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Sunlight - blessing or curse?

Publications 13 June 2024 No Comments

Who doesn't appreciate a bright, sunny day? Well, there might be fans of a soothing rain sound, but come on! It's a natural energy boost that lifts our spirits and puts a grin on our face. When that warm sun is beaming, the world can become a more vibrant and lovely place to be. But hey, let's not forget to speak about the not-so-fun things too. Too much sun exposure may lead to sunburn, skin damage, and maybe raising the risk of long-term cancer. In this article, we're going to look at the virtues and downsides of sunshine and provide some ideas on how to enjoy all the benefits without endangering your health.

Benefit 1: Sunlight Boosts Vitamin D Levels

Did you know that sunlight is essential for our bodies to produce Vitamin D? This vitamin helps improve bone health and is crucial for the immune system. A lack of Vitamin D can lead to serious illnesses like rickets and osteoporosis. As such, sunlight is a blessing – but only in healthy moderation. Experts recommend getting around 5-30 minutes of direct sunlight a day, which is just enough to stimulate our bodies to create vitamin D. Yet, considering the fact that usually our body parts are covered, it’s really hard to estimate how much vitamin D we obtain that way. Overexposure causes skin damage, so it’s important to balance sunlight exposure and protection.

Benefit 2: Sunlight Enhances Mood

Another great benefit of sunshine is its influence on our emotions and mental wellness. When we soak up the sun, it encourages the development of serotonin, widely known as the “happy hormone,” in our brains. Serotonin is important for raising our mood as well as making us feel calm and focused. So, receiving some sunshine may help keep seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other sorts of sorrow at bay. Or at least reduces the chance of developing it. In fact, light therapy is a go-to treatment for several kinds of depression. So why not wander outside and bask in the sun’s brilliance, even if it’s just for a few minutes during your lunch break? It’s definitely worth it!

And since we mentioned serotonin, keep in mind that this compound, frequently regarded as the “feel-good” substance, functions as more than merely a mood booster. It’s a multitasker in the human body, playing a critical part in many physiological processes. This excellent neurotransmitter not only affects our emotions but also assists important activities such as digestion, wound healing, and retaining healthy bones.

Moreover, subsequent investigations have found even more intriguing properties of serotonin. It turns out that it is involved in cell development and aging, altering the life cycle of our cells. From stimulating cellular regeneration to impacting the lifetime of our body’s building components, serotonin’s influence extends well beyond what we previously understood. All in all, serotonin is really a unique chemical that combines actions inside the human body, contributing to our physical and mental well-being in ways that continue to astonish scientists and researchers.

Benefit 3: Increases blood flow

In some recent studies, researchers have been diving deep into the impact of UV radiation on blood pressure. They’ve uncovered some cool findings suggesting a potential protective effect. But wait, it’s not just about vitamin D, oh no! It’s all about nitric oxide release from your skin when you soak up those sun rays. It’s related to a crucial process called vasodilation that causes your blood vessels to expand. And that leads to more nitrous compounds in your plasma, which fight off glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Plus, when you let the light shine, your blood flows better, giving a boost for your health and recovery after intense workouts. That might be particularly important if you prefer an active lifestyle.

Benefit 4: Regulates your body clock

One of the most remarkable features of sunlight’s influence is its function in establishing and maintaining our circadian rhythms – the internal clocks that control our sleep-wake cycles and numerous physiological processes. Scientists underline the relevance of early morning sunshine, rich in blue light, in synchronizing these cycles. Exposure to bright blue light decreases the synthesis of melatonin, the hormone responsible for producing drowsiness. 

As the day passes, the reduction in blue light tells the body to generate melatonin, helping us wind down for sleep. By matching our circadian cycles with the natural light-dark cycle, we may experience enhanced sleep quality, energy levels, and general health.

Using light exposure as a therapy is a potent and successful strategy for regulating circadian rhythms, the internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycle. For people with limited access to natural sunshine because of their work environment, adding full-spectrum illumination may be immensely useful. Additionally, it’s crucial to remember that wearing sunglasses might further reduce the eyes’ exposure to full sunlight, thereby interrupting the normal generation of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep. To optimize the health advantages, it is advisable to spend at least 10-15 minutes in direct sunshine, minimizing shadows, as even this short length may have considerable good effects on general well-being.

The major downsides

Excessive and extended solar exposure may have substantial and enduring adverse impacts on our health and well-being. And we would like to briefly highlight the most important ones. By recognizing and being aware of these detrimental impacts, we can take appropriate measures and make educated decisions to defend our skin and general well-being while spending time outside.

Harmful impact 1: Sun can hurt the skin

Sunburns may occur as a consequence of the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays that enter the skin, resulting in severe inflammations and perhaps raising the chance of developing skin cancer.

Harmful effect 2: Sunlight can speed up aging

The negative impact of excessive UV exposure goes beyond sunburns. It may hasten the aging process, generating premature wrinkles, fine lines, and ugly skin blemishes that can drastically damage our look and self-confidence.

Harmful impact 3: Sun exposure can be harmful to eyes

Not only can extended UV exposure affect our skin, but it may also cause damage to our eyes. Continuous exposure to UV rays may lead to the formation of cataracts, a disorder that compromises the quality of vision. Therefore, wearing sunglasses to screen our eyes from UV radiation becomes vital in safeguarding our eye health.

How to enjoy sunny days, anyway?

