Did you know that the sun is amazing for your health?
Yep, that’s right. Not only does everyone love being out in the summer sunshine for fun, but you have a bigger excuse to get outside because it can offer many amazing benefits to your body. Here are some of the top health benefits of being in the sun, and make sure that you take advantage of every bit of sun you see this year!
It lowers blood pressure
Exposure to sunlight can be incredibly beneficial for people who suffer from high blood pressure. When sunlight hits your skin, it causes a compound called nitric oxide to be released into our bloodstream. This compound is instrumental in lowering the pressure of blood flow around the body. If you or a family member has issues with their blood pressure, the best thing you can do is take them outside for a walk in the sun.
Pretty much everyone knows that exposure to the sun helps promote the creation of Vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is an important vitamin for us to have because it helps our bodies to repair after injury, it can heal muscles and joints, and promotes strong bones. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of both calcium and phosphorus in the body, and both of these minerals are used to keep our bones strong and healthy throughout our lives. This means that the more time you spend in the sun, the less likely you are to break a bone.
This is a fact we bet you wish you had known during your school years! Staying in the sun for long periods of time can produce lots of Vitamin D in the body, and Vitamin D has been directly linked to our brain function. When you have a higher level of Vitamin D in the body, you are able to learn, process and retain information much easier. It is the perfect excuse to stay sunbathing outside during your exam study period!
Helps with depression
The sun is not only good for our physical health, it can be amazing for our mental health too. During the winter months, many people suffer from a genuine mental condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It makes us feel more stressed out and depressed during the time where we are stuck inside. If you want to reduce stress and help yourself with the symptoms of depression, take a plane to Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort and give yourself a week of sun therapy. When you come home you will feel much better, we promise.
You’ll get more sleep
When we are exposed to sunlight, the light which hits our eyes sends a signal to our brain to halt the production of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which makes us feel relaxed and also drowsy, so during the day the levels will stay low, and as soon as the sun goes down the levels will rise to ensure that we have enough in our bodies during the evening. This stops our levels from depleting at night and helps us fall asleep much more easily. When you have spent a day out in the sun you are much more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
The 10 symptoms of vitamin D deficiency you need to recognize
(NaturalNews) Taking vitamin D while still young may be good for the body in the long run. Results from a study conducted by the University of Zurich have confirmed that sufficient amounts of vitamin D taken consistently are necessary to maintain bone health.
Many people believe that maintaining healthy eating habits is enough, but only few foods naturally contain significant levels of vitamin D. According to Dr. Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, a faculty of UZH, in order to get adequate levels of vitamin D through diet alone, two servings of fatty fish like salmon or mackerel would have to be consumed every day. It is thus necessary to increase vitamin D levels in the body through sufficient sun exposure and supplementation in order to use the sunshine vitamin’s full potential for maintaining proper body functioning.
This misconception about maintaining D levels through diet does have a degree of ground since vitamin D is not a stand alone vitamin. To perform many functions, vitamin D works in cooperation with other vitamins like magnesium, which can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach. This unique characteristic of vitamin D has contributed to the management of many chronic illnesses.
The Many Faces Of Vitamin D
Decades ago, health care professionals thought vitamin D was only good for keeping healthy bones and teeth. Recent advances in science, however, have put this vitamin in the spotlight by revealing its multifaceted role in the proper functioning of the human body and its ability to lower the risk of illnesses not formerly associated with it.
Despite the recent revelations about the potential of vitamin D, it appears that not everyone appreciates this discovery. The current lifestyle of working indoors has contributed to the growing number of vitamin D deficiency cases worldwide. This is compounded by the fact that not everyone is aware that he or she may be vitamin D deficient.
Am I Vitamin D Deficient?
The best way to discover vitamin D deficiency is to take a blood test that will measure the level of the vitamin in your blood. You can either ask your doctor to administer the test or buy a home test kit do the test yourself. However, you are certainly vitamin D deficient if you have any of the following ailments, and you need to consult with your doctor regarding your preventive, as well as curative, options as soon as possible.
1.) The flu – In a study published in the Cambridge Journals, it was discovered that vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory diseases. An intervention study conducted showed that vitamin D reduces the incidence of respiratory infections in children.
