Ultraviolet (UV) light is most often thought of as a source of damage to skin. However, it also offers tremendous health benefits in the right doses. In fact, sunlight, which consists of UV and visible light, was already used for treating a variety of skin conditions in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Even as recently as 100 years ago UV light was a standard treatment for tuberculosis, before the advent of antibiotics. Now we know that UV rays offer many additional health benefits.
Based on modern scientific research, these benefits can include the following:
- Treating skin diseases (e.g., psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, scleroderma)
- Promoting the production of nitric oxide (NO), which provides protection against damage by UV light; NO also promotes cardiovascular health for the small capillaries in skin, provides an antimicrobial effect, and inhibits certain types of cancer
- Protecting against melanoma
- Regulating melatonin production from the pineal gland for synchronizing daily biorhythms
- Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Elevating mood by stimulating the release of endorphins
- Suppressing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Regulating body temperature
- Enhancing the role of skin as a barrier to microbes and environmental toxins
Of course, UV light is also a concern due to the harm it can do to skin. Photoaging and skin cancer are at the top of the list. The key to reaping the benefits of UV light, while at the same time avoiding its harmful effects, simply requires some common sense. Follow these two strategies for gaining the benefits while minimizing potential harm.
- Limit overexposure to UV rays.
- Promote protective skin health with the regular use of antioxidant-rich natural skin care products.
If anything, the single best piece of advice that applies to everyone regarding UV overexposure is to avoid sunburn. Sunburn is the response of skin to too much UV light. The pain and redness of sunburn indicate an emergency response to skin damage. All of the negative consequences of UV overexposure are accelerated when skin begins to burn.
The challenge for determining how much is too much is that, by the time sunburn becomes apparent, it is too late. Getting to that point depends on several factors. Skin color may be the primary one. Lighter skin that is not already tanned is most susceptible to burning. Darker skin, whether naturally dark or darkened by tanning, takes longer to burn.
Overexposure happens faster when the sun is more directly overhead. In North America peak sunlight occurs in summer at lower latitudes (i.e., further south). Winter overexposure is more common at higher elevations, especially when you are surrounded by snow that can reflect UV light. Sunburn while snow skiing is every bit as fast and as damaging as it is at the beach.
By the way, high doses of UV rays at indoor tanning salons also cause too much exposure. Tanning devices often lead to reddening of the skin, which is once again an indicator of DNA damage and photoaging.
Promoting Protective Skin Health
Note that FDA-approved ingredients for sun blocks have little to do with promoting skin health. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Filtering out UV light diminishes its potential health benefits. It is much more sensible to get the right amount of exposure to UV light while using the best natural skincare products for enhancing these benefits.
Truly protective herbal skincare products promote health in many ways. One of the most versatile ingredients for enhancing skin health is green tea, due to its powerful antioxidant EGCG. This antioxidant invigorates skin cells, protects against DNA damage, and inhibits enzymes that destroy collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin are the main strengthening and flexibility components, respectively, in skin.
Combining Herbs and UV Light
Of course, combining green tea with other health-promoting herbs for skin care is the ideal approach to keeping skin healthy while taking advantage of the benefits of UV light. A short list of examples of these other herbs includes angelica root, white peony, and ginseng. Indeed, these are some of the key ingredients in the Vitality Anti-Aging Serum by Jadience Herbal Formulas.