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Whether you’ll be stripping off or taking cover

during high summer, there’s no doubt that you’ll

burn more easily here in New Zealand than

almost anywhere else on the planet. The sun

is especially strong because the Earth’s orbit

takes the Southern Hemisphere closer to the

sun (called the perihelion) during our January

summer than it does in the northern hemisphere

during their July summer. There is also less

pollution in the atmosphere and less ozone to

block the UV rays that cause sunburn.

While the best ‘safe sun’ practice suggests

staying out of the sun between the peak hours

of 11am to 2pm, our desire to

make the most of our glorious

summer means that’s not

realistic for most. So what’s

Staying healthy and happy as we embrace the sun


hile we must be diligent in offsetting the

harmful effects of too much sun exposure,

it is worth remembering that our bodies do

need sunlight for good health. The interaction

of sunlight with skin produces vitamin D, a vital

nutrient not found in most foods common in

our modern diet. Even if it does occur naturally

in foods, sunlight is needed to help the body

synthesise the vitamin.

Studies show that ingredients in sunscreens

interfere with the function of sunlight to prompt

the skin to manufacture vitamin D. The blanket

use of sunscreens may be contributing to the

increase of vitamin D deficiency in NZ.

Author Debra Lynn Dadd points to the benefits

of sunlight in her book

Debra’s Guide to

Choosing Natural Sun Protection

. “Prior to the

discovery of penicillin in 1938, sunshine was

used to treat many ills including tuberculosis,

colitis, anaemia, gout, cystitis, arteriosclerosis,

rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and asthma.

Everyone knows by now about the SPF

protection rating on skin creams, lip balms

and sun lotions. The rating compares

time it would take to sunburn if you were

not wearing the sunscreen, as opposed

to time it would take with the sunscreen.

With the commonly recommended “SPF

15 and over”, how much protection is

offered by lotions rated 25+?

A WebMD feature discussed the ratings

quoting dermatologist James M. Spencer,

MD: “SPF is not a consumer-friendly

number,” he says. “It is logical to think that

an SPF of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of

15 and so on. But that is not how it works.”

An SPF15 lotion product blocks about

94% of UVB rays; SPF 30, 97%; and SPF

45 about 98%. “After that, it just gets

silly,” he says. (However, E-SPF rated

eyeglasses can add protection to lenses

with polarisation. See next page.)

What to know about SPF lotions: Look for

full spectrum, effective on


UVA and

UVB rays. Apply 30 minutes before you go

outside. Amount for full body protection:

Adults apply 30-40g, child 20g. If going in

water, use waterproof or water repellent

lotion. Reapply every 1-2 hours.



the answer? We all know the mantra – shirt,

hat, sunglasses and sunscreen before you step

outside. But what’s not so widely known is the

possibility of being sun smart on the inside too!

Aim for the Antioxidants

Some experts suggest that food and supple-

ments we consume influence how our bodies

react to sunlight. Antioxidants automatically flood

the areas under UV ray attack to help prevent

damage to the cells’ sensitive DNA. Over time,

these damaged areas show signs of wrinkling,

age spots (melatonin), and even skin cancers.

Antioxodant containing supplements are

plentiful. Look to include these in

your skin vitamin regime:

Glutathione, Alpha Lipoic Acid

(ALA), CoQ10, vitamin C and E.

Among antioxidant rich ‘super foods’ are cocoa

powder (yes, dark chocolate!), pecans, fruits

(apples, pears, black plums), artichokes,

cinnamon, and berries (blueberries, cranberries,

goji and the undisputed winner – acai berries).

Astaxanthin – usually taken as a supplement but

actually a food known as microalgae – seems

to be the powerhouse. It is favoured by surfers

and is consideredan internal sunscreen. In

the wild this microalgae is eaten by salmon,

shrimp and crayfish, giving them their reddish

colour. Commercially, it is grown in the intense

Hawaiian sun and also shows promise as an

anti-inflammatory for arthritis and other joint and

muscle complaints.

Modern studies show that exposure to

sunlight can also help lower blood pressure,

uplift mood, enhance the immune system,

lower blood sugar, kill bacteria, increase sex

hormones and help the body deal with stress.”

Sunscreens were not designed to increase

the amount of time spent in the sun, rather to

protect us in the event that we are in the sun.

“Ironically, our use of sunscreens as a licence

to sun-worship for hours on end means we are

actually increasing our risk of skin cancer.”

While there is no question that UV light in large

amounts is harmful, in trace amounts, natural

sunlight is a ‘life-supporting nutrient’. Many

experts recommend at least 30 minutes of

natural light per day, even if it’s sitting by an

open window or under the shade of a tree.

On the other hand, if you’re hitting the beach,

don’t forget to slip-slap-and-slop as you

embrace the wonderful gift that is the Kiwi




to be a




Photo by Tovi Daly



A toast to Summer