2.) Muscle weakness – According to Michael F. Holick, a leading vitamin D expert, muscle weakness is usually caused by vitamin D deficiency because for skeletal muscles to function properly, their vitamin D receptors must be sustained by vitamin D.
3.) Psoriasis – In a study published by the UK PubMed central, it was discovered that synthetic vitamin D analogues were found useful in the treatment of psoriasis.
4.) Chronic kidney disease – According to Holick, patients with advanced chronic kidney diseases (especially those requiring dialysis) are unable to make the active form of vitamin D. These individuals need to take 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or one of its calcemic analogues to support calcium metabolism, decrease the risk of renal bone disease and regulate parathyroid hormone levels.
5.) Diabetes – A study conducted in Finland was featured in Lancet.com in which 10,366 children were given 2000 international units (IU)/day of vitamin D3 per day during their first day of life. The children were monitored for 31 years and in all of them, the risk of type 1 diabetes was reduced by 80 percent.
6.) Asthma – Vitamin D may reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Research conducted in Japan revealed that asthma attacks in school children were significantly lowered in those subjects taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 1200 IU a day.
7.) Periodontal disease – Those suffering from this chronic gum disease that causes swelling and bleeding gums should consider raising their vitamin D levels to produce defensins and cathelicidin, compounds that contain microbial properties and lower the number of bacteria in the mouth.
8.) Cardiovascular disease – Congestive heart failure is associated with vitamin D deficiency. Research conducted at Harvard University among nurses found that women with low vitamin D levels (17 ng/m [42 nmol/L]) had a 67 percent increased risk of developing hypertension.
9.) Schizophrenia and Depression – These disorders have been linked to vitamin D deficiency. In a study, it was discovered that maintaining sufficient vitamin D among pregnant women and during childhood was necessary to satisfy the vitamin D receptor in the brain integral for brain development and mental function maintenance in later life.
10.) Cancer – Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC discovered a connection between high vitamin D intake and reduced risk of breast cancer. These findings, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, revealed that increased doses of the sunshine vitamin were linked to a 75 percent reduction in overall cancer growth and 50 percent reduction in tumor cases among those already having the disease. Of interest was the capacity of vitamin supplementation to help control the development and growth of breast cancer specially estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
Prevention is proactive
These various health conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency need not be something to fear. A proactive approach to prevention can assist in the avoidance of the many chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. For one, thousands of dollars can be saved, not to mention the peace of mind, simply at the cost of taking a walk under the sun. Save the umbrellas for the rainy days.
Sources for this article:
Friday, February 10, 2012 by: Aurora Geib
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/035089_vitamin_D_deficiency_signs_symptoms.html#ixzz1nmzwL5vD
This article was written by Dr Ben Kim He has a website www.drBenKim.com He has a great deal of health information and great products on there. I have been buying his tooth soap for some time now. This article explains the importance of getting enough Vitamin D and how to get the right levels.
How To Make Sure That You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D For Your Best Health
Your body needs dozens of different nutrients to survive and thrive, and every nutrient that has a nourishing effect on your body works together with other nutrients and your body’s self healing mechanisms to keep you well.
With that said, it’s become exceedingly clear that vitamin D appears to be one of the most important nutrients we need to prevent all types of disease and live as long as our genetic potential will allow.
Alarmingly, vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the United States, Canada, Australia, the U.K., and other industrialized countries where people have been taught to be afraid of the sun and/or they spend most of their days indoors.
If you work indoors and do not get some exposure to sunlight on a regular basis (free of wearing sunscreens and makeup), it’s quite possible that you are compromising your health by being deficient in vitamin D.
The fact is, it’s extremely hard to get all of the vitamin D that you need to experience your best health without some exposure to sunlight.
Without vitamin D production from exposure to sunlight, you would need ten glasses of milk that’s been fortified with vitamin D to get the minimum amount of D that you need each day. And if you’ve been following our blog, you are aware of the many health challenges associated with consuming dairy products, including recurrent ear infections, sinus congestion and infections, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other chronic, degenerative health conditions.
