Skip to main content

TBT: Keep on the Sunny Side

The science on striking a healthy balance between absorbing sunshine and avoiding sunshine remains confusing. Before re-posting my old opinion below from ye olde turn-of-the-century, I had to remove all the links to my sources because they're all dead by now. Last year, I read some interesting articles on this issue called "Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?" and "No, Sunscreen is NOT the New Margarine." Neither of them can provide a clear answer to how much sun a person should get, and I suspect that the answer is both individualized and complicated.

I've given up on asking doctors about this in person. When I've asked for their personal opinions on the controversy, most of them have given me a blank stare, followed by a mumbling of, "Current guidelines are..." I even started seeing a dermatologist for annual skin cancer screenings, as recommended by every popular women's magazine I've ever seen in a medical waiting room. My dermatologist, who moved to Michigan from L.A., acted consistently bemused as to why a very obvious non-tanner such as myself would want her to examine my pasty, naked hide. It was embarrassing, so I came out and asked her, "Aren't I supposed to get annual checks?" She shrugged and said in a bored tone, "You can if you want to."

I doubt I'll find a straight answer, because it seems obvious by now that nobody knows. However, there are some things I feel certain about: that sunburns are always bad, that moderate amounts of sunshine on naked skin feels good, and that spending time outdoors is very healthy, whether in the shade or the sun. I still do not tan. I still don't wear sunscreen every single day either, and when I do, I choose the kinds that don't kill coral reefs. I keep an eye on my moles and weird spots.

Happy summer, folks. Take care of your skin and get any new skin features that don't go away on their own checked out, because skin cancer is common and much more treatable when caught early. Meanwhile, don't let sun avoidance keep you cloistered inside. Enjoy the rest of the summer outdoors for the good of your immune system, sleep cycles, mental health and acuity, mood, heart, lungs, and bones.

Keep on the Sunny Side

Good news! The hottest health supplement is free, abundant, and intensely pleasurable.

Thy heart created all, this teeming earth,
Its people, herds, creatures that go afoot,
Creatures that fly in air, both land and sea,
Thou didst create them all within thy heart.
Men and their fates are thine, in all their stations,
Their many languages, their many colors,
All thine, and we who from the midst of peoples,
Thou madest different, Master of the Choice.
And lo, I find thee also in my heart,I, Khu enAten, find thee and adoreO thou, whose dawn is life, whose setting, death,In the great dawn, then lift up me, thy son.

-last three stanzas of a poem from 2000 BCE, when the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton established devotion to Ra, the god of the sun

Several years ago, Mr. G and I read a report from Canadian researchers who found that pretty much everyone living above a certain latitude (including us in Michigan) is Vitamin D deficient.

Remember the Easter Blizzard of 2008? Good thing we stocked up on Firewood and Seasonal Affective Disorder prescription light boxes...

For most of the year, we simply don't get enough direct sunshine for our skin to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to heart damage, brittle bones, rickets, and a sharp increase in the risk of internal cancers.

Help! Vitamin D deficiency is SCARY! My pal here fled Michigan's Northerly latitude for Arizona, where he will never have to suffer from the rickets.

In fact, people are much more likely to die of internal cancer related to Vitamin D deficiency than we are to die of skin cancer. Not getting enough sunshine is more dangerous than not protecting our skin from UV rays. Since Americans started to slather sunscreen on our children diligently, a bunch of our children are being born with or developing rickets!

People with darker skin are more at risk than people with light skin. It takes more time for dark skin to absorb enough sunshine to make enough Vitamin D. Pasty folks like me probably only need 10 minutes of basking a day, but dark-skinned people need more.

Miss Moppett needs more D to live as a creature of the night.

People can get some Vitamin D from foods and supplements, but our bodies need the sun to get optimal D levels. It is vital that human beings get direct sun on large portions of the skin, with no sunscreen. Deep tans and burns are still bad, so sunscreen is good if we're going to be outside for a long time. But living like a vampire makes us more likely to die of cancer, not less.

The zombie look is all fun and games until somebody gets rectal cancer.