The good news is that you don’t have to avoid exposure to the sun to stay safe. One effective solution is to apply sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Wearing hats or less revealing clothes can also add an extra layer of skin protection. Avoid direct sunlight during peak hours, from noon to 4 pm. If you must be outdoors during this period, stay in a shaded area to protect yourself from the sun’s radiation. It is also crucial to stay hydrated when exposed to the sun.

Choosing the correct SPF is essential for effective skin protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Consider the following points when selecting an SPF:

  1. Identify your skin type: People with lighter skin tones generally need a higher SPF, as they burn more easily. SPF 30 or higher is typically recommended for fair skin.
  2. Understand the SPF numbers: SPF refers to the amount of UVB radiation protection provided by the sunscreen. SPF 15 blocks about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks about 98%.
  3. Consider the duration of sun exposure: If you’re going to be outside for an extended period, choose a higher SPF. Reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  4. Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays! Therefore, complement your sunscreen use with other protective measures like wearing hats, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing. 
  5. Check for broad-spectrum coverage: This ensures that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Both types can cause skin cancer, but UVB is the main culprit behind sunburn.

Always remember to apply sunscreen generously and evenly, paying particular attention to often-overlooked areas like your ears, neck, and the back of your hands.

You may consider supplementation

Astaxanthin, a vibrant red pigment, belongs to a group of chemical compounds known as carotenoids. It naturally occurs in certain types of algae and imparts a distinctive pinkish-red hue to salmon. Not only is astaxanthin a potent antioxidant, but it also offers a wide range of benefits. Excessive exposure of unprotected skin to sunlight can result in sunburn, as well as trigger photo-induced oxidation, inflammation, immunosuppression, premature aging, and even the development of skin cell carcinogenesis. Astaxanthin is believed to offer protection against UV light-induced damage to the skin and salmon eggs. Studies have shown that supplementing with astaxanthin can safeguard retinal photoreceptors in the eyes and prevent photoaging and burn progression caused by UV radiation. 

A fascinating research conducted in Japan in 2018 involved an experimental group that received a 4 mg astaxanthin capsule and a control group that received a placebo. After 9 weeks of supplementation, the astaxanthin group exhibited an increased minimal erythema dose, indicating improved skin response to light. Moreover, the astaxanthin group experienced reduced skin moisture loss in the irradiated area compared to the placebo group. The subjective assessment of skin conditions, including “improvement in skin roughness” and “texture,” was significantly enhanced in non-irradiated areas with astaxanthin supplementation. These findings highlight the potential of astaxanthin as an oral sun protection agent, complementing the use of sunscreen.

It is important to note that ultraviolet radiation can degrade folic acid, potentially leading to folate deficiency. Therefore, during sunny periods, it is crucial to ensure adequate folic acid levels. Supplementation with the active form of folic acid, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), is recommended. Incorporating astaxanthin and 5-MTHF supplementation into a sun protection routine can provide the body with powerful antioxidants that help the skin cope with sun damage. While sunscreen is essential, these supplements offer additional support for maintaining healthy and radiant skin. It is recommended to take a daily dose of 4 mg of astaxanthin during tanning. By optimizing our sun protection practices and ensuring proper nutrient intake, we can promote skin health and guard against the harmful effects of UV radiation.


As Paracelsus said: “Sola dosis facit venenum” or in English “The dose makes the poison”. Sunlight is essential for life and has potential psychological benefits for human health. Basking in the warm sun is enjoyable and uplifting. However, too much exposure can lead to serious skin problems. To avoid risks like sunburns and risk of skin cancer, it is vital to take appropriate preventive measures. The tips are not so complicated. It is advised to apply sunscreen lotion, get some fancy sunglasses, wear sun hats or clothing, sit in the shade, and stay hydrated when outside. That should make your contact with our main star more pleasant and safe.

Categories: Publications


Kajetan jest absolwentem studiów filozoficznych, a obecnie zdobywa również doświadczenie w zakresie pedagogiki. Regularnie bierze udział w konferencjach naukowych, gdzie stara się traktować wiedzę w sposób interdyscyplinarny – łączy różne podejścia oraz dziedziny wiedzy. W pracy naukowej interesuje go przede wszystkim człowiek i jego zachowania. W związku z tym chętnie odwołuje się do psychologii, a także zgłębia wiedzę dotyczącą psychoterapii. W wolnym czasie Kajetan rozwija swoje zdolności muzyczne. Z zamiłowaniem słucha muzyki klasycznej oraz śpiewa w niewielkim, lokalnym chórze. Jest też entuzjastą języków obcych. Biegle mówi po angielsku, a ponadto intensywnie uczy się języka francuskiego i rosyjskiego. Jego największym marzeniem jest wyjazd do Stanów Zjednoczonych, dlatego też po godzinach uważnie śledzi wydarzenia związane z polityką USA.


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Carrillo-Vico A, et l., The modulatory role of melatonin on immune responsiveness. Curr Opin Investig Drugs, 2006

Fang Q., et al., Astaxanthin protects against early burn-wound progression in rats by attenuating oxidative stress-induced inflammation and mitochondria-related apoptosis. Sci. Rep. 2017

Fell GL, et al., Skin Beta-Endorphin Mediates Addiction UV Light. Cell 2014

Ito N, et al.,. The Protective Role of Astaxanthin for UV-Induced Skin Deterioration in Healthy People-A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2018

Jablonski NH, Chaplin G. Human skin adaptation as an adaptation to UV radiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010


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