by CFO/Attorney/Mother/Triathlete, Tracy M. De Soto
As Southern California was just catapulted into summer (I'm not complaining after our cold and wet winter) I was reminded how much the sun plays a roll in my daily life. I learned that I could not live in the Pacific Northwest. I simply could not. I love the sun and I love Southern California. I realize this love of the sun is somewhat controversial. After all, we have learned the sun can cause skin cancer and we certainly know that is accelerates aging. So what are we taught to do to combat that: Sunscreen, Sunscreen and more sunscreen! I see it everywhere - especially living in Southern California. Kids cannot step outside of the indoors without being slathered with chemical-induced sunscreens because the sun is evil, right? I realize I will receive some backlash from this one, but I think it's important to think about, ponder for a moment or two....
In a world without sunscreen from year's past, when our ancestors lived, what did they do? Did they stay inside like hermits between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.? I doubt it because there was work that had to be done during the key hours of the day - farming, for instance demanded work during those hours, in fact, isn't that from where daylight savings came? Sure, we could say we have evolved to these conditions but actually we evolved outdoors. Sun exposure, regular sun exposure, was required then and in fact, even today our body requires it.
Now, I'm not saying go get on your bike and stay out there for seven hours without sunscreen. Of course, you could get on your bike for seven hours, or 400 miles, with our 400-mile bike short, right? But regular sunlight exposure is vitally important for optimal health. In fact, even newborns nowadays are given Vitamin D drops because we are told to keep babies and all children out of the sun. Well, if we have regular limited sunlight exposure, our body produces Vitamin D, which acts more as a hormone than a vitamin and is necessary for bone mineralization, it also improves insulin sensitivity and increases fat loss, it's required for testosterone production, prevents tooth decay, boosts our immune system and reduces inflammation.
So how much sunlight is the right amount? To get the effects of what I refer to above you only need about 30 minutes a day. But Vitamin D is only made from UVB (the evil burning rays), not the UVA. So - go out for a short 30 minute run and allow yourself to basque just a bit in the sun. Sunscreen will block the UVB rays so it doesn't count with sunscreen.
Now, since most of us are in the sunlight for more than 30 minutes, first think about something to physically block the rays. Obviously when we are running, we can wear a run cap but we can also cover our arms and shoulders with Cool Wings and our legs with Leg Coolers.
But what about when we are swimming (without a T1 wetsuit)? If it's 30 minutes, go for it! If it's more, then you will likely want to wear sunscreen. When purchasing your sunscreen, look at the "block" so to speak, in your sunscreen. What is blocking those rays? You only want sunblock that has one of two ingredients: titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. All the others: oxybenzone, oxinoxate, anything methyl.., propyl..., butyl..., ethyl..., trieth.., dieth...are all chemicals. Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed by your body. That's why we say babies under 6 months shouldn't use sunscreen and children should be using natural sunscreen (my personal favorite: Thinksport). I realize this is all unconventional, but when 70% of the population is Vitamin D deficient and we stay out of the sun to avoid cancer, it's important to consider what we slather all over our body and what may actually cause problems, instead of merely fixing them.