Salmon, mackerel, and other oily fish are good sources of vitamin D, but again, you would need to eat much more than is realistic for the average person to meet your minimum vitamin D requirement from eating oily fish alone.
The bottom line is this: intelligent exposure to sunlight on your bare skin is the best way to ensure optimal vitamin D status. And with sunlight-generated vitamin D, you don’t have to worry about having too much D in your system, as sunlight destroys any excess vitamin D that it generates in your skin. This is an important point, as having too much vitamin D in your system can be problematic.
How Does Sunlight Create Vitamin D in Your Body?
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays that come in three different lengths: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C.
UV-B rays are the ones that are capable of producing vitamin D in your body by acting on cholesterol found in your skin.
To make vitamin D, you need UV-B rays to come into direct contact with your skin. UV-B rays cannot penetrate glass, so you don’t make any vitamin D while you’re sitting in a car or by a window at work or at home.
But creating enough vitamin D in your body isn’t as simple as getting a certain number of minutes of sunlight exposure every day because the number and intensity of UV-B rays that reach your skin and lead to vitamin D production is affected by a number of different factors, the main ones being:
- Your Skin Color
Lighter skin color allows deeper penetration by UV-B rays, which decreases the amount of sunlight exposure needed for adequate vitamin D production. If you have darker skin, it’s harder for UV-B rays to penetrate your skin and create vitamin D, which means that you need greater exposure to sunlight than someone with lighter skin.
If you live above 35 degrees latitude north or below 35 degrees latitude south, you receive little to no UV-B rays from some point in autumn to some point in spring. During this time, your body has to rely on the vitamin D that it has created during warmer months, or on intake of vitamin D through food and supplements.
- Altitude and Latitude
The further north or south you live from the equator, the less exposure you have to UV-B rays.
The higher you live above sea level, the greater exposure you have to UV-B rays.
- Pollution and Clouds
Both decrease the number of UV-B rays that reach you.
- Your Age
With each passing year, natural degenerative changes that occur in your skin make it harder for UV-B rays to convert cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D. It’s a known fact that elderly people need to rely more on food sources than sunlight for their vitamin D. At 70 years of age, the average person has approximately 30% of the capacity to generate vitamin D from sunlight that a 20-year old has.
Why is Vitamin D Important Again?
There’s a growing mountain of evidence that indicates that having enough vitamin D in your body is essential to reducing your risk of every disease that we know of. Every single one, no exaggeration.
In particular, vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked to increased risk of experiencing the following:
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need for Your Best Health?
Based on all of the most recent research that I have reviewed on this matter, I feel that an optimal range is somewhere between 50 and 60 ng/ml (125 to 150 nmol/l). To convert ng/ml to nmol/l, simply multiply by 2.5.
Unfortunately, the only way to know where you’re at is to ask your doctor to include 25 (OH) D, also known as 25-hydroxy D, with your blood work during your next checkup. Some labs test for 1,25 hydroxy D, which isn’t as accurate a marker of your vitamin D status as 25 hydroxy D, so be sure to specifically ask for 25 hydroxy D.
You want your 25 hydroxy D level to be at least 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/l), but again, based on the research that I have reviewed, mainly that of Dr. Michael Holick, the optimal range appears to be 50 to 60 ng/ml. Some prominent physicians and vitamin D experts feel that one can go even higher, even up to 80 ng/ml. But my suggestion is to err on the side of caution and aim to be in the 50 to 60 range.
The 50 to 60 range is based on numerous studies that show strong relationships between these levels and reduced risk of a wide variety of chronic diseases and increased lifespan. This range is also based on the 25 hydroxy D levels of healthy people living in areas of the world (tropical and subtropical regions) where it’s quite common to receive more than enough sunlight exposure to ensure regular vitamin D production.
But here’s an important point that you want to keep in mind: When sunlight creates vitamin D in a healthy person and that person’s 25 hydroxy D is in the optimal range, that person is almost certainly benefiting from other natural compounds that are generated with sunlight exposure. Dr. Holick calls these other compounds “photo products,” and he and his team are currently researching the makeup and benefits of these photo products.
