You're ready to enjoy summer vacation and time in the sun. Is your sunscreen safe? Do you know which skin care products photosensitize the skin, making you prone to sunburn?We discuss these and practical, natural ways to boost your tolerance to the sun, and increase your skin health from the inside out.
Memorial weekend flags the onset of summer vacation for many. If you’re blessed with beautiful, sunny weather, you want to spend as much time outside as possible. Whether canoeing, camping, swimming, surfing, or playing volleyball, take precaution to prevent painful, damaging sunburn from ruining your outdoor fun. Soaking up sunshine is a mood booster, healthy, and enjoyable, when done in moderation. Sunburn, on the other hand is detrimental to your skin and health and should be avoided. The scorching effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can quickly burn and damage the skin. When it comes to overexposure to the sun, take Ben Franklin’s advice, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Prepare for the Sun – Inside and Out
Don’t slather on sunscreen the minute you walk outside. Receiving 15 minutes of direct sunshine on your skin is the best daily source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is beneficial to your health in so many ways, especially in cancer prevention. (We’ll share more on the benefits of vitamin D soon.) Want to spend more time in the sun and avoid sunburn? It’s possible.
Getting what I refer to as a base tan, exposing your skin a little at a time, will go a long way in preventing sunburn during the sunshine season. As a girl growing up in Florida, before tanning beds, thankfully, this is how we prepared our skin to tolerate hours on the beach during the summer.
If you haven’t already, start conditioning your skin to the sun’s rays in small doses. To build a natural base for tanning, with no sunscreen, begin with brief 15 to 20 minute exposures to the sun, lying on your back, and then stomach, several times a week, in moderate temperatures. The best time to start the process of conditioning and tanning your skin is in the spring, before the thermometer reaches 80°F. This gradual, moderate tanning process can be started at home on the patio, or during lunch breaks in the park, and should provide an even tan, without peeling or burning and prepare you for those fun trips to the lake or beach.
Eating a whole foods diet increases skin health from the inside-out. Studies show that consuming tomatoes helps prevent susceptibility to sunburns. Researchers believe the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, provides an extra level of sun protection.
Products to Avoid During Sun Exposure
We can’t give you a complete list, but if you are taking acne medications such as tetracycline, antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines, sedatives, or estrogen, be aware that these may increase your sensitivity to sun, making you highly susceptible to sunburn. Read the labels or discuss the medications you’re taking with your pharmacist or doctor. Better yet, avoid adverse side effects, seek a holistic approach to health; consult with a holistic doctor or nutritionist.
Citrus Essential Oils -
Avoid beauty and skin care products containing these essential oils, prior to and during sun exposure, as they are known to photosensitize the skin and increase your chances of burning: lemon, orange, bergamot, lime, tangerine, lemon verbena, and cumin.
Chemical Sunscreens -
Most sunscreens on the market contain toxic chemicals which increase your chances of developing cancer. Read the labels. Mineral based sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide offer a natural alternative to the toxic commercial products. Not sure if your sunscreen product is natural or safe? The Environmental Working Group maintains an online list of Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens.
Sun Sense Basics
1. Don’t let a cloud-filled sky fool you into thinking you can’t get sunburned. Limit the time you expose your skin to the powerful ultraviolet rays to reduce your chance of sunburn, even on overcast days.
2. Whether floating in a pool, riding in a boat or lying on a sandy beach or concrete patio, reflection from water and sand can double the amount of ultraviolet rays received. Take extra precaution when on the water, beach, or in a boat.
3. When spending extended amounts of time outdoors, once you’ve had your share of sun exposure, take refuge under a patio or beach umbrella. When active, wear a hat, sunglasses, protective clothing, including shoes, and natural sunscreen. Protect the lips too, to avoid blistering. Reapply natural sunscreen and medicated lip balm as recommended, after swimming, towel drying or perspiring.
4. If you are fair-skinned or burn easily, avoid direct sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, between 11 and 4. Cover the tender areas of your body with clothing or natural sunscreen. The parts of the body most susceptible to sunburn are the back of the neck and knees, ears, and feet.
Enjoy the sun and the season!
About the Author:
Deborah Tukua is a nonfiction author, and editor of Journey to Natural Living. She is author of seven books including, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats: 55 Fresh from the Blender Recipes, and Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Deborah has been a regular lifestyle feature writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
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