For as long as most of us can remember, the medical and skincare industries have been warning us against sun exposure to the extent that many of us consider the sun an enemy. That is truly unfortunate. Not only is the sun not an enemy, but the human body actually needs a moderate amount of sun exposure to maintain good health. Years of evidence clearly show we should be using our sunglasses and sunscreen a bit more judiciously.
For some reason, we are more than willing to listen to medical doctors and researchers who say that beating skin cancer requires wearing sunglasses and sunscreen whenever we go outdoors – even if it’s not sunny. Yet we ignore scientific research on the other end of the spectrum.
Why does this matter? Because in most things medical and scientific, extremes are both useless and sometimes dangerous. On the one hand is the extreme position that we should never use sunglasses or sunscreen. The other extreme says that we should use them whenever we go outside. Both are inappropriate.
There is a time and place for sunglasses and sunscreen. Yet there is also a time for moderate levels of sun exposure. Look, the human body needs sufficient sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, regulate hormonal balance, adapt to different light levels, and so much more. Constantly shielding the body from sunlight is just as bad as allowing the skin to burn a couple of times per month.
Sun Exposure and the Eyes
We are told that sunlight is the enemy of the human eye. That is not necessarily true. UV rays can be harmful with excessive exposure, as explained by eyewear wholesaler Olympic Eyewear. But science has never clearly defined exactly what excessive exposure is. We do know that natural sunlight is necessary for good eye health.
It turns out that sun exposure through the eyes is necessary for hypothalamus regulation, too. The photosensitive cells in the eyes regulate the biological clock. They influence circadian rhythm, brain function, central nervous system function, and more. Protecting the eyes against all sunlight is as bad for them as staring directly into the sun without UV protection for hours on end.
Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer
We are also told that we need powerful sunscreen to protect against melanoma (skin cancer). Did you know that the first sun lotions were developed in the 1930s under the premise of tanning being attractive? It turns out that melanoma rates began to rise, almost instantly, commensurate with the amount of sun lotion consumers were buying.
Marketers noticed the trend and, by the 1980s, began re-branding their sun lotion as sunscreen. Nothing actually changed in the products themselves, they were just given a new name and a promise that they would prevent melanoma. And yet melanoma rates have continued to increase. Long story short, sunscreen is actually contributing to the problem. Here are some interesting facts taken from a number of scientific studies:
- Melanoma rates have increased 1800% since the first sun lotions were introduced
- People who spend the most time outdoors are the least likely to get melanoma
- People with heavy occupational exposure to sunlight have a significantly lower melanoma risk
- People who live in excessively sunny climates are at lower risk for melanoma.
Neither sunglasses nor sunscreen are good or bad in and of themselves. It is all in how we use them. Used judiciously, both can offer a measure of protection against sun damage. But used in excess, they can lead to unintended consequences that could be just as harmful as too much sun exposure.