Your skin is the largest organ in your body and its first line of defense against external threats. The skin communicates with the brain via sensory receptors, nerves, and plays a significant role in nervous system function.
According to the American Physiology Society, “The peripheral nervous system plays a pivotal role in skin homeostasis and disease,” and “the central nervous system is directly or indirectly connected to skin function.” The sensory receptors in our skin receive messages from the external environment and quickly relay them to our brain for processing. Both our external and internal world have a huge impact on our skin.
When either of these systems are not working well, the skin will be affected. The skin can exhibit imbalances in various forms and sensitivities. If you’ve ever felt a tingling, you understand this connection. This is why many people with skin issues who begin getting chiropractic care see a positive response. According to a Mayo Clinic study, skin disorders are the number one reason people seek out healthcare professionals.
Because our skin is a vast protective organ, and intricately related to the nervous system, it’s important to consider its relationship to the sun. We’ve all heard that vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin” and this is because when sunlight hits our skin, it is turned into vitamin D3 through a chemical process within our body.
According to Scientific American, “Getting a little sunshine is important for helping our bodies generate Vitamin D, an important supplement for strong bones, and for regulating our levels of serotonin and tryptamine, neurotransmitters that keep our moods and sleep/wake cycles in order.”
Wearing sunscreen has led to a decrease in vitamin D absorption for a majority of the population, reducing the sun’s positive effects. According to a study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, “Wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95%.”
It is important to allow yourself some sunscreen-free sun exposure daily. Of course, over-exposure to the sun can cause a sunburn, so be mindful when you are out in the sun for extended periods of time and consider the type of sunscreen you use as some of the traditional sunscreens have been found to contribute to and even cause cancer.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting health and the environment, “The Food and Drug Administration has not reviewed evidence of potential hazards of sunscreen filters.” 84% of the 831 sunscreens tested by the EWG were found to contain harmful chemicals.
When searching for a sunscreen, EWG advises using a mineral sunscreen as a safe alternative and they provide an updated list each year of the safety ratings of every sunscreen. Go to ewg.org to see how yours rates and find a safe sunscreen for you and your family.
Adjust your lifestyle, sun exposure and keep your skin communicating with your nervous system. Regardless of the time of year, take a moment each day to absorb the nutrients the sunshine is providing!