Put another way, establishing optimal vitamin D status mainly via healthy sunlight exposure may provide more health benefits than establishing optimal vitamin D status mainly via foods and supplements. Correct usage of foods and supplements only gives you the right amount of vitamin D – they don’t generate the photo products that sunlight does. As more information about these photo products becomes available, I’ll be sure to provide an update.
At the same time, it’s worth remembering that even responsible exposure to sunlight comes with some undesirable effects, like premature aging of skin and possibly increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancers, depending on your history of sunlight exposure.
So it’s too early to say which is more desirable between getting vitamin D mainly from sunlight vs. mainly from foods and supplements.
What we do know for sure is that keeping your 25 hydroxy D level somewhere between 50 and 60 ng/ml, possibly even up to 65 ng/ml can significantly decrease your risk of all types of disease and increase your lifespan. And a wise approach is likely getting vitamin D from a combination of responsible sunlight exposure and foods and supplements that come with vitamin D.
How Much Sun Should You Get?
It’s near impossible to provide specific recommendations in this area because of the many factors that affect your ability to generate vitamin D from sunlight. But we can provide general guidelines that should be helpful.
First, take a look at the map below and determine which zone you live in.
If you can’t pinpoint which of the four zones you live in, simply google “latitude of the name of your city.” Once you have the latitude of your city, you’ll know which of the four zones you live in:
- Tropics: 0 to 23 degrees (eg. Honolulu, HI: 21 degrees)
- Subtropics: 23 to 35 degrees (eg. Atlanta, GA: 33 degrees)
- Mid-Latitudes: 35 to 50 degrees (eg. Chicago, IL: 41 degrees)
- High Latitudes: 50 to 70 degrees (eg. Anchorage, AK: 61 degrees)
If you live in the tropics or subtropics, you have access to UV-B rays from the sun year-round, so it’s quite possible to get most or all of your vitamin D requirement from responsible exposure to sunlight, though recent studies indicate that a significant percentage of people living in Florida are vitamin D deficient because they just don’t get enough exposure to sunlight.
If you live in the mid-latitudes or high latitudes, you have little to no access to UV-B rays from some point in autumn to some point in spring. During these times, your body has to rely on its stores of vitamin D and/or vitamin D from foods and supplements.
It’s possible to live in the tropics and subtropics and not make enough vitamin D from sunlight alone.
And it’s possible to live in the mid-latitudes and high latitudes and have enough vitamin D in your system without eating vitamin D-rich foods and supplements throughout the winter if you generate sufficient reserves during warmer months.
The point is that if you live in the tropics or subtropics, you can likely get a good chunk of your vitamin D from sunlight, and if you live in the mid-latitudes or high latitudes, you can probably benefit from supplementation through diet.
Generally, here’s how to figure out how much sunlight exposure is ideal for your situation:
Estimate how long it would take your skin on any given day to turn a shade of pink from sunlight exposure. This is called a minimal erythemal dose, and it varies depending on a number of factors like time of day, time of year, your skin color, age, the latitude and altitude of your location, and how clear or cloudy the sky is.
Put another way (and this may be more helpful to people with darker skin color), your minimal erythemal dose is the amount of time that you need to feel like you just started to tan without coming close to getting burned. Your skin will feel like it has extra warmth to it.
Aim to expose your bare arms and legs to sunlight for about 25 to 50 percent of the amount of time that represents your minimal erythemal dose.
Clearly, this amount of time will vary from day to day and season to season. Dr. Michael Holick has tables in his book, The UV Advantage, that provides guidelines on how many minutes this would be for six different skin types at different times of the day and different months of the year for the four zones shown in the map above. If you want this type of guidance, it’s best to purchase his book for these tables.
If you prefer more of a natural and instinctive approach, you should just aim to get enough sunlight on your arms and legs to feel like you’re getting about halfway to the point where your skin will feel like it has gotten a healthy tan.
This is possible practically year-round for people living in the tropics and subtropics, and only possible from sometime in spring to sometime in autumn for people living in mid or high altitudes.
For days when you have to be under the sun for longer than about half of your minimal erythemal dose, once you get to this point, you can use protective clothing and hats, non-toxic sunscreen, or a combination of protective elements to ensure that you don’t get burned.
