Could You Be Addicted to the Sun?

shutterstock_142887940It’s a beautiful day: the Las Vegas sun is shining, there’s an open seat poolside, and you can’t imagine anything better than laying out all day to work on your tan. But if you’re craving sun all the time, something else may be at play.

It is Like a Drug: Research Connects Sun and Addictive Brain Receptors
The idea of being addicted to the sun isn’t exactly new. Previous research has suggested that people can develop a physical craving for UV rays, driving them to seek out sunshine for prolonged periods of time. However, a recent study hypothesized that when the body receives UV light, the brain releases beta-endorphins, which bind to opioid receptors—the very same receptors that react during recreational drug use.

To test this theory, researchers exposed mice to the human equivalent of 30 minutes in the sun, every day for 5-6 days. Beta-endorphin levels increased in the mice and stayed high for a week after the experiment concluded. In the days following the period of UV exposure, researchers kept an eye on the mice to see if they would experience withdrawal symptoms, which they did.

When given the choice between a dark or well-lit box, researchers discovered that the mice who had experienced withdrawal from their sun exposure were more likely to take a turn for the bright option. Since mice typically prefer dark spaces, this behavior hinted at possible UV addiction.

What it Means for Those of Us on Two Legs

Adding to previous findings on our propensity to crave sunshine, this new study indicates that the more we experience UV, the more we want it. Conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder plague some during the cold, dark months after experiencing the bright sunshine of summer, adding more weight to findings that UV exposure (or lack thereof) can directly affect our brain chemicals.

Considering how harmful prolonged UV exposure is, it’s troubling to think our desire to bask in a patch of sunlight may be out of our hands.

How You Can Safely Soak up the Sun
While the idea of “sun addiction” needs to be researched further before any strong conclusions are made, it could be why some of us overindulge in sunbathing even when we know the dangers.

If you can’t resist soaking up the Las Vegas sun, but are also concerned about preventing skin aging, here are a few tips to safely enjoy the rays:

  • Use an ounce of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 15 every day. Even when it’s cloudy, you’re still being exposed to harmful rays. Reapply after sweating or taking a dip in the pool.
  • Avoid being out for a long period when UV rays are most intense. This is usually between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, especially in sunny Vegas.
  • Wear Ultraviolet Protection Factor clothing when exercising outside. These clothes are designed specifically to increase skin protection when you’re working out in the sun.
  • Don’t smoke. This may be obvious, but smoking doesn’t just damage your lungs—it shrinks blood vessels in your skin, causing your skin to age more quickly.

Recover From Summer & Prevent Skin Aging with Good Skin Care
Don’t worry if you think you’ve already damaged your skin from over-exposure to the sun. There are ways to take preventative measures, as well as numerous treatment options for correcting sun damage and signs of aging.

Products like the Obagi line can rebuild your skin on the cellular level with vitamin C, hyroquinone, and collagen. Chemical peels also work wonders by removing the outer layer of skin while stimulating collagen production and new skin formation. For more information on these or other available treatments, schedule a consultation with Dr. Pancholi today.

Leave a Comment: