Summer fun brings with it outdoor activities, fresh air, and lots of sun! Sunshine can be great for our entire system because our bodies use it to create immune boosting, mood balancing 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.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 the perfect suncscreen is the Environmental Working Group 2013 Guide to Safer Sunscreens.
2. 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.
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 healthfood store.
2. Oat Bath. Another trick to soothing sensitive burned skin is a bath in cool oat water. You’ll need a cheese cloth to hold the oats. Draw a small amount of hot water in the tub to steep the oats (or do it separately with boiling water in a small pot which you can later add to the cold bath water). Let the oats sit for 10-15 min and then add cold water until you reach the cool temperature that feels most comfortable for you. The oats will sooth the dry cracking skin and the cool temperature will help to reduce inflammation.
3. 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.