Your summer guide to sun protection, first aid, beach beauty, and more
Summer’s here, with its carefree days and long, leisurely evenings. But between skin cancer fears and the various bites and bruises from outdoor activity, summer fun may seem a little less jolly. Check out our total guide to preparing for sunny days—and get ready for more fun in the sun.
7 Ways to Stay Sun-Safe
A sunburn will ruin your summer fun, and set you up for wrinkles, premature aging, and skin cancer. But what’s the best way to stay protected? Follow these seven safety measures:
- Cover up. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, sunscreens aren’t the best way to prevent skin cancer; the agency recommends clothing, hats, and shade as primary barriers against UV radiation. Wear a big brimmed hat, don a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and thin cotton pants, and lounge under a beach umbrella or shady tree. Skip outside activities when the sun is directly overhead and UV radiation is at its strongest.
- Slip on shades. Sunglasses can provide protection to the skin around the eyes, as well as protect the eyes themselves from UV damage, which can cause cataracts. Look for sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVB rays and at least 95 percent of UVA rays, and choose shades with side panels. Polarized and mirror-coated lenses don’t offer any UV protection, and lenses that block blue light may not offer protection either.
- Drink green tea. It’s rich in polyphenols that prevent melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, and reduce photoaging, the damage to skin caused by sun exposure. Other sun-protective antioxidants in food have similar effects. Most protective: vitamins C, E, and A, zinc and beta-carotene, curcumin (in turmeric), resveratrol (in grape skins and red wine) and quercetin (in apples and onions). Lignans, in soy and flaxseed, help prevent the spread of melanoma.
- Slather it on, 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside. Pay special attention to vulnerable areas, like face, ears, hands and arms. Choose a waterproof brand, use it liberally and reapply after swimming. And keep reapplying, even if you don’t hit the water: studies suggest that if you apply too little sunscreen or reapply infrequently, the sunscreen itself can become harmful to the skin, causing the body to create more damaging molecules.
- Don’t rely on SPF alone. SPF (sun protection factor) measures a sunscreen’s ability to protect against UVB radiation and sunburns. It doesn’t measure protection from UVA radiation, which penetrates deep into the skin, accelerates skin aging, and causes skin cancer—so even a high-SPF product may leave you vulnerable. In fact, because they suppress burns—a sign of skin damage—high-SPF products may tempt you to stay in the sun longer. The best possible UVA protection from any sunscreen is only about 20.
- Be a daily user. A recent study found that using sunscreen daily reduced the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Wear it if you’re gardening, hiking or even sightseeing, and look for lip balm and makeup with added sun protection.
- Use safe sunscreens. Some sunscreens may do more harm than good. For example, Food and Drug Administration research suggests that retinyl palmitate, used in sunscreens, may increase the rate of skin tumors. Other ingredients, such as oxybenzone or octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC), may disrupt the endocrine system. And nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) and/or zinc oxide (ZnO) may be more harmful than larger forms; these minute chemicals are able to reach different parts of the body, cross the placenta, or cause DNA damage linked to cancer.
ASTAXANTHIN: Beauty from tip to toe
By Vera Tweed
Imagine the amount of energy wild salmon use to swim upstream to spawn, fighting against many miles of strong currents, and leaping tall waterfalls in a single bound. If you’ve ever witnessed a salmon run, you have to admit, human superheroes could learn a thing or two. What if you could harness some of that amazing power to mitigate sun damage and keep your skin beautiful?
In fact, you can, with a very strong antioxidant—astaxanthin—that helps the salmon meet the tremendous demands of its physically challenging lifestyle. Astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”) comes from algae that is an important food source for salmon—and that gives the fish its pink color. In supplements, the nutrient is extracted from the algae in a form the human body can utilize.
