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SunSense - Formulator's Notes

SunSense - Formulator's Notes

Every year, for the better part of our lives, we’ve had a family reunion at the beach with the whole clan, from great-grandmother matriarch to the myriad grandkids. We gather to renew and rekindle with good food, fine friendships and of course, the restorative presence of surf and sun. We really enjoy the sun — we love to bask and play in the healing light and are grateful for the beneficial and restorative effect on our body, mind and feelings.  But we also keep a properly attentive and prudent posture towards the potency of the sun. It is, after all, a huge, flaming, pulsating fireball in the sky; a cosmic power that one ignores at one’s own risk. But, through experience and insight, our family has two main attitudes towards sun exposure. The first is gratitude and the second is respect.

Regarding the first, one doesn’t need to contemplate too hard to clearly understand that this solar influence is the fountainhead of all biological life, the genesis of flora and fauna, and the source principle of planetary harmony and beauty. All of life’s processes, including our human biology, depend upon the presence of this life-giving ball of light. There’s no pressing need to go into the details of bolstered immunity, increased mental health, stability in emotional states, proper hormone formation, vitamin D, and the many other gifts that sunlight gives to us. But there is always a need to increase our gratitude, which, like a little child, must be nursed and fed, attended to. For everyday we must strengthen our gratitude in every little way we can. The poet Mary Oliver says it so well, “Do you think there is anywhere, in any language, a word billowing enough for the pleasure that fills you, as the sun reaches out, as it warms you?”  

Yet, often, gratitude is overcome by fear. And in this context, our modern phenomenon is . . . fear of the sun. But if you look deeply enough at the real science, past the menacing, mesmerizing spin, you will find out truly that fear of the sun has been manufactured.  Seeded, hatched, and incessantly fostered by powerful, industrial, chemical concerns. Power-possessors have always known that fear is very profitable, and one simply cannot do an internet search about UV exposure without being confronted with dread and the impulse to be afraid and hide from the sun.

Regarding the second attitude, respect, one also doesn’t need repeated poking in the ribs to get that the sun will burn you. Past peoples, our ancestors, always knew this. And all these generations of bipeds had their own ways to deal with the sun. It could be called common-sense. And there’s no pressing need to go deep into that either. For we all either instinctually know, or could somehow find out, what helpful, reasonable practices we could embrace to have a common-sense relationship with the sun. And for the most part, it wouldn’t include slathering toxic, persistent, carcinogenic chemicals on this magical, miraculous, but highly porous organ of our body called the skin.

I’ve been making sun lotions for my family for many years (affectionately known as “Uncle Shannon’s Sun Mustard”). In all that time, I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between sun and skin. For me, it’s helpful to see that the body is an eating system. It eats to survive and thrive. The body eats food, it eats water, it eats air, and it also eats, on another dimension, a form of food that might be called spirit or maybe holy-unifying-impressions. But for our conversation here, we should know that the body also eats a principle type of food that takes the manifestation of healing, balancing photons. Photons are also known as sunlight. These photons contain source life force which provide vital energy and what might be called instructions for all life processes. These ‘instructions’ also contain what might be called ‘reset’ influences that help us maintain health and homeostasis in the face of the many pressures we must confront. Considering this gift of the blessings bestowed to us from this solar food, we could find that gratitude and respect would become our natural, default posture. 

However, in our human life, it’s always been known that over-eating is unhealthy. I heard a Sufi story once where a visitor to a small village could find no doctor. When asking the mullah about this, the holy-man responded, “Oh, we don’t overeat in this village!” And so it is with the sun. One way of not overeating the sun is to modulate the rays as they envelop and enfold the skin. And it turns out that this is what plants do. Every leaf, every fruit, every flower that ever grew, in any location, has ways to modulate solar exposure encoded in its very organizational make-up. Think of the photo-chemical composition of those plants that grow at very high elevations where solar radiation is extremely high. Why do they just not shrivel and burn up? It is this grand Intelligence of nature that we can enlist in our attempt to have a grateful, but respectful, relationship to the sun.

An important category of functional SunSense ingredients are certain flavonoids called pigments. The strong pigment colors found in tomato, raspberry, cranberry, st. john’s wort, and other plants greatly assist in modulating sun exposure and protecting from UV radiation. Specific seed/nut oils from jojoba, shea, and milk thistle infuse the fluid of the skin cells with lipids that not only deflect UV but can repair previous damage. The bark of the french maritime pine tree, along with the tremella mushroom, horse chestnut, and laver seaweed, provide essential phytonutrients to regulate healing cellular response to radiation. Along with all these, the SunSense formula is filled with other plant medicines the protect and heal skin that has been subject to sun exposure and possible inflammation. Nature always has a way — or several ways! My aim in creating SunSense has been to offer safe, effective UV protection according to Nature’s laws, so that no harm is done. 

Personally, and this is just my opinion, I feel it’s best not to get caught up in the SPF racket. Most products get their SPF number through the inclusion and combination of industrial SPF-rated chemicals. It’s a fairytale that companies are responsibly testing these chemicals on humans, because vast differences in skin and body type make conclusive results impractical if not impossible, and there are also complex ethical and liability issues. If testing is done, it’s done in-vitro, in the laboratory; synthetic conditions, synthetic tissue, synthetic light. Consumer Reports says that many of the sunscreens they test don’t have even half of the SPF value claimed on the label. Besides, putting a reductionistic contrivance like a ‘number’ between you, your experience, and your common-sense is just another brick in the wall of becoming separated and desensitized from nature and clueless about our own body.

I can think of situations involving extensive sun exposure in which one would want to use a strong commercial sunscreen, but if some sensible, moderate sun time is what you want — at the river, at the beach, your daily walk, while gardening, the cookout at the park — then SunSense is for you. It’s meant to be a beneficial companion in keeping our relationship to the sun balanced and healthy.

P.S. In order to be clear and complete about how Grateful Body can support you to enjoy the sunshine confidently, I’d like to mention our other sun-specific formula, SUNNY TONER. As a facial toner, you mist it on your face and it pulls things together on the surface of your skin as all our toners do. Then, throughout the day, it supports your complexion’s resilience to UV exposure. 

Jul 01, 2021

So helpful and clear! I really appreciate all your thoughts and formulations. A pleasure to read and easy to digest! I tried Sun Sense at the Yuba river a few days ago during peak sun exposure time and I was so pleased with the slight glowing tan and am now a big fan of yet another GratefulBody product!

Arlie Mischeaux
Jun 30, 2021

What a beautifully written piece on life, the sun, and our skin. These intricate, intimate relationships just took on new and inspired meaning for me. Thank you so very much for sharing not only your exquisite formulations with us, but as well some of the scientific, philosophical and spiritual forces that animate GratefulBody. I will definitely be adding SunSense to my next order.

Rachael Hand
Jun 29, 2021

Thank you!! Very clear, thoughtful, well-written and helpful information! I had already ordered SunSense for my next suscription order. Now, I cannot wait to try it! Thanks, too, for the gentle spiritual influence throughout the article. Much appreciated.

Janet Ledder

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