What useful knowledge! So, logically, Mr. G and I changed our lifestyles immediately. We stopped using sunscreen, except on our faces and hands (which receive a disproportionate amount of UV rays), and began to intentionally expose our pale, cave-cricket-like bodies to the sun as much as possible. During the fall and winter, we take Vitamin D supplements.

It helps if you have a privacy fence or some family property in the wilderness where you can play outside in minimal clothing.

Sadly, the rest of the United States is taking a long time to react to Canada's findings. I noticed that on television and in magazines, experts kept pushing sunscreen and harping on the dangers of UV rays. Rarely was Vitamin D mentioned, and if it was, the "experts" perpetuated the old debunked idea that tiny amounts of sun (like walking by a window in your house) was enough and sunscreen should always be used outdoors. Not true!

Just now, LiveScience is reporting, "Lack of Vitamin D in Children 'Shocking.'" OK, I think the slowness of the U.S. to get with the program is way more shocking, but hey, what can you expect? I don't fully understand why American doctors have largely ignored this very interesting, surprising, and important information. Does it have something to do with sunscreen manufacturers' lobbyist groups? Medical practices wanting to keep us sickly for more business? Sounds crazy, but I wouldn't be surprised.

So send those children outside! The glow from the TV won't do the job. And put on your bikini to work in the backyard. Showing that skin is healthy!

I love learning that enjoyable things are also good for you. Especially when those enjoyable, healthy things are FREE!

In Good Health has a good article on the health benefits of sunshine. UV rays (in the correct dose, of course) improve mood, sleep cycles, mental alertness and clarity, autoimmune health, heart health, and bone density.

Let the sun shine!


  1. The humor you infuse into a serious, serious situation is priceless.

    I remember talking about Vitamin D deficiency in The Mitten while huddling around the Sun Box. Recently when it was on CBS I was like ::Duh. Doesn't everyone know this?::

    Sadly, no I guess everone does not know about this!

    Obviously I have made a ton of changes to my life since then, but I high doses of sunshine that I am getting here not only help me to create Vitamin D to avoid lots of kinds of cancers but it also has a lot to do with my sunnier dispositon.

    Let in the sunshine indeed!

  2. I'm getting my vitamins this weekend! We're heading up to Wolverine to strip down and float along the river with a cooler of beer. Just like God intended.

  3. Wolverine, Michigan.

    I'm only a little scared for you!

  4. We'll be up there with a barnful of Italian Mafia/West Virginia Hills relatives. Plus, the funeral will take place at the base of the largest crucifix in the world. They've got my back against any bears, gas-huffing woodbillies, or werewolves we might encounter, so don't worry too much!

  5. I am working on a means of capturing sunshine in a time-release capsule. Last week, the data for my sunshine in pill form was submitted to the FDA for approval.

    Until it's released, I recommend Vitamin D fortified milk.

    Hmm... I just thought of something ... a pill form! Genius! Soon we'll be able to take milk orally!
    I recommend drinking something to wash down the pill... Maybe liquified Oreos?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

Rustic Open Shelves for a Bogcore Kitchen

Open shelving isn't for everyone, but it is essential to the 2020s bogcore kitchen. My family's DIY kitchen elegantly blends cultural influences from our ancestors which include Depression survivors, Viking-descended woodbillies, theater people/carnies, art fags, and Slavic sluts. My husband and I have crafted a wall of shelving and a pantry that combine rugged practicality with queenly flamboyance. Minimalist jars of raw ingredients line up alongside a vase of old peacock feathers. A ceramic sculpture displays our collection of grocery store spatulas. In the pantry, a large, cheap microwave nests snugly among rustic baskets, oiled wood carpentry, and our collection of well-loved, antique cast iron cookware. Bogcore is a welcoming, inviting, embracing aesthetic that can truly absorb and accept just about anything, with style. For example, I can hang up a dish towel from a wide range of colors and patterns that will work within the look of the kitchen. I don't have to be pic

