Sun Exposure, UV Radiation, Sunglasses and Astaxanthin

by Nils Osmar. June 9, 2022. Medical disclaimer

Sun exposure is a primary source of UV radiation, which is associated with skin aging and melanoma. According to a study called Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin:

  • “Clinical signs of aging are essentially influenced by extrinsic factors, especially sun exposure. Indeed UV exposure seems to be responsible for 80% of visible facial aging signs.”
  • “By calculating statistical correlations between the four clinical clusters (wrinkles/texture, ptosis, vascular disorders, and pigmentation disorders), and real age and apparent age on the one hand and heliodermal status on the other hand, we identified a link between each clinical cluster and aging and the photoaging process…”

With that said, some sun exposure is beneficial. Being sun-phobic (hiding from sun exposure out of an exaggerated fear of skin damage or cancer) has drawbacks of its own. See article: The risks and benefits of sun exposure outlines some of the risks and benefits.

Benefits of Sun Exposure

One obvious issue is that people who are sun-phobic may not be making enough vitamin D. Vitamin D (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) is actually protective against cancer. It’s also necessary for:

  • supporting healthy bones
  • supporting the proper absorption of calciun
  • reducing inflammation
  • supporting our immune systems
  • supporting glucose metabolism

Having low vitamin D can be prevented by eating vitamin D-rich foods such as fish and organ meats. But people who avoid sun exposure may still be missing out on other benefits. According to a Medical News Today article, sun exposure may protect people from the following diseases:

  • type 1 diabetes
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • several forms of cancer, including colon, breast, and prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Sunlight also supports better sleep and sets people’s circadian rhythms by regulating the levels of serotonin and melatonin.

Astaxanthin

The nutritional compound astaxanthin has been found in studies to reduce UV-induced skin deterioration. See study: The Protective Role of Astaxanthin for UV-Induced Skin Deterioration in Healthy People—A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Sunglasses

The data on sunglasses and eye aging is contradictory. Some do effectively block UV radiation. According to the Skin Cancer foundation, wearing them can protect both the eyes and the thin skin close to them from UV damage. Bear in mind though that not all sunglasses are equally effective.

Re: warnings that “sunglasses may cause skin cancer” — most health authorities still recommend wearing them if you’re getting a lot of sun exposure. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, their health benefits outweigh any possible drawbacks.

What I’m Doing

  • I try to get some (full-body) sun exposure several days a week. I live in an area which is often raining and overcast, so this can sometimes be difficult.
  • I avoid sunscreens because of concerns about slathering carcinogenic compounds on my skin. (This is a judgement call; most health authorities still recommend using sunscreens.)
  • I’ve found that taking the supplement astaxanthin prevents my skin from burning. Before I stated taking it, I burned easily; when taking it, I can be in direct sunlight for over 2 hours without burning. My skin does get slightly pink.

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