Do You Need to Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
The easiest way to figure this out is to have your blood tested for 25 hydroxy D. If you’re below 50 ng/ml, you can get more vitamin D through sunlight and/or take a vitamin D supplement.
If you live in the subtropics or tropics and you aren’t shy about getting sunlight exposure, chances are that you don’t need to take a vitamin D supplement, but again, the only way to be absolutely sure is to get a 25 hydroxy D test.
If you are indoors quite a lot, tend to stay out of the sun, and/or live in the mid or high latitudes, chances are good that you can benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
Here are some statistics, compiled by Dr. Holick earlier this decade, that illustrate how widespread vitamin D deficiency is in the United States:
- Seventy-six percent of pregnant women were found to be severely deficient in vitamin D.
- Eighty-one percent of babies born to women who were vitamin D deficient were deficient themselves, predisposing them to diabetes type 1, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, rickets, and a number of other diseases.
- Thirty-two percent of physicians and medical students were vitamin D deficient.
- Up to sixty percent of all hospital patients and eighty percent of nursing home residents are D deficient.
- Forty-two percent of African American women of childbearing age were D deficient.
- Close to fifty percent of girls between 9 and 11 years of age were vitamin D deficient.
Ask physicians who regularly check 25 hydroxy D levels in their patients, and I’m confident that they’ll agree that vitamin D is easily the most widespread nutritional deficiency in today’s population, especially among the middle and upper classes.
Getting back to supplementation, the first step is to consider including healthy foods that have naturally occurring vitamin D in your diet. Here are some food that are healthy choices for most people:
||Vitamin D (IU)
|Wild salmon, canned
|Cod liver oil
|Organic egg yolk
Keep in mind that for every 100 IU that you ingest, you raise your 25 hydroxy D in ng/ml by about 1.
These days, I rarely encounter a person who can’t benefit from adding an additional 1000 IU to their diet above and beyond what is obtained through sunlight exposure and eating the foods listed above.
Dr. Holick feels that every adult and child needs to take a minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin D along with a multivitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D.
The 100% whole food D-3 supplement that I use and recommend to my clients can be found here: 100% Whole Food Vitamin D3 supplement – I am now taking two of these tablets a day plus my regular dose of cod liver oil.
For young children and others who can’t easily take tablets, I typically recommend: Carlson D-Drops 1000 IU
I’ve even run into some clients who needed to increase their intake to 4000 or 5000 IUs, and in one case, 10,000 IUs per day to get their 25 hydroxy D in the optimal range – this last case was a woman who suffered with a severe deficiency (15 ng/ml) and symptoms of osteomalacia.
One last point for now: If you’re obese, you likely need to get more vitamin D than non-obese people, as obesity is a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency. The reason is that vitamin D gets trapped within fat tissue and can have some difficulty leaving to enter your bloodstream to supply the rest of your cells. Because of this, obese patients tend to need at least twice as much vitamin D as non-obese people in order to maintain optimal vitamin D status. 
I realize that all of the above is a good chunk of information to digest. I encourage you to take your time in considering all of this information and really invest some effort into making sure that your body has enough vitamin D year-round.
The science surrounding the human body’s need for vitamin D is groundbreaking in every way, and ensuring that you are getting enough is a guaranteed way of significantly improving the quality and length of your life.
It was impossible for me to include everything I wanted to in this post, so I’ll be writing shorter bits that explore different facets of vitamin D in the coming weeks. If you have any thoughts on this topic that you’d like to share, please use the “add new comment” featured below.
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2. Hypponen E, Laara E, Jarvelin M-R, Virtanen SM. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet 2001;358:1500-1503.
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4. Boonen S, Bischoff-Ferrari A, Cooper C, Lips P, Ljunggren O, Meunier PJ, Reginster JY. Addressing the musculoskeletal components of fracture risk with calcium and vitamin D: a review of the evidence. Calcif Tissue Int 2006; 78(5):257-70.
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8. Munger KL, Levin LI, Hollis, BW, Howard NS, Ascheino A. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis. JAMA 2006; 296:2832-2838.
