5 Natural Ways to Prevent Sunburns
As I was laying on the beach this Memorial Day weekend (I hope you enjoyed your weekend as well!) it occurred to me to write this blog. In the past I have written about healthy sunscreens but there are other ways to prevent sunburns too.
Sunlight is made up of about 1,500 different wavelengths. It is comprised of infrared, visible and ultraviolet light, which filter through the atmosphere to reach us on earth in what we experience as crisp, beautiful daylight. Apart from the obvious necessity of sunlight for visibility, warmth and also for photosynthesis of the plants we eat, studies have revealed numerous benefits for humans including:
vitamin D synthesizing- the UVB rays of the sun react with cholesterol derivatives in the skin to produce this important vitamin. Without sunlight, this conversion cannot occur and the body must rely on the available sources in foods
increased daytime awareness- studies show that natural light (over artificial) enhances alertness, drive and focus
natural pain killer- several studies have shown that sunlight can have an analgesic effect, easing pain
mood enhancing- spending time in the sun increases serotonin, your feel-good hormone
cortisol regulating- research has highlighted the effects of natural light/dark cycles on maintaining a healthy flow of cortisol to modulate energy and stress
We culturally are aware of the harmful effects of the sun and using SPF lotions but know these good reasons for sun exposure too. We just have to be smart about our sun exposure. What you need to know about SPF lotions is that they rarely work as promised. SPF is the rating system used to designate how much UV radiation is blocked upon application. With the wide variety of products out there boasting these numbers, one would logically conclude that 30 SPF is twice as protective as 15 SPF, and so on...yet this isn’t necessarily the case. Generally speaking, SPF 15 is thought to block 94% of UV radiation, SPF 30 only 97% and SPF 45 98%. Complicating this issue further is the fact that these numbers are all highly variable based on the skin type of the user, how liberally the sunscreen is rubbed on, what kinds of activity one is engaged in, frequency of reapplication and what time of day you are spending in the sun. Therefore as companies continue to design evermore expensive, high SPF, “waterproof” sunscreens- there is little actual improvement on protective value. The Food and Drug Administration even recently proposed an upward limit of SPF 50 on labels in order to limit unrealistic claims about the efficacy of certain “ultra,” "mega," "superstar" sunscreens.
The next problem is the sheer chemical load pumped into these products. Many contain fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemical solvents, titanium and petroleum oils that are both unstable and harmful- especially when applied with frequency to porous skin. Titanium dioxide, one of the most popular sunscreen compounds, is a “potential occupational carcinogen” according to the government, and octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), found in many conventional sunscreens, has been shown to cause damage to living tissue if it penetrates too deeply. Non-nano zinc oxide SPF lotions are the best way to go because the zinc will block the harmful rays and the non-nano part is it's size which is too big to penetrate into your skin. It does the job just by sitting on top of your skin.
So what can we do to naturally avoid burns while still catching a good amount of healing golden rays? While it is certainly true that red, peely, embarrassing sunburns are problematic and damaging to the skin, experts are now admitting that the dangers of the sun in general have been largely exaggerated, while the benefits underestimated. Newer medical research has revealed that sun exposure is not as closely linked to all skin cancers as previously thought, and other factors such as diet, exposure to environmental toxins and a paradoxical lack of vitamin D also play a role. As always, know your body, know your skin and make the choices that are most comfortable to you.
Limit Time in the Sun
Especially early in the season, your skin needs time to adjust so that the melanocytes kick into gear to produce their protective pigment (resulting in a tan). Also note that the body reaches its full capacity of producing Vitamin D in anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour midday, depending on your skin tone. So after this amount of time, cover up using loose, white clothing or by finding shade. And yes, although it may be counterintuitive, white clothing has actually been scientifically proven to help keep the body cooler than wearing no clothing.
Consume More Vitamin D
While the sun helps us to manufacture vitamin D, consuming vitamin D rich foods like cod liver oil and/or supplementing with quality source of oral vitamin D3 can in turn help to protect us from the UV radiation of the sun.The more vitamin D you have in your body the more protected you are from the sun.
Eat Saturated Fats
It’s true, healthy fats do truly relate to everything. Including stable, robust fats in the diet is crucial to resilient skin. Dietary fats and oils provide building blocks for skin tissues. Without the right fats the skin becomes dry and hair and nails become brittle. Saturated fats are thought to increase total cholesterol and so use in limited amounts if your cholesterol is high. Saturated fats include:
Dairy foods – such as butter, cream, ghee, regular-fat milk and cheese.
Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats like salami, sausages and the skin on chicken.