As summer sets in and beachgoers steadily increase along the Santa Barbara coastline, it’s a good time to enjoy the wonderful healing benefits of the sun while avoiding the damage, for the sun’s natural rays are healthy when done in moderation.

You may notice that after a good dose of sun at Butterfly Beach (or wherever your favorite spot may be), you feel better in many ways. This is because our skin produces healing hormones in response to the sun, particularly Vitamin D, which the body produces depending on individual need. Research suggests that if we are in the sun just until our skin starts to get pink, we produce a therapeutic dose of Vitamin D, whose wide range of benefits include protection against 17 types of cancer, decreasing inflammation, and protection from cold/flu, stroke, hypertension, chronic pain, diabetes, depression, and osteoporosis. This can take 15 to 20 minutes for lighter skin tones, and 60 to 80 minutes for darker skin tones. For the best effect, expose as much of your body to the sun, and refrain from showering for at least 30 minutes after sun exposure.

But keep in mind that sunburn is never the goal. Repeated sunburns are linked with increased formation of various skin cancers. The most effective way to prevent sunburn is to wear UV protective clothing or natural topical SPF protection, especially when you start getting pink. Consuming antioxidants (like those weekly tasty berries from the farmer’s market, and other fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds) and avoiding junk food and sugar will provide your skin natural sun protection and provide that natural glow.

If you feel dizzy, short of breath, or overheated, get out of the sun immediately. Stay hydrated and enjoy the sun!

Jonathan Birch is a naturopathic doctor who runs the Purety Family Medical Clinic in Santa Barbara. See


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