In skin, free radicals promote lines and wrinkles and destroy the collagen that gives young skin its elasticity. When antioxidants neutralize free radicals, they protect against damage and may also help repair it. As antioxidants go, astaxanthin is very powerful. “When it’s matched up to other antioxidants like vitamin E or vitamin C, astaxanthin turns out to be somewhere between 60 and 100 times more potent in terms of its ability to fight free radicals,” says Nicholas Perricone, MD, board certified dermatologist, researcher, anti-aging expert, and author of 11 books, most recently Forever Young: Introducing the Metabolic Diet. In addition to studying all the scientific literature on astaxanthin for more than 12 years, Perricone has personally carried out research with the supplement. Reasons why it is so powerful, he says, include: The unique structure of astaxanthin enables it to work in multiple ways in every cell. “It intersperses into the cell membrane and all parts of the cell, giving protection, so therefore it can be at the right place to protect the cells from free radicals,” says Perricone. It takes much less than a split second for a free radical to trigger inflammation, but that inflammation continues for hours or days. Astaxanthin not only neutralizes free radicals but it also stops the inflammatory process.
Get D, Safely
Dozens of recent studies have linked vitamin D intake with increased immunity and reduced risk of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, vitamin D levels in Americans have been decreasing steadily over the past two decades; a 2008 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that as many as half of all adults and children have less than optimum levels, and as many as 10 percent of children are highly deficient. The body’s main source of vitamin D is sunshine, but wearing sunscreen inhibits the skin’s production of this crucial compound.
What’s the solution? Even the experts disagree. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there’s no safe exposure to the sun, and the risks of any sun exposure outweigh the benefits. But the American Medical Association recommends 10 minutes of direct sun exposure, sans sunscreen, several times a week.
It’s hard to get adequate vitamin D from diet alone, so supplements are one answer, but there’s some controversy about the proper amount. Currently, the recommended dose of vitamin D from food and supplements is 400 IUs a day, but most experts agree that’s too low. The Institute of Medicine has launched new research to reassess the current guidelines, and is expected to raise the recommended levels, perhaps to as high as 2,000 IUs a day.
The Best Advice:
* Get your vitamin D levels tested to determine if you’re low or deficient.
* Consider spending 15 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen; better yet, take a brisk walk.
* Increase food sources of vitamin D, especially fish: a 3-oz serving of wild salmon has 500 to 1,000 IUs of D.
* Consult a skilled nutritionist or medical provider for advice on the best vitamin D supplements.
Natural First Aid Kit: 7 Essentials
Summer activities mean more chance of scrapes, burns, and bruises. Prepare yourself: fill a small nylon hip sack with natural first-aid supplies. Include adhesive bandages, alcohol, instant cold packs, tweezers and these seven essentials:
- Bach Rescue Remedy, to center and calm the emotions after trauma; a small bottle of drops is easiest to carry, or choose pastilles or spray.
- Traumeel Pain Relief Gel, for muscle and joint pain, sports injuries, bruising and strains; or look for a straight arnica gel.
- Aloe vera gel helps relieve minor sunburns, redness and chapped, irritated skin; or use a cream with
St. John’s wort, and/or comfrey.
- Calendula ointment, to relieve itching, pain, and redness from insect bites and stings.
- Florasone Cream, a natural homeopathic alternative to cortisone for itches and rashes, including poison ivy and poison oak.
- DEET-Free Buzz Away bug spray to ward off mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas, and gnats.
- Tea tree oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, and can be used on bites, stings and scrapes.
Aubrey Organics Green Tea & Ginkgo Moisturizer spf 10 combines organic green tea to prevent free radical damage with ginkgo to invigorate skin and give you a rosy glow. Jojoba oil soothes and moisturizes.
Bach Original Flower Essences Rescue Remedy has been dubbed “yoga in a bottle” for its ability to help bring you inner calm during times of stress or trauma. From travel frustrations to a sprained ankle, it works to ease emotions.
Boiron Arnica Gel. Outdoor fun can sometimes lead to minor scrapes, tumbles, or sore muscles. This homeopathic summer essential rapidly relieves trauma, muscle stiffness, and bruising.
Mill Creek Botanicals 99% Aloe Vera Gel gives you all of the amazing healing properties of pure aloe vera, plus cucumber to keep skin toned and soft. Great for sunburn, insect bites, and skin irritations.
Quantum Health Deet-Free Buzz Away Extreme keeps annoying insects away without DEET or other harmful chemicals. This convenient spray is sweat proof, waterproof, and has a pleasant aroma.