How Summer Makes You Beautiful

Summer often gets a bad rap. We’re constantly being warned about warm-weather dangers, from too much heat wreaking havoc on our skin to the sun’s harmful rays causing skin cancer. But sometimes, a little dose of sunshine can do wonders. Warmer temperatures and sunny skies—not to mention the fear of having to slip on a slinky bathing suit—help motivate most people to get outside and exercise more. According to scientists, summer can also improve your eating habits, skin, sex drive and even mood—all of which lead to a more beautiful you.

Check out these summertime health and beauty benefits:

Your sex drive improves. The pineal gland in the middle of the brain secretes melatonin, a chemical that helps us sleep and blocks sex hormones. Long, bright summer days cause a decrease in melatonin, resulting in ramped up sex drives. The evolutionary benefit? Babies are more likely to be born in the spring, allowing them to grow a bit before dealing with the harsh challenges of winter. Research shows that a healthy sex life does a body good by reducing stress and boosting the immune system.

MORE: Eight Ways Sex Makes You Beautiful

You get a dose of the sunshine vitamin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B ray can damage DNA and cause painful sunburns. However, UVB rays also kick start the chemical and metabolic reaction that produces vitamin D. Research indicates we get more of the sunshine vitamin during the summer. Vitamin D helps boost calcium and phosphorous absorption from food, and to improve bone development and health, immune function and blood cell formation. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to several chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and colon cancer, so higher levels may help lower the chances of getting these diseases. But don’t use this as an excuse to hit the tanning salon or forgo sunscreen. According to the World Health Organization, all you need is a mere five to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week to keep your D levels on the up and up.

MORE: Supplement Your Beauty

Sunshine helps beat the winter blahs. Several studies have demonstrated that serotonin levels, also known as the happiness hormone, climb when people get more and brighter sunlight. A 2002 study found that people exposed to ultraviolet light (specifically UVA) had markedly higher levels of serotonin and lower levels of sleep-regulating melatonin and reported feeling more balanced, less nervous and more confident. Many researchers believe that light exposure can wane away any lingering winter blues come June. Although some recent research questions whether peoples’ moods really do change seasonally or if it’s just a myth, talk to anyone who lives through harsh winters year after year and he or she will likely tell you that long summer days do wonders for wellbeing.

MORE: Boost Your Brain With Exercise

Your skin glows. Cold, dry winter air strips skin of its moisture, and can send many a complexion into an irritation spiral. Summer’s high humidity keeps skin hydrated and glowing. Ultraviolet light—in moderation, of course—can also be beneficial. UV light suppresses an overactive immune system, which can help clear up conditions like psoriasis. Clearer, more moisturized skin is a surefire way to enhance your looks.

MORE: Dry Skin, Decoded

You have healthier eating habits. According to Dr. Oz, increased levels of serotonin that come from longer, brighter daylight hours in the summer may help suppress your appetite. This may be because sunshine boosts your mood, eliminating cravings for fattening comfort foods. On the flip side, studies show that people who eat in dim light, which is more common in the winter, are more likely to linger over their food, which can cause overeating. What’s more, summer meals are often healthier thanks to the abundance of fresh, seasonal produce and the fact that people tend to eat less when the thermostat rises. Eating fresh, antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables help improve skin and increase your energy levels.

QUIZ: What’s Your Eating Style?

In other news, check out these melt-proof makeup tricks to beat the heat.