CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THE SUN

With summer fast approaching and with South Africans’ love of the outdoors, this week’s content seems appropriate.
The seven visible light rays emerging from the sun are quite magnificent; disappearing at night and re-awakening at dawn arousing hope and sustenance of life.

Avoided by some, worshiped by others, attitudes towards the sun’s rays have always varied.
For example, at the start of the 20th century the British feared the sun with the accusation that it caused a disease Neurasthenia with symptoms like fatigue, irritability, insanity and even death ! Great sacrifices were made by those noble people who made journeys, taking healthy advice to the colonies, many of which were in Africa.

In polite society, getting a tan was not fashionable, dark skin being associated with the lower, working classes.
Women in particular were heavily draped to avoid destruction of their precious whiteness!

Not long after, another idea emerged that the sun had medical possibilities in that the rays could kill bacteria.
By the 1930’s light therapy emerged and sunlamps became most popular, a trend developing that a brown tinged body was more attractive that a pasty white one!

Besides cosmetic utilization, it became recognised that sunlight could prevent rickets and many sanatoria were established in dry sunny countries to treat tuberculosis.

Fast forward to the 21st century and new ideas are emerging, but it is still recognised that reduction of exposure has cut skin cancer rates but there is currently a concern that too little absorption of vitamin D is now occuring. Many a health shop employee will advise one not to neglect the purchase of Vitamin D!

In the beauty world, the sun has been lauded as a vicious form of light that causes destruction to the skin. However, at recent conference in London questions arose as to the benefits of the daily ritual of using sun screens as sunlight has benefits by lowering hypertension and increasing life expectancy.

It now emerges that of the 16 ingredients in sun blockers only 2 are safe and the others could have hormonal influences and other side effects.
When these facts were presented to producers of sunscreen products – not much enthusiasm was aroused, hardly surprising bearing in mind what a lucrative industry this is. The future outlook and participation in acknowledging these findings will be interesting.

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