How To Get A Healthy Tan


We are taught to incessantly shield ourselves from sunlight. We’re told that the sun solely damages the skin, and that we ought to stay away to preserve our youth & vanity. Suggestions to cover up, apply sunscreen even on cloudy days, and block the sun with sunglasses are rampant.

Meanwhile, plants can be found in nature orienting themselves towards sunlight (known as heliotropism - think of sunflowers)(1), and developing chlorophyll as a result of photosynthesis which requires sunlight). (1,2) Wild animals have a natural relationship to sunlight, basking in it for a sensible period of time, and then seeking shade when they’ve met their quota. Leaves innately curl up and get a sun reprieve when they have had enough daily sun.

There is a beautiful display of sun harmony that exists all through nature. Sun makes our planet green, colorful, and abundant. Just picture the transition from winter to spring; the new growth, animals becoming more active, etc. So, why have humans become so disparate from daily sunlight? Perhaps, we have forgotten we are a part of nature, and that our biology requires sunlight.

Current research actually reveals something entirely different from the mainstream messaging; that sunlight deficiency is actually a real problem (3). Additionally, humans can greatly benefit from harmonious, intentional sunlight exposure. (5,6) Moreover, sunscreen use has been associated with an increased incidence of melanoma (4), and having a dysregulated circadian rhythm has its own unique list of detrimental downfalls. (7)

Priming Your Skin with Red Light

One way that many of us approach time in the sun poorly is that we spend most of our lives indoors, then go on a 2-week sunny vacation and expect to be equipped. Our modern lifestyles are a stark contrast from that of our ancestors, meaning that we need to gradually work our way into being outdoors more.

Getting morning sunlight is an effective way to start priming your skin for the UV light that comes later in the day. Morning sunlight is rich in red and infrared light, which conditions the skin to receive afternoon sunlight. Doing this prevents you from getting UV-induced skin damage due to overexposure. (8) Also, getting this light signal into your eyes communicates with your brain & carries out important signaling that has implications for other areas of health. (9)

Priming the Skin with Plants

Conceptually, we can think of the plant kingdom as having properties that make plants resilient to daily sunlight, while simultaneously helping them carry out photosynthesis & cell division. When we ingest these plants, or in some instances, apply them to our skin, we can harness these innate plant abilities to support our time in the sun, too. (11) Interestingly enough, chlorophyll is actually similar to hemoglobin in structure, as mammals can convert light into energy - similar to plants. (24)

Many plants (in varying concentrations), possess constituents such as polyphenols and antioxidants, which help to protect your skin. In addition, sulforaphane specifically has been shown as photoprotective (photo = light). (12) This beneficial compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli & kale can help you practice a harmonious relationship with sunlight.

Sulforaphane has been demonstrated as a robust inducer of cellular defenses such as cytoprotective enzymes and glutathione. These act as efficient antioxidants that have long-lasting effects. (13) It has also been shown to reduce skin redness and swelling. (11)

Furthermore, sulforaphane is shown to protect skin cells against oxidative stress caused by UVA radiation with a ∼50% reduction in reactive oxygen species. (16) Also, topical sulforaphane protects against UVA-mediated collagen depletion (12), and improves skin blistering in epidermolysis bullosa simplex, a rare inherited condition in which the skin loses its integrity after a medical trauma. (17)

This potent plant compound is found in a bioavailable, stabilized form in BrocElite. To optimize your sun-harmonizing routine, you can look to sulforaphane to help protect you from UV-induced inflammation. Additionally, sulforaphane helps to prevent sunburn, and will generally be photoprotective for your skin. (14)

Building Your Solar Callus

In line with including morning sunlight to prime your skin, you ideally want to gradually build the melanin in your skin. Going from zero to sixty with sun exposure is not what you’re striving for. Aim for a consistently, small, incremental build.

Studies show that detrimental effects from excess UV exposure are actually more prevalent in those with inconsistent exposure patterns. In other words, they suggest that those who are only exposed rarely on vacation, while spending most of their other days indoors, are more likely to experience issues. (15)

In contrast, regular outdoor occupation offers you a decreased risk in these same studies. (15) Thus, the most ideal situation is a habitual, gradual building up of time spent in the sun to get optimal benefits, while reducing risks.

Tips for Sun Exposure

When engaging in harmonious, intentional sun exposure time, you want to be free of any obstructions, both on your skin and your eyes. In other words, no glasses, sunglasses, contact lenses, and no sunscreens (which actually present their own unique hazards to both you & the environment). (10)

Additionally, sunscreen blocks vitamin D production and sunglasses cut off the light communication through the eyes (specifically via the retinal ganglion cells) which is crucial to prevent sunscreen. Your eyes (a part of your brain), are sensing light and communicating that to your body to manage the UV load.

If you are fair-skinned, have a Fitzpatrick skin type of 1 or 2, or are just starting out with sun exposure, this still applies to you. However, your time spent in the sun will be small at first. For an individual with more melanin (more of the skin’s built-in sunscreen), your ideal amount of time outside will span longer.

There are rare exceptions in which an individual can be on photosensitive medications or have eye sensitivity; but on the whole, most of us can reap maximum benefits and effective communication to the eyes by tossing the sunblock & sunglasses.

A free app that can help you become acquainted with your ideal time outside is called D Minder. With this app, you can learn the UV index where you are located, how much estimated vitamin D you are synthesizing while in the sun, and how much time you need to spend to reach your desired vitamin D goal. Additionally, this app has options for you to enter your skin type (and assists you with figuring that out) as well as your current blood level of vitamin D - if you know it from recent testing.

Common Misconceptions

Though the sun is blamed for wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and more, it is insightful and transformative to look at the research on isolated blue light (coming primarily from electronics and devices). This literature shows that isolated blue light causes photoaging and hyperpigmentation. (19, 20, 21, 22, 23)

Keep in mind, sunlight is never one isolated wavelength. It always presents with a symphony of wavelengths, which vary depending on the time of day. Additionally, the red light in sunlight balances out the other wavelengths, including UV and blue.

Interestingly, red light is largely credited in the literature for increasing collagen production, reducing and preventing wrinkles, reversing issues with pigmentation, improving mitochondrial function, and even improving brain health. (18)

Sunlight is rich in red light, containing upwards of 40% red light, varying based on time of day. This aspect of sunlight is commonly overlooked through the mainstream lens.


  5. ​​
  10. ​​

0 Comment

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published