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picture source: certifiedorganicnutrition.com
By Dr. Mercola
That bronzy sun-kissed look has long been associated with health and beauty. Human beings are sun-loving creatures, which makes sense, since countless generations before us have depended on the sun for its warmth, light and nourishment.
But, since the 1980s, all of the misguided propaganda about the evils of sun exposure have given rise to an incredibly profitable industry built around methods of “safely” achieving that chestnut look. First came self-tanners, followed by any number of lotions and powders, and now a liquid that can be sprayed onto you in a booth.
Spray tanning has become one of the most popular sunless tanning methods.
Consumers tend to believe that, if a product is on the market, then it must be safe. Unfortunately, that assumption often turns out to be wrong—especially in the unregulated cosmetic industry—sometimes having disastrous health consequences. And this may be the case with spray tanning. Spray tans are generally considered to be benign cosmetic treatments—but are they REALLY?
Have you ever wondered what’s in the brown broth being misted all over you to give you that tropical glow?
Well, once you learn what those spray-tanning agents may be doing to your body, your healthy glow may DIM a bit. Before I discuss specific ingredients, I want to address an even more fundamental concern—and the number one reason I am not a fan of sunless tanning.
The Number ONE Reason I’m Not a Fan of the Spray Tan
You need sunshine—the real kind—and this is why. Sun exposure in controlled amounts is critical to your health. And the misinformation that all sun exposure causes cancer, which has been promulgated for the past 30 years, has RAISED cancer rates rather than lowering them by making an entire country sun-phobic.
Sun exposure benefits you by stimulating your skin to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is a hormone-like substance critical for the vast majority of your biological functions, including:
And this is just for starters. Vitamin D is the superhero of nutrients, and the best way to get it is from the sun, which causes your skin to manufacture it. Vitamin D levels have been tied to cancer risk—the lower your levels, the higher your risk. Every cell and tissue in your body needs vitamin D to function properly.
Research suggests that 85 percent of people may be vitamin D deficient, without even knowing it. And sunless tanning is contributing to this problem. The number one thing I have against sunless tanning is that it offers absolutely NONE of the health benefits you would be getting if you were actually receiving ultraviolet exposure.
It gives you the illusion of good health, instead of the real thing.
Not only does spray tanning not give you vitamin D, but it may even be damaging your skin’s ability to make vitamin D. More about that later…Vitamin D is so important that I have an entire website devoted to it. Now that we’ve talked about what you’re NOT getting from a spray tan, let’s look at what you ARE getting when you step into that booth.
A Potentially Dangerous Brew
Like most cosmetic products, sunless tanners contain a lengthy list of chemical agents—up to 45 in the case of spray tanners. Many of these agents have never been studied for their long-term effects on human health, because the FDA does not systematically review the safety of personal care products. Since testing is voluntary and controlled by the manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not safety tested at all.
We simply don’t know what the effects might be—so if you are using cosmetic products, then congratulations, you are an unwitting guinea pig. It is important to understand that, of the 10,500 ingredients used in your sunscreen, shampoo, makeup foundation, and so on, only 13 percent have been reviewed for safety in the last 30 years, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis.
The reviews that have been done were conducted by a fox in the henhouse—the Cosmetics Ingredients Review, which is run by the cosmetics industry!
Not all ingredients need even be mentioned on the label—if they don’t want to include one for some reason, they can just leave it off. Therefore, most personal care product formulations are based on nothing more than marketing success, designed to smell good, look good and feel good when you rub them on your skin, regardless of their impact on your health.
So, What’s In that Tanning Spray?
Although there are many chemicals we don’t know much about, let’s focus on some of the agents commonly found in tanning sprays that we DO know something about. I will be specifically discussing the following five:
Perfumes and coloring agents
Adverse reactions reported by consumers to the FDA after spray tanning include rashes, coughing, dizziness and fainting. It’s possible that any one of these chemicals could be responsible, or any combination of them in the 45-ingredient potpourri.
