Throughout these hot summer months, it’s not uncommon to see picnic baskets packed full of snacks & drinks, and probably accompanied with a bottle of sunscreen or so. While it is important to protect your skin from the suns rays, many of the common brands of sunscreen can be full of carcinogenic ingredients.
The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database: SkinDeep is a great resource for determining the “toxicity” of the ingredients in all sorts of personal care items. Not only do they look at sunscreens, but also shampoo, nail polish, toothpaste, baby products & more.
The best way to protect yourself from a sunburn is to understand how it happens. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning any excess that the body absorbs (as one would on a sunny day) is not excreted via the urine as a water soluble vitamin like C or B’s would be. When the body absorbs vitamin D at a rate faster than it can process it, the excess is excreted via the skin. I’m sure you’ve heard someone tell you that if you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange? The high levels of vitamin A (fat soluble) in carrots are also excreted via the skin in the same way.
Okay, so to recap: a “sunburn” is really just extra vitamin D that the body can’t use fast enough being pushed out through the skin (where it came in). So how can you prevent this from happening?
Your body needs other micronutrients to be able to process the vitamin D as it enters through the skin, so increasing these will aid the body in retaining and being able to use more of the vitamin D you’re exposing your skin to.
After spending any more than a few minutes in the sun, a good dose of antioxidants will help your skin recover from the oxidative stress. Vitamins A, C & E are what you’re looking for and can be found in high amounts in: yams, carrots, spinach, papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, sunflower seeds & almonds. Yum! Lycopene, which is another antioxidant found in fruits & veggies that are red in color such as tomatoes & watermelon is also especially helpful for sun exposure.
It’s also a good idea to spend a little more time in the shade on very sunny days when the UV index is above 5, and especially between 11:00-4:00 in the afternoon. Covering up with clothing is a far better alternative to covering your skin with a chemical soup.
Also worth considering, is that people who follow a Raw Food Diet have reported not burning when spending extended periods of time in the sun v.s. people on a Standard American Diet under the same circumstances. Rawmazing is a great place to begin looking into incorporating more raw foods into your diet. You can also check out “Eat Raw, Eat Well” By Doug McNish for fantastic raw food recipes.
Enjoy your summer!
-Kristin Overton, RHN