All things Sun & Skin
Updated: Mar 2
Hello beautiful people, In this February edition we will be looking straight into the Sun.
Not in a blinding way of course, rather in an eye opening way that encompasses all life on this planet. We'll also discuss sunscreens and how we can safely utilise the Sun's energy to improve our life force, our awareness and our capacity as energetic beings!
Lets us first bring it right back to the beginning and talk about how the Sun interacts with the Earth and its many creatures. The Sun is the primary source of energy for all surface phenomena and life on earth. Electromagnetic energy from the sun comes to Earth in the form of radiation. The term "radiation" simply denotes the fact that the energy travels as rays, that is, in straight lines. This energy is commonly referred to as ultraviolet rays (UV). If you were to measure the energy received every second on the side of the Earth facing the Sun, a patch of one square meter would receive energy equal to that produced by fourteen 100 Watt light bulbs every second!
Plants, humans, animals, microorganisms - we are all living antenna for the energy emitted by the sun; yet so many of us live in fear of its potential. There is no doubt that too much of a good thing is a bad thing, we see that in everything whether it be kale, exercise, or medicine. So lets consider a happy medium and how we can move past the fear of this great energy source and utilise the Suns energy for all things good.
What happens when the suns energy reaches our skin?
Vitamin D happens! And its not a vitamin.
The primary source of vitamin D3, comes from a chemical reaction that occurs when our skin comes into contact with the Suns ultraviolet rays. “We each have vitamin D receptor cells that, through a chain of reactions starting with conversion of cholesterol in the skin, produce vitamin D3 when they’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) from the Sun" - Ref.
We also obtain vitamin D from food sources (vitamin D2), which makes sense because plants obviously utilise it in their daily doings as well.
What exactly makes vitamin D so important to our health?
Put simply, it directly and indirectly influences most of what happens in our bodies every second, of every day. Amongst many other uses for Vitamin D, this includes:
- Protection from Cold & Flu
- Stronger Bones & Muscles
- Decreases risk of cancer
To understand, you have to shift your thinking a bit. Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin. Rather, it’s a hormone precursor that our biological ancestors developed from being in the Sun. When exposed to UV rays, a chemical cousin of cholesterol in the skin converts to vitamin D, which travels to the liver and is changed to the prehormone calcidiol. Calcitriol (the actual hormone) attaches to more than
2,700 sites on the human genome,
and it turns on more than 1,000 genes, prompting them to do their jobs.
Vitamin D made from the Sun actually lasts much longer in the body, compared with vitamin D from supplements or foods. With the exception of shiitake mushrooms and wild salmon, most foods are not great sources of vitamin D and in the absence of the Sun energy you would just about have to live on them to avoid deficiency. Large doses of vitamin D have been proven to help the following conditions:
- Back pain
- Heart disease - Mental health
- Multiple sclerosis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vaginal infections
- Skin cancers.
Its just sad really. There's no other word that comes to mind when you consider how many of us live in fear of the Sun. In the midst of so much misunderstanding & the incessant marketing jingles akin to 'slip, slop, slap', we have been led to believe that our glorious Sun is a bane to our existence. Whereas in fact it is the great sustainer of life on this planet and without it's life giving cosmic dust we would be nothing.
Its important to understand that not even in the midst of hard science can we look at things from a single perspective. There is always a cross over where 2 seemingly opposing facts are both true. For example...
The same form of radiation (UVb) that we've been told over & over again causes cancer, is in fact the same energy that we use to create vitamin D and sustain our entire being, helping to prevent cancer. Its not a matter of one statement being truer than the other - both are correct.
Consider instead - Too much of a good thing is almost always a bad thing.
This perfect miracle of life has evolved to be in harmony with all natural, energetic forces on this planet, and so we cannot allow fear, perpetuated by industry or profit, to cloud our judgement - we have to look deeper. Its time we started to move past the misinformation and discover what we really are as energetic beings.
What is Against The Grain Health doing to help make a difference?
Before we delve into the very mystical nature of our naturally produced Sun protection - Melanin, lets talk about how we can make better Sun exposure choices for ourselves and our families. As creators of conscious skin care, Against The Grain Health, are living up to their name and creating products that are so effective & natural - its shock therapy!
One of the great things about our Zinc Balm is that it was created with the intention of being much more than a Sun protection. We wanted to create a product that was 100% handmade, reef safe, human safe, smelt fantastic, is easy to apply and contains only non-toxic, ethically sourced ingredients that people can trust.