Dodging the School Fear Pandoomerang

Can you believe this is the THIRD school year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic? At the beginning of 2020, the novel coronavirus still felt like a novelty. A two-week holiday from office work and school was supposed to flatten the curve, but it wasn't enough. My daughter never went back to finish third grade. Then she didn't start fourth grade in person. Most of the school year took place on a Chromebook. She returned to campus in the spring along with fewer than 1/3 of her classmates; the other families couldn't work around the inconvenient dropoff and pickup schedule or they didn't want to take the risk, even in one of the most careful and safety-focused districts in the nation (now among the minority of districts requiring masks without a state mandate). This year's back-to-school season holds the record as the most dangerous time in all of this long, dragged-out pandemic for children under 12 , and there is no online option. Parents must choose between sending

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

"September" by Helen Hunt Jackson

"September" by Helen Hunt Jackson is one of my favorite classic poems about one of my favorite times of year. No matter what's going on in the world, the natural splendor of September comes each year as a comfort and a delight. September The golden-rod is yellow; The corn is turning brown; The trees in apple orchards With fruit are bending down. The gentian’s bluest fringes Are curling in the sun; In dusty pods the milkweed Its hidden silk has spun. The sedges flaunt their harvest, In every meadow nook; And asters by the brook-side Make asters in the brook. From dewy lanes at morning the grapes’ sweet odors rise; At noon the roads all flutter With yellow butterflies. By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather, And autumn’s best of cheer. But none of all this beauty Which floods the earth and air Is unto me the secret Which makes September fair. 'Tis a thing which I remember; To name it thrills me yet: On

Pocket of Joy: Two-Month Belly Dance Challenges (with results from my 20s vs. my 30s)

This summer, I'm beating the bloat and feeling better about my belly! I participated in two 30-day belly dance challenges online, first Jasirah's Belly Challenge and then a summer challenge by Mahtab of Best Belly Dance Workout . I chose these two because of the kind of challenges they were--not strenuous and sweaty but instead technically difficult. I am at a healthy weight that I want to maintain, and I am recovering from moderate to severe anemia, so I wanted to avoid anything exhausting or high-impact. This summer, I worked on balance, joint flexibility, and the kinds of technical skills that work out the brain and nervous system, and I targeted the "corset" muscles that cinch in the waist, deep beneath the outer ab muscles. I've said thanks and goodbye to the visible abs I had in my slimmer 20s, which are now obscured by an age-appropriate skim of subcutaneous belly fat that I don't want to starve myself or go under the knife to banish.  And besides, af

Pocket of Joy: Loving The Fall's Complexities

Fall, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the cool mornings, the storms that mix blue-gray rain with yellow leaves already showering down from my walnut tree, and the afternoons that heat up and draw out that rich, warmed-earth, sun-dried leaf scent. I have always loved the dawns of autumn, the tender turning of the earth, the anticipation of color and movement, the coming fall! The motion of it, the actual falling of the leaves, the accelerating changes that saturate the senses. Later comes the Grimshaw phase of autumn, with its metallic sheens and spidery mists. It isn't just the festive harvest season or the bright middle of the fall that I love but the whole arc of it, the warm and the cold, the light and the dark and the glowing twilights humming with the shades and scents of memory mixing with rebirth. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his exquisitely dissatisfying novel about accelerating, blaz

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

$Monday: Testing a New Kitchen Design Before Renovation

My husband and I planned to renovate our worn-out kitchen this year, with my dad's help. And--oop!--we all know what happened to everyone's plans for 2020. There is no way I can keep my family fed properly through the pandemic in my designed-circa-1990, tacked-together, corner-cut, stingy-cheap, crazy, nailed-it-wrong kitchen nightmare that has been crumbling, grumbling, rotting, rusting, and breaking since we bought this house in 2008. We have to do something, so we turned a setback into an opportunity to slow down and beta test some of our new kitchen ideas with temporary staging. It might look insane, but who cares? We won't be having the queen over for tea anytime soon, so we can take time to play with space and function before we commit to building permanent structures and finishing surfaces. For example, open shelves are not practical for everyone. They don't hide clutter or protect things from dust. However, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and prefer