By: Gretchen Fox Schempp, Wellness Manager
I worship the sun. I’ve always worshipped the sun. Maybe it’s the fire sign I was born under. Or the brutal cold winter that I was born in. I have loved the sun on my skin as long as I can remember. I spent my summers as a child and teen scantily clad playing outdoors or at the pool all day long. I burned and then I would get this great rosy looking tan. I felt my best all bronzed and hopped up on vitamin D supplied from the natural sunlight. Ignorance is bliss.
Now in my late 30’s, all that abuse is starting to show. Not to mention I work in the industry of information overload on all the dangers related to the sun, environmental toxins, the food we eat, etc. So when I noticed a pronounced brown spot on my temple a few years ago, I began to feel my age and start to take more seriously the implications of my years of sun worshipping. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up using sunscreen and have used it through my adult life, just not enough of it. You’re probably not either.
Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, is clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Her comments on sunscreen application as found at the Skin Cancer Foundation are as follows:
“It is very unlikely that you’re applying too much sunscreen — most people don’t apply enough, which is why undesirable sunburns and tanning can occur despite sunscreen application. To achieve the Sun Protection Factor (SPF, which protects against the sun’s UVB radiation) reflected on a bottle of sunscreen, you should use approximately two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. In practice, this means applying the equivalent of a shot glass (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of the face and body – a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone. If you’re using a spray, apply until an even sheen appears on the skin. Remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently after swimming, heavy perspiration, or toweling off. Also remember, no matter how much sunscreen you apply, the SPF should be 15 or higher for adequate protection – and ideally 30 or higher for extended time spent outdoors.”
Um, yeah. Slather it on.
But is sunscreen the end all? Or is there more we can do to protect ourselves?
How about trying some delicious food and getting the benefit of added protection from the sun? These powerful UV blockers have a few things in common: to start with, they are part of a healthy diet and they all share a sun-blocking component: antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight free radicals. Free radicals can be a result from unprotected sun exposure. Free radicals run around our bodies stealing electrons from healthy cells. Antioxidants are our body’s helpers in that they run around giving up their extra electrons to free radicals so they stop robbing the healthy cells.
Check out this stellar sun protecting shopping list:
Omega-3 rich fish: Think sardines, wild salmon, oysters, trout, anchovies, tuna, halibut. Omega-3 fatty acids have incredible anti-inflammatory powers. Research suggests that these compounds can help protect from free-radical damage.
Red and orange fruits and vegetables: Lycopene is a natural carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. It has been shown to aid in protection against some UV-induced skin irritations. Lycopene helps rid the body of free-radicals. Beta-carotene (another type of carotenoid found in red and orange produce) has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns. Orange and pink citrus fruits have also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV rays.
Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale are full of antioxidants to help fight free-radicals.
Greens: Fresh herbs — specifically parsley, basil, sage, and rosemary — are packed with free-radical fighting antioxidants. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard are all full of antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids, which may also naturally protect the skin from sun damage.
Dark chocolate: Oh yeah. We all love to hear the benefits of one of the world’s favorite treats! Flavanoids found in dark chocolate may improve the skin’s ability to protect against some types of skin damage, including UV-induced issues like sunburns. Plus, the flavonoids can help keep skin hydrated, increase oxygen saturation, and boost blood flow.
Green and Black Tea: Both start out as leafy greens and carry their antioxidant benefits through the drying and steeping process to make a polyphenol packed beverage.
Diet is always the best way to get your vitamins but if you are looking for a boost in those UV-protecting, free-radical fighting antioxidants, there are supplements that can support you as well. See the antioxidant area of the Wellness department for supplemental forms of Lycopene, Astaxanthin, Resveratrol and other antioxidant blends.
Topical Skin Care
What about that damage that’s already been done? Yeah, I’m there. You can try Acure’s Radical Resurfacing Facial Treatment which I am currently in love with. Given a sample when Kaite, our Acure rep, visited the store in March, I started this treatment right away. Once in the morning and then again at night. Acure products are all signature fair trade, vegan, free of gluten, synthetic fragrance, paraben, silicone and phthalates. This product uses “Mother Nature’s blend of brightening lemon probiotic” and Acure’s proprietary organic chlorella growth factor to help smooth skin texture and tone. Butterfly Bush stem cells are used to help prevent photoaging and oxidative stress. A month into using this product and my trouble spots are fading noticeably.
Devita Skin Care is one of my favorite lines when it comes to year round sun care. They make a facial moisturizer with hyaluronic acid and a sun protection of 30 that is truly the best facial sunscreen I have ever used. It is a sheer deeply moisturizing day cream and sunblock all in one. The formulation is specifically formulated for folks sensitive to breakouts. It is a light enough moisturizer to wear under makeup or to use as your everyday moisturizer. The sunscreen is 19% zinc oxide with no-nano technology.
Devita also has a body moisturizer SPF 30, similar to the Solar Protective Moisturizer (for face) called Solar Body Moisturizer. These sunscreen moisturizers are scent free, vegan, GMO free and considered gluten sensitive safe.
Mineral Makeup can be a supplemental sunscreen on top of your regular one. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two minerals found in mineral makeups that can offer a natural sun protection of up to 15 in small amounts. These minerals are considered “physical sunscreens” meaning that they reflect the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from the skin, rather than absorbing it as do chemical sunscreens. Do NOT rely on your mineral makeup as your only form of protection!
Bless the sunshine! After the long, cold winter we endured here in Iowa, we are all ready for a little warmth and sunlight. Go into the light with care and consciousness. A diet rich in antioxidants is good for more than just your skin, it’s good for your whole being. Get some hats and protect your face. Preferably a full brimmed hat that will protect your ears and neck as well. Wear long sleeves, cover your body. Check out clothing with sun protection in it. The Chick Hatchery carries brands that offer added protection because, did you know, the sun can get through your clothes!? (Dirty sun, with your x-ray vision.) If you just can’t handle covering yourself from head to toe, get the shot glass out and fill it up with a mineral based physical sunblock and slather your beautiful self.