Sunscreen and Your Skin

There is no better place to learn the facts about skin health and sunscreen than in sunny San Diego. One blistering sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of melanoma. Five sunburns at any age doubles the risk of melanoma, as well. Lighter skin tones are more likely to burn than darker skin tones and thus have higher cancer risks. Skin is our largest organ and is important for making Vitamin D. We need to value and protect this most important element.

Prevention is the best first step:

Avoid direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm. Do your outside stuff outside of these hours. Consider long sleeve cotton shirts that breathe and help keep you cool. Hats are not only protective against the sun’s rays but, if it is a wide brim, it helps circulate pollen and other allergens away from the face and lessens your pollen intake.

Protect with sunscreen:

Using sunscreen properly will help yield protective benefits. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before getting into the sun so it can be absorbed. Re-apply every 2-3 hours. Choosing a sunscreen without chemicals can be tricky and you may feel you need to be a chemist to understand the ingredients. Sunscreen companies are unregulated since it is something we don’t ingest. This means many sunscreens on the market have chemicals that will increase the risk of skin cancer rather than protecting us. Look for natural products that block both UVA and UVB since both rays cause different kinds of cancer. An SPF of 30 is adequate. In fact, studies show higher SPF is not necessarily protective.

Use natural products:

I am partial to a local product from Miracle Clay’s product line called Eco Natural Sunscreen, which fits all these criteria and all the ingredients are fairly recognizable. Zinc oxide, often found in diaper creams such as Weleda products, is a long time sunscreen favorite as it is the only sunscreen considered safe for babies 6 months and under. Shea butter can also be used and has anti-inflammatory attributes. Some small studies have found applying white or green tea to the skin 15 minutes before sun exposure decreases cell death and inflammation in the skin. Grape seed constituents in the extract and Nicotinamide can be helpful when added to a sunscreen. Vitamin C is a better additive than Vitamin E, but they work best when combined. Many natural sunscreens work very well for normal sun exposure. However, if you are planning some extreme exposure to sun, you will need to weigh the damage of the sun with chemicals on the skin. Almost all chemicals are known to cause cancer but titanium dioxide is still under scrutiny and may be a lesser evil.

Try some preventions:

If you are planning on a vacation or spending a couple days in the sun, fresh carrot juice can prevent sunburn by increasing the protective carotenoids in your skin. Antioxidants in berries and veggies can help with quick repair of cells. Drinking 18 ounces of green or white tea daily over 12 weeks decreases skin damage. Citrus peel and hot black tea, not iced, drunk over 12 weeks, decreased SCC incidence. Astaxanthin also can protect the skin, and is found in Salmon, red vegetables and some supplements. A few of these steps can easily be incorporated into sunny lives.

Apply first aid:

What are your options if you do get burned in the sun? First, it is not too late to put sunscreen on if you just realized that you may be burned. If the cells are just starting to die, they can still get some nutrients and anti-inflammatory elements to protect them. Bathing in green or white tea can help, while diluted white vinegar can help alleviate the pain. Providing skin with food and good internal nourishment can help with quick repair of the cells. Homeopathic remedies can be very protective, too. The most common remedies are Cantharis and Belladonna.