The picture above is a bold reminder of the damage that the sun does to our unprotected skin over time. The man above was featured in the New England Journal of Medicine. He was a truck driver of 28 years and did not wear any sun protection. He drove with his window up and this is how his skin looked after all of those years of sun damage. As you can see, the side of his face that would be facing the sun most of the time is the side that is severely wrinkled and sagging while the other side has significantly less damage.
Throughout my life my relationship with the sun has been off and on. As a kid, I spent some time out in the sun, but favored staying indoors much more than out. I was the kind of little girl that really didn't like being around bugs and dirt and would much rather be inside playing with toys, watching tv, or playing games. When I was a teen I would lay out in the sun tanning while at the pool during the summertime. My mom would always tell me to wear sunscreen, but I would usually try to skip it in favor of getting a heavier tan. Eventually as I reached my twenties I enjoyed being indoors most of the time and thus did not get out in the sun very much. It wasn't until I became a raw vegan about 3 years ago that I started to become interested in the sun again. It seemed like so many "gurus" in the raw food community waxed poetically about it being good for you to spend time out in the sun and to be sure to get some sun in your eyes every day. Some of them claimed that eating raw fruits and vegetables helped your body protect itself naturally from sun damage. I blindly believed these claims and started trying to get out into the sun more. Eventually I moved to San Diego, CA from Colorado and so it was even easier to spend time out in the sun since the weather was so warm year round. Then I became a dog walker and was outside literally all day with no sun protection. I tan very easily and rarely burn so I told myself that it was okay to be outside with no sun protection because my body naturally protected itself. Well, that's partially true, but that does not mean that the repeated sun exposure does not play a toll on ones skin health.
It wasn't until the end of last year that I finally listened to my fiance's growing concerns about spending so much time out in the sun. For him it hit a lot closer to home because his mom spent many many years laying out sunbathing until she got skin cancer. Now she is very careful to stay out of the sun and to wear protection whenever she's out. My fiance also showed me some sun damage on his face that he got from spending lots of time outside rollerblading without sun protection. After reading more about it, I decided it was time to stop playing around with my skins health. I started wearing UPF 50+ hats while out on dog walks along with long sleeve sun protectant shirts and pants. Eventually my dear friend, Nancy, gave me a pair of fingerless sun gloves which I now wear all the time while out dog walking, hiking, and driving. If you think about it, it makes sense as our hands often get neglected from sun protection. You can easily see the sun damage on people often over the age of 50 when you look at their hands. In comparison take a look at older people's skin on their thighs and butt and you will notice the skin is much more youthful in terms of sun damage as these are areas that don't typically see the light of day (unless of course they are chronic sunbathers). Also, take a look into the beauty practices of many Asian women who are known for their porcelain youthful looking skin. What is the common skincare practice that these women all practice? They all protect their skin by doing things like wearing sunscreen, hats, carrying parasols (sun umbrellas), etc. These women know that one of the keys to staying beautiful even into the elder years is to protect their skin from the sun.
Now I'm sure some of you are pondering how so many of our nomadic ancestors were able to spend so much time out in the sun without having to worry about skin cancer, sun spots, and aging skin. This is because our ozone has become significantly damaged, especially within just the past century. Without our ozone we are even more at the mercy of the sun and its damaging rays. So now we must be more vigilant and careful ... at least that is if you want to have beautiful, healthy skin.
If you’re looking for more scientific information regarding the suns rays and its effects on our skin here are a few links that you may find enlightening:
UV radiation effect on hyaluronic acid production: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2043507/
Twin study shows effects of skin aging: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091221212746.htm
UV damage of collagen: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11419538
Arthur E. Brown in his book “Methuselah's Secret”, which reviews longevity statistics via geography, tells the story of people who live in steep canyons, caves and valleys who attained great ages, and delves into the puzzling jump in longevity in the 1911-1951 timeframe. His guess was that the UV radiation was very destructive to the body and that our old world had a much stronger ozone layer canopy around the Earth protecting us from it. He finds examples of many strange occurrences of people who lived underground, who had exceptionally long lives and even looked younger than their biological age. One amazing example of this are the Dickerson Children.
These children lived secluded away in an attic for 11 years until they were teenagers. The picture below shows Connie, Gordon and Glenda Dickerson (ages 18, 16, and 13).
These children had stunted aging! Although healthy and intelligent, they appeared physically to be many years younger than they actually were. Look at the pictures below, all are teenagers!!!
My first thought after seeing these kids was that not even the oldest had gone through puberty. Not seeing the light of the sun, having contact with UV wavelengths or spectrums, had not allowed “normal” cellular or hormonal changes to occur. This obviously slowed down all biological processes or was mitigated till exposure to the sun occurred or cycles of circadian rhythm began. As the kids entered the outside world, they began aging as we all do today.
This very story above is one of a few that make me really believe that sunlight and sun to skin exposure is far too overrated.