Its been 3 years since 'No Funny Business' Zinc Balm was launched and we are proud to say it's been all those things and much more. Based on regular customer feedback through the markets of QLD we can tell you that it:
- Is very nourishing & moisturising for the skin without being sticky or thick in any way
- Offers significant Sun protection when applied to the skin tone of most people
- Can be used to help repair skin issues created by the elements such as burns & rashes.
- Doesn't sting your eyes or run off the skin with sweat or water
- Children actually enjoy putting it on - they know whats good for them.
We are also involved with some amazing environmental conservation organisations and work closely with mavericks of change! Recently we have partnered with the Great Barrier Reef Legacy Charity in northern QLD, donating $2.00 for every Zinc Balm towards their cause. You can read more here.
We are very proud to announce that early next month we will release TWO new Zinc Balms recipies!
They selection will cater for different skin tones - Light, Medium & Dark, but the best part is we have included some amazing new ingredients with proven sun protection ability. Don't worry if you are a die hard fan of our Helichrysum Zinc Balm, it will remain as is.
Below you will find some of these new ingredients and their noted benefits for the skin, as well as the new essential oil combinations we'll be infusing.
Stand by for these delightful, natural, nontoxic combinations to become available soon.
Our sun protection inventions have not been tested by a lab for their SPF capacity, so we cannot legally make any claims. We prefer real people and real skin to tell us how effective they are, but just to be sure we use 30% non-nano zinc oxide and other wonderful ingredients that are well known for their ability to protect you from too much UV exposure. You can always read our testimonials for validation or consider our chosen ingredients and form your own opinion!
Sun protection & Melanin
Melanin is produced by cells known as melanocytes in the skin of most animals.
Its a molecule that specifically deals with the production of pigmentation - in the skin, in the hair and all the things in our body that produce colour. Biologically there are different types of melanocytes, which produce different colours so its not a matter of black and white. All human beings possess Melanin within their cellular structure in one way or another.
Alike many human molecules, we also find melanin throughout nature - in fruits & vegetables, in feathers & insects, in microorganisms and fungi - Melanin is literally everywhere, in the soil, oceans, clouds, even stars & comets throughout the universe.
The picture below details the elemental composition of the human body.
Melanin is made out of the 4 elements which are most abundant in the human body _ Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen & Oxygen. You could say, we are one big melanin.
Skin Tone & Melanin
When our skin is exposed to sunlight it is prompted to produce Melanin which darkens the skin tone and helps protect your DNA against UV damage - Essentially making it a built in Sunscreen. Melanin doesn't only protect you from UV rays, it reduces the bodies ability to produce Vitamin D. Thats right, reduces...
With this knowledge, we can begin to see darker skin as a feature of this biological evolution, especially if we look back at those ancient ancestors whom resided closer to the equator, where sun exposure is more intense. You see, they possessed a higher melanin content in the skin, as they would typically spend longer amounts of time in the sun, increasing exposure to UV, consequentially increasing melanin production, which in turn blocks UV damage and therefore vitamin D production.
Are we getting the picture yet?
Ancient DNA Coding & Modern Culture
The relationship between UV rays, Melanin & Vitamin D is a protection mechanism thats been build into our DNA through environmental adaptation. Alike the nervous system's, fight or flight mode, our physiological coding is still running in the background, but the cultural demands of our time are very different to that of our ancestors.
Consider - We know that the human gene expression is constantly adapting to its surrounding environment. So if you are regularly applying a chemical to your skin that replaces the need for your body to make its own natural sun protection, then perhaps the body will adapt accordingly and produce less melanin. So then, what happens to our skin when we are next in the sun and we don't use that chemical....
The reason I felt it necessary to discuss the marvel of Melanin in this detail, is to paint a picture for you. A picture that says, we have evolved with nature and are not distinct from it. There is a mystical intelligence that permeates and connects everything in the natural world and that 'intelligence' is not something we should be trying to replace. Rather, looking for better ways to understand & facilitate what's already there. Nature is suffering from the chemical toxicity humans are creating and what do you know, so are we.