The Evil DHA is Not an Omega-3 Fat but a Darkening Agent
This is not the DHA that is an important animal based omega-3 fat but one of the main ingredients in today’s spray tanning solutions is dihydroxyacetone, a color additive that darkens your skin by reacting with amino acids in your skin’s surface layer. Dihydroxyacetone is often abbreviated DHA, Sunless tanning products often contain between 1 and 15 percent DHA; the higher the DHA level, the darker the tan produced.
Manufacturers of sunless tanning products claim DHA is a simple carbohydrate sugar solution, but some toxicologists disagree. Several years ago, Dr. Thomas Pierce, a toxicologist who investigated the harmful effects of some tanning beds, issued a warning that DHA is not as simple or harmless as it may seem.
In an interview, Dr. Pierce once said:
“It is not an ingestible sugar, and no one should be eating it.”
Part of the problem is that the U.S. government’s regulations for DHA allow contaminants such as lead, arsenic and mercury. Lead in particular is known to affect brain development, and no one knows how large the effect may be on your baby, should you be pregnant while spray tanning.
If you are pregnant or nursing, I would urge you to stay away from spray tanning for this reason alone. A report by the National Toxicology Program suggests the risks of DHA remain unclear, pointing to some evidence that DHA may be a mutagen that could induce breaks in DNA strands. Another issue is absorption through your skin. You shouldn’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t feel safe eating.
Absorbing chemicals transdermally is actually MORE dangerous than ingesting them orally, because they can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream without any digestive degradation. Digestive acid works, at least in part, to neutralize some chemicals—but this does not occur when you absorb them transdermally, or inhale them, for that matter. For example, by taking a seven-minute shower you are exposed to more chlorine, DPBs, and VOCs than by drinking a gallon of the same tap water.
A study performed by the Skin Absorption and Metabolism Section of the FDA, published in the 2004 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, found as much as 22 percent of the DHA could be absorbed through your skin, as opposed to merely laying on its surface.
This is additional evidence that what you put ON you, goes IN you.
But when you have DHA-containing products sprayed on you in a booth, little droplets become suspended in the air all around you, increasing your risk for exposure through your eyes, nose and mouth. Wearing protective gear over your eyes, nose and mouth is extremely important—but it does not remove all the risk.
Preliminary Study: DHA Blocks Vitamin D Production in Your Skin
On its research page, the Vitamin D Council lists a pilot study (published in 2009 in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology) that examined the effects of sunless tanning sprays on your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. The results are alarming.
Researchers discovered DHA-containing tanning agents inhibit your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D and called for larger studies to be conducted. When your skin darkens from exposure to sunshine you will have elevated vitamin D levels and the darkening process actually serves to protect you from overdosing on vitamin D.
However, when the dark layer on your skin produced by the DHA results in the prevention of UVB absorption, thereby blocking the creation of vitamin D. Your skin must then repair itself in order to be able to produce vitamin D again, which takes approximately 2 weeks.
Why is this so significant?
Many people get a spray tan every week or two, so they are effectively inhibiting their own vitamin D production for weeks or months at a time, exposing themselves to increased cancer risk and a whole host of other problems. Vitamin D levels are already dangerously low in the general public, without adding factors that diminish them even further! More than 50,000 people die every year from inadequate sun exposure and insufficient vitamin D.
In a comprehensive recent article about spray tanning, Health Wyze Report discussed several other ingredients commonly found in spray tanning agents. One of those is erythrulose. Erythrulose is used in many sunless tanning blends to increase tan duration and counter the ghastly orange tinge that earlier formulas produced. Health Wyze mentions an Australian public health report from 2008 that found erythrulose genotoxic, meaning it alters your genetic cellular structure. (I was unable to find the specific publication, however.)
Ethoxydiglycol, an Ether-Based Solvent
Another common ingredient in spray tanners is an ether-containing solvent called ethoxydiglycol (or transcutol CG), which is similar to butylene glycol. The MSDS for this chemical warns it is hazardous if ingested or inhaled, may irritate your skin, is dangerous to your kidneys, and it caused infertility and birth defects in animal studies. Ether is known to be carcinogenic and causes developmental and reproductive problems, hormonal disruptions and allergic reactions.
