with questionable ingredients) is negatively impacting our health. 

Skin cancer is one of the biggest fears regarding sun exposure, but skin cancer wasn't as prevalent amongst our ancestors as much as it is today. So, what changed? It is not from more sun exposure; we get little to no sun exposure compared to ancestral times.

Our bodies need the sun, our health depends on it!

Let's take a look at all of the benefits the sun has to offer...

Nitric Oxide (NO)

UV exposure activates the production of NO on the skin's surface (PMID:28894213).

Benefits of nitric oxide include:

  • NO is a strong vasodilator helping relax the blood vessel walls and increasing blood flow which helps transport nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and organs more efficiently. Known for lowering the risk of developing CVD, including hypertension, stroke, and heart disease. 
  • Improves the immune system by promoting white blood cell production. 
  • NO is a neurotransmitter that helps facilitate neural communication, memory, and learning. 
  • It boosts exercise endurance and performance due to increased blood flow to muscles. 

Production of Vitamin D

This is one we are all familiar with.

Sun exposure is the best way to boost vitamin D levels. Most cases of vitamin D deficiency are due to lack of sun exposure. 

A 2020 study explains the association between low levels of 25(OH)D and increased risk of "developing several immune-related diseases and disorders, including psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, sepsis, respiratory infection, and COVID-19, has been observed." (PMID:32679784)

Additional benefits of sun exposure include:

  • Helps balance circadian rhythm which supports appetite, hormonal balance, sleep, and improves overall metabolic markers. 
  • Boosts bone health
  • Boosts mood
  • Reduces stress


Did you know that certain antioxidants you can obtain through food can help mitigate harmful effects of too much sun exposure?

Free radicals generated from UV light has been shown to cause DNA and cellular damage. Adequate amounts of UV light is not the problem. It's when we get TOO MUCH exposure where sunburns occur, time after time, that problems arise. 

A 2015 study showed that the consumption of antioxidant-rich whole foods can help combat the oxidative process that arises when free radicals are present. (PMID:26583073)

Another reason that shows how beneficial it is to eat a quality diet!

Antioxidant-rich foods include: Berries, beets, bell peppers, apples, tomatoes, cranberries, spinach, kale, green tea/matcha, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and  broccoli. 

Dangers of Sunscreen

Most people believe that sunscreen is essential to prevent skin cancer. This is really convenient for the sunscreen market that is worth around $14 billion!

Even though it is marketed as a preventative for skin cancer, the safety of these products are questionable. 

Certain ingredients in sunscreen have "endocrine-disrupting activity, or can be carcinogenic, neurotoxic, bioaccumulative, or toxic for human reproduction", specifically "organic" sunscreens containing the ingredients: Benzophenone-3 (BP-3), PABA, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Homosalate, Ensulizole, and 4-MBC. (

On the other hand, inorganic sunscreens that contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide have very low risk in humans. 

The Key is to Avoid Sunburns 

Plain and simple. If you allow your skin to burn, and burn often, this raises your risk. 

In order to achieve all the benefits of the sun, the goal is to get around 15-30 minutes of sun exposure daily or at least a few times weekly. 

Ways to Avoid Sunburns

  • Utilize sun protective clothing like big hats, shawls and light clothing you can drape. 
  • The shade is your friend! Once you reach a certain amount of time in the sun, try using the shade so you can continue to enjoy your time outside protected. 
  • Build up your tolerance to the sun by being outside as much as possible starting with the spring. This will help you produce more melanin in your skin that can naturally protect you from burning and can allow you to have more time in the sun when summer rolls around. (PMID:18435612)
  • Eat a quality diet full of antioxidants and less processed foods.  

 EWG Certified Sunscreen 


March 26, 2024 — Maxine Nathan