With summer upon us, most of us are eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine at last. However, as we all know very well, sunburn poses a serious threat in the summer months. While the immediate effects of minor pain and redness are merely temporary, your risk of skin cancer increases drastically with each sunburn, as does your likelihood of getting wrinkles and an uneven complexion. To protect yourself from the sun, go for a natural fix.
Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O., a New York City Osteopathic Physician board-certified in family and anti-aging medicine, suggests the following natural solutions to relish the sunshine without sacrificing your wellbeing:
1. Pay attention to the timing of your sun exposure
Peak sunburn hours are around 11:00-2:00 (or more broadly, 10:00-4:00), so if you’re planning on spending a prolonged period of time outdoors, aim to do so earlier or later in the day than this time frame. Additionally, limiting your time in the sun is beneficial, as people of all skin complexions can absorb maximum vitamin D from the sun within an hour, and for fair-skinned people it can take as little as 10 minutes. Smaller segments of time in the sun will decrease risk of burn. Plus, as your skin gets darker over the summer through short increments, your skin will acquire an increased tolerance to the sun’s rays and you will be able to spend more time in the sun sans damage.
2. Defend your skin from the inside out
Many people do not know that what you eat has a massive impact on your skin’s reaction to sunshine. Build up reserves of powerful antioxidants in your body with a varied, healthy diet in the warm months. Green tea, tomatoes, red wine, fatty fish like salmon, almonds, citrus fruits, and greens all contain vitamins and antioxidant phytochemicals that can support the skin’s response to UV rays and greatly impede skin damage. As a general guideline, focus on colorful, whole foods and avoid refined oils and processed foods to maximize the skin’s response to the sun.
3. Keep your skin moisturized prior to sun exposure
Hydrated skin is healthy skin. Apply moisturizer before going outside in the sun to make sure your skin is in its most prime state to defend itself and not get dry, red, and damaged. Keep in mind, moisturizer is not enough in itself to prevent skin damage, but as an added measure, it can be very effective.
4. Check your medications
Many common medications, both prescription and OTC, can increase your skin’s susceptibility to irritation and damage from the sun. These include, painkillers like ibuprofen, antibiotics, antidepressants, and acne medications, among others. Check your medication’s labels to ensure that it is safe to be in the sun while on them.
5. Consider wearing light clothing
You do not need to have all of your skin exposed to enjoy the summer’s warmth and sunshine. Wearing loose clothing made with light fabrics like cotton or linen protects the skin from damage while allowing you to stay cool. Don’t forget your sunglasses, and you can enjoy the sun in comfort, style, and great health.
6. If you do want to use an over-the-counter sunscreen, go for a mineral-based one, rather than a chemical-based one.
Mineral-based sunscreens include those that are zinc oxide- or titanium dioxide-based. These reflect, rather than absorb, the sunlight and seem to be safer than their chemical-based counterparts. As a rule of thumb, 15-30 SPF is as much protection as you need. Furthermore, the more familiar the ingredients are in your sunscreen, the better it probably is for your skin. Look for ones enriched with vitamins, natural extracts, and other antioxidants. These can greatly improve your skin’s response to potential UV damage.