Marine Environments & Chemical Sunscreens
Healthy Oceans = Healthy World = Healthy you
'The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth, it is the planet’s life support system. Oceans generate half of the oxygen we breathe and, at any given moment, they contain more than 97% of the world’s water. Oceans provide at least a sixth of the animal protein people eat. Living oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce climate change impacts. The diversity and productivity of the world’s oceans is a vital interest for humankind. Our security, our economy, our very survival all require healthy oceans.' Reference
Any diver can tell you that coral reefs are beautiful. They are like undersea cities, filled with colorful fish, intricate formations and wondrous sea creatures. The importance of coral reefs, however, extends far beyond the pleasure it brings to those who explore it. Coral reefs play an essential role in everything from water filtration and fish reproduction to shore line protection and erosion prevention. The corals are the home builders for the fish, without them the fish disappear.
'Researchers behind a study, published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, found that a common chemical Oxybenzone, used in many sun protections has toxic effects on young coral which causes endocrine disruption, DNA damage and death of coral, among other the problems. Oxybenzone also exacerbates coral bleaching, a process by which coral reject symbiotic organisms and lose their color.'
Toxic Environment = Toxic You
In our last blog we discussed how up to 70 % of what you put on your skin is absorbed straight into your blood stream bypassing your bodies own filtration system, the liver - read the blog here. We know that many of the chemical UV filters used in conventional sunscreens, cause endocrine disruption in coral. So lets discuss the topic of endocrine disruption in humans.
'The endocrine system is the collection of glands which produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.'
Endocrine disruptors are environmental substances that interfere with normal hormonal systems. They are very diverse and can be plastics, chemicals, pesticides and fungicides that produce various toxicities such as developmental or reproductive toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, immunotoxicity, and neurotoxicity (Choi et al., 2004)'. They are added to nearly all of our cosmetic products including shampoos, cleansers, moisturisers, sun protections, etc. Not because they are needed, but because they are a cheap alternative to hard yakka or the real McCoy!
Given the importance of the endocrine system to our physiological development and function, this most certainly posses a pertinent question - If there is a chance our health could be negatively impacted by these cosmetic chemicals, why the lack of action?
Well - If a chemical is identified as an endocrine disruptor, the regulatory consequences of that classification are unclear. Presumably, new information about health effects resulting from endocrine disruption could lead to regulatory action (e.g., suspension of registration of a pesticide) in the same way as new information regarding any other type of adverse health effect. It remains to be seen whether identification of chemicals as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals will lead to new regulations and measures for controlling or removing them from commerce.
Thus, despite having had scientific validation that these UV filters disrupt endocrine systems in non-human trials, we still get the scientific blow back - 'we need more studies.' We continue down a path of inconclusiveness as if we are some disparate creature that's been dropped here from another planet.
This particular study looked at the prevalence of sun protection chemicals such as Oxybenzone in breast milk and found an astonishing 85.2% of participants had UV filter chemicals in their breast milk. So we know we are absorbing these chemical and passing them onto our newly born children, but we are unsure of its safety.... What the heck?!
The idea that a chemical should be innocent until proven guilty is quiet simply insane.
We as everyday people and consumers have to recognise and demand that the safety of chemicals be investigated BEFORE they are endorsed, NOT after.
In an article published by The Collective-Evolution titled 'Excuse me while I lather my child in this toxic death cream' they raise an interesting point regarding the so called 'scientific evidence' presented to us by corporations on chemical safety.
"Are the ingredients used to make sunscreen, which are entering into our bloodstream, something to be concerned about? The science given to us by the corporations will say that no, there is nothing to be concerned about. By now, one should know not to trust these corporations when it comes to their product explanations. It wasn’t long ago that Johnson & Johnson was recently found guilty of knowingly having a cancer-causing baby powder on the market". You can read more about it here - there are some great studies cited in the article.
So for now, the sunscreen industry will continue to be allowed to promote the use of these questionable chemicals for sun protection in Australia. When we look at the rise in rates of cancer, neurodegenerative and autoimmune related conditions do we really need more studies to realise we are suffering our 'man-made' environment. We've lived like this for long enough and we don't need scientific validation to make common sense consumer choices regarding the reckless misuse of chemicals by corporations & governments.
The first thing I'd implore anyone to do as an activist is to make those changes within themselves and do some research. Knowledge is power and we need to know where the chemical pitfalls are if we are to protect ourselves and our families. Creating a dialogue or discussion forum around the concepts explored in this blog will hopefully help build for you an understanding that whilst some of us need more sun protection than others, we can most certainly do better than chemical sunscreens with definite environmental toxicity and 'potential' human toxicity.
Make the shift, change the future.
Salutations to the Sun, which lights up our inner & outer worlds.
Below are some cited scientific studies, articles & references with which you can explore the ideas presented in this Blog and more.