Safe sun exposure and protection isn’t just about slapping on some sunscreen; rather, it begins with a holistic approach that includes eating a wholesome, anti-inflammatory real food diet high in healthy fats and antioxidants like lycopene and astaxanthin, as well as moderating your time out in the sun for peak vitamin D production. Lastly, remember that while some sun exposure is good for you, letting your skin burn is absolutely not.
When we are going to be out in the sun for longer periods, avoiding burns is imperative.
One of the easiest and most natural ways to protect ourselves from the sun is to wear clothing instead of bare skin (cotton clothing provides around an equivalent of SPF 15), the go-to floppy beach hat and to seek shade in the form of patios, umbrellas or other overhangs.
But sometimes we’re in the water, or otherwise engaged in activities that make clothing or cover less than ideal.
The Skinny on Sunscreens
In these times, we can rely on safe, natural sunscreens. We need to make sure we seek out broad spectrum sunscreen, especially those that protect against the more damaging and deeply penetrating ultraviolet rays.
What’s wrong with conventional, store-bought sunblock?
Unfortunately, most sunscreens contain ingredients
that are unhealthy for us (read more here). These chemicals may be carcinogens or endocrine disruptors and are even implicated in increases in cases of skin cancer – the very thing they were supposed to prevent – (source), though the jury is still out on the correlation.
Certain commercial sunscreen formulations, like some aerosol sprays, now carry warnings to use extreme caution or avoid use altogether due to respiratory damage (read more here), especially with children.
Safe, Natural Sunscreens
Luckily, there are safe, natural options that help us enjoy the outdoors without worrying about skin damaging and painful burns. And new brands are coming on the scene all the time, thanks to consumer demand.
- Badger SPF 30 Broad Spectrum
- Badger Kids
- Badger Baby
- Badger Sport SPF 35
- Kabana Organic Sunscreen SPF 32
- Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc SPF 30
- California Baby SPF 30+
- Beautycounter Protect All Over
- Luminance Sun Screen
All of these have low ratings (1-2) on the EWG’s Skin Deep Database, a fantastic online database to look up cosmetics and see the rating of their ingredients based on toxicity.
Coconut oil even has a very slight SPF of about 4-5 and can be used for very light protection.
You can even make your own sunscreen lotion with coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax and zinc oxide. Grab the recipe here.
Remember to re-apply often (sometimes every hour or so) and make note of which formulations are waterproof, depending on your activities. Stay hydrated throughout the day as well.
What If You Get Too Much Sun
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can get a bit too much sun.
I have found that applying this homemade After Sun Soothing Balm makes a huge difference in how quickly my redness fades, the pain subsides and with several applications, peeling often doesn’t occur.
For additional soothing, freeze natural aloe vera gel (find it here) in ice cube trays and apply to reddened skin.
If you have a sunburn, make sure to nourish yourself with healthy anti-inflammatory foods and keep up with your water and application of soothing balms until the sunburns heals.
Quick Tips for Safer Sun Exposure
- Eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory real food diet, high in healthy fats and rich in lycopene and astaxanthin.
- You only need 10-15 minutes exposure for very light complexions and up to 2 hours for darker skin tones .
- Bare skin without sunscreen: the more skin exposed, the more rays absorbed, the shorter the timeframe necessary
- UVB exposure for Vitamin D relies on clear and sunny days, rather than cloudy, polluted days , and here’s how to optimize exposure.
- The higher the altitude, the stronger the rays, so less time is necessary
- Aim for mid-day, from 10 am-2 pm in most North American locations from late Spring throughout the Summer and into early Fall for UVB rays
- Don’t let skin burn: Sunburns are a factor in skin cancer .
- Avoid showering with heavy soap lather for a few hours after sunbathing to optimize Vitamin D absorption
Enjoy your summer and soak up all the Vitamin D you can to keep you healthy and happy for months to come.