Summer is almost here bringing outdoor activities, fresh air, and lots of sun! Sunshine can be especially healthy because our bodies use it to create immune boosting Vitamin D, in which many people are deficient. To make Vitamin D, sunshine has to hit your bare skin directly. That’s why a certain amount of sun exposure is actually great for you. However, too much sun can cause your skin to burn, creating damage to the cells, increasing your risk for skin cancer, and encouraging premature wrinkles. The key is to find the balance between healthy immune boosting sunshine and overexposure.
If you are planning outdoor activities, here are some guidelines for healthy summer skin:
1. Know Your Limit. We tolerate the sun differently based on genetics. People with fair skin tend to burn much quicker and need less exposure. It’s important to know what your threshold is. If you have fair skin, start with only 5 minutes of sun on your bare skin before using sun protection. If you have a darker skin tone, you might try a few minutes longer. It also depends on the location of the sun and the time of year. At the peak of summer, UVB rays can be especially potent. Use your best judgement and aim for smaller amounts of exposure more frequently to get the best immune boost.
2. Avoid Toxic Sunscreens. Many sunscreens on the market contain toxic chemicals that get absorbed directly into your bloodstream when applied to your skin. If you are going to be protecting your skin with sunscreen, use all-natural alternatives. One excellent resource to find sunscreen is the Environmental Working Group's 2017 Guide to Sunscreens (http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/).
3. Try a Cover-up. Another safe alternative is to cover your skin. UVB rays need to contact your skin directly to do damage. That’s why we get tan lines in areas that are covered by our clothes. Some helpful coverups include bathing suit cover-ups and wraps, hats or shawls, or even shirts with long sleeves. If you are going to be adding layers of clothing as a cover-up option, it is important to stay cool and hydrated.
Sometimes, even our best attempts to avoid overexposure can fail, resulting in a sunburn. Or, maybe you have sun damage from the past. Here are some tips to help heal and repair the skin:
1. Aloe Vera. For immediate sunburns, apply a light layer of fresh aloe to the skin. If you have an aloe plant, simply snap off a few stems, break them open, and apply the pulp directly to your skin. The gel will not only cool the skin, research is showing that properties in the plant help moisturize and heal the skin. You can also get gels made with healing aloe oil from your local health food store.
2. Antioxidants. To repair damage from the inside out, add potent antioxidants to your diet. These powerful nutrients help to both protect the skin and heal it from sun damage. Foods high in Vitamin C are especially healing for the skin, such as papayas, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and pineapple. Add these to your salads, fresh smoothies, or eat raw.
Are you looking for safe sunscreens for you and your family? Some recommendations from the Environmental Working Group include Badger's Sunscreen for adults, Badger's Sunscreen for kids, or Bare Belly Baby Organic's Sunscreen for babies.
“Will rubbing aloe vera on your sunburn help?” University of Arkansas Medical Science. http://www.uamshealth.com/?id=6046&sid=1
Pizzorno, Joseph E., and Michael T. Murray. 1999. Textbook of natural medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
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