Parabens, Preservatives With Estrogenic Effects
Parabens, a group of chemicals widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, have been shown to mimic the action of the hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors. Studies have shown that parabens can affect your body much like estrogens, possibly leading to diminished muscle mass, extra fat storage, and male gynecomastia (breast growth). Studies have also suggested parabens could be linked to breast cancer, as researchers found traces of parabens in every tissue sampled from 20 different breast tumors.
The EPA has linked methyl parabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal, and neurological disorders, as well as various cancers.
Perfumes and Coloring Agents
Perfumes and fragrances are the single largest category of cosmetic and personal care products and are a clever way for manufacturers to hide chemical ingredients from you. Each fragrance can contain thousands of different chemical components—it’s virtually impossible to determine what’s actually in them. Two problematic compounds in fragrances are phthalates—which have been linked with endocrine disruption, immunosuppression and cancer—and synthetic musk, which contains a slurry of harmful chemicals.
Allergies and chemical sensitivities are extremely common, and fragrances are notorious for triggering them.
The FDA allows the fragrance industry to regulate itself, through a trade association known as the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). This association is responsible for conducting safety tests to establish which ingredients are safe to use in their own industry—which should make your warning bells go off.
The fragrance industry uses more than 5,000 different ingredients, and only about 1,300 have actually been tested. There are serious questions about whether the industry’s research institute is really as “independent” as IFRA claims.
Cosmetic coloring agents in spray tan formulas are dyes unnecessarily added to make you think the tanning is instantaneous. They impart a brown color to the concoction, which immediately turns your skin brown. Some of these absorb into your skin, and others wash off in the shower or rub off on your towel. The coloring agents most often used in spray tanners are Ci 42090, Ci 16255, and Ci 19140. Coloring agents are among the few ingredients cosmetic manufacturers must have approved by the FDA. If the potential health dangers outlined above aren’t enough to scare you, this slideshow of Celebrity Spray Tans Gone Wrong may do the trick.
What Does the FDA Say About Spray Tanning?
The FDA has never specifically approved the use of DHA for spray tanning. The FDA originally approved DHA in the 1970s for topical application ONLY, but this was long before anyone thought it might be sprayed onto people, thereby coming in contact with their lips, lungs and other sensitive mucous membranes.
According to the FDA:
DHA is listed in the regulations as a color additive for use in imparting color to the human body. However, its use in cosmetics–including sunless “tanning” products–is restricted to external application (21 CFR 73.2150). According to the CFR, “externally applied” cosmetics are those “applied only to external parts of the body and not to the lips or any body surface covered by mucous membrane” (21 CFR 70.3v). The industry has not provided safety data to the FDA in order for the agency to consider approving it for use on these exposure routes, including “misting” from tanning booths.
According to the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, the agency that regulates cosmetics:
“With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.”
Is Your Spray Tanning Salon Adhering to Safe Practices?
The FDA has recommended you use protective eyewear, plug your nose and cover your lips whenever receiving spray tans, but since there is no law regulating tanning salons, those establishments are not obliged to mention these recommendations or potential risks. Should you decide to use a spray tanning facility, the FDA recommends you ask the following questions:
Am I protected from exposure in my entire eye area?
Am I protected from exposure on my lips and all parts of my body covered by mucous membranes?
Am I protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you are not protected and you should request safety measures to protect your eyes, lungs and mucous membranes. Dr. David Wade, a toxicologist, recommends that you simply walk out of a spray tan establishment if they don’t insist you wear protection.
My Advice on the Matter
My advice is pretty simple–avoid spray tanning booths and sunless tanning lotions entirely as they provide you with no health benefits, and can actually contribute to worsening your vitamin D levels and are loaded with problematic toxins. A tan obtained by safely exposing yourself to the sun, or a safe indoor tanning system, is health promoting. Saturating your body with potentially toxic chemicals to give it some color is not.
If you have a bad reaction to a sunless tanner (or any cosmetic product), please take a moment to report it to the FDA by one of two methods:
Report your reaction online at MedWatch (the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program), or call them at 800-332-1088 to request a reporting form.
Call the FDA district office consumer complaint coordinator for your geographic area.
By reporting adverse reactions, you can help get unsafe products off the market.