Worshipping and Fearing the Sun-God

All-Powerful Forces can be worshipped as agents for all that is good. Or, they can be feared as agents of destruction. The sun around which our planet revolves has been cast in both the redemptive and destructive roles. Its power has never been questioned, but the way people relate to its scorching, life-giving energy has a long and varied history. It is a history with serious implications for skin health and beauty.

Sun Gods can be found throughout history in various forms. Early Egyptian beliefs associated Atum with solar powers and particularly worshipped Ra-Atum , the rays of the setting sun. South American, African and Mesopotamian cultures all have a long tradition of sun worship. Conversely, the Missing Sun denotes darkness, loss, and imprisonment in the underworld, exile and even death.

Sun tanning has not always been in fashion. Before the 1920’s, tanned skin was strictly associated with the lower classes, even slaves, who had to work outdoors. Remember how Scarlett O’Hara, the classical Southern belle went to great lengths to protect her face, décolleté and especially her hands from exposure to the sun.

But in the early part of the 20th century, the preference for fair skin began to fade. In 1903, Niels Fingen was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the therapeutic benefits of sunlight. Its rays were a cure for Vitamin D deficiency and by the 1930’s, sun therapy was prescribed for everything from simple fatigue to tuberculosis.

Fashion and industry were not slow to capitalize on the new wave. Sun bathing as a symbol of leisure, beauty and glamour became big by the 1940’s just at the time that bathing suits grew skimpier. Hollywood and advertising went all out associating suntan with health, wealth, sophistication and of course, seduction. Tanning quickly became a five-billion-dollar-and-still- growing industry in the US alone.

Appearance of Skin Cancer 

True to its dual nature, the Sun God began to show its destructive side. Widespread sun worship produced a vast increase in cases of all three main types of skin cancer, raising lots of questions about length of advisable exposure and the effectiveness of sun blocks.

Many of us who grew up as sun worshippers now have to confront the damage all those rays have likely wreaked on our skin.

Vanguard’s founder and lead physician, Dr. Michael Shapiro devotes a large part of his practice to minimizing the consequences of that damage.