Summertime means lots of sunshine, plenty of time outdoors and, unfortunately, sunburn, dry skin and other seasonal-related skin issues for many of us. Protecting yourself from harsh UV rays is not only important for avoiding the pain and redness of a burn but to prevent premature aging and to support your skin's health, in general. So before you head outdoors, be sure to brush up on these summer skin care basics.
Thanks to widespread education and reports such as this one produced by the Environmental Working Group, it's well-known that the majority of sunscreens on the market contain questionable chemical ingredients.
Some names you'll see on bottle labels include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also often found in products made with mineral oil. These chemicals have been linked to health concerns over the years, leading many people to seek other, more natural options.
With skin cancer risks and rates increasing over the years, many companies have increased the sun protection factor (SPF) of their products and expanded their lines to offer many different types of sun protection products. But with these options come more questions and, sometimes, more questionable ingredients. When browsing selections of sunscreens you might think, "Should I go for the highest SPF? Is a spray, lotion or stick better? Are there better, natural alternatives? Is any sun exposure actually good for me?"
As a nutritionist and wellness expert, these are just some of the most common questions I get from women, so I’d like to share five of my best skin-saving summer tips to help you avoid unwanted chemical exposure while staying safe in the sun.
Say hello to natural, beautiful (and protected!) skin this summer--it’s easier than you think!
1. Avoid peak hours for sun exposure
If you’re going to be outside before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m., your needs for sun protectant go way down because the sun isn’t at its peak during those hours.
Sunlight before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. can also trigger your body’s natural circadian rhythm to flow with that of the sun, which is a great thing for your biological clock and sleep schedule.
If you still want to play it safe and wear a protective sunscreen during those hours, or you’ll be out all day long into the evening, go with a light option that doesn’t use chemicals and is made from plants. I like sunscreen options by Alba Botanica since they’re free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and are cruelty-free.
2. Tan safely with coconut oil-based products
Gone are the days of slathering up with mineral oil to get a great tan, but there are some oils that offer protective benefits for your skin during the summer months and allow you to catch some rays too. And one of those oils is the almighty coconut oil.
Coconut oil is a fantastic oil to use for almost anything, including for your skin while enjoying summertime fun outdoors or regular tanning. However, it’s even better to choose a lotion made with coconut oil so your skin doesn’t burn or dry out (they’re also less greasy!).
Coconut oil offers skin-protective ingredients and even contains natural anti-bacterial components too. If you’re going to be lying out in the sun to tan, I suggest choosing a coconut oil-based suntan oil with a little touch of SPF, just to be safe. Plus, you’ll love the tropical scent that coconut oil brings; it can even be used as a healthy hair protectant too!
3. Protect yourself from pests with natural solutions
No one like bug bites, but there’s no avoiding the fact that buzzing, flying and stinging critters are a part of summertime fun, too. Be smart this year and stay away from chemical deterrents, such as conventional bug sprays that keep pests away, such as citronella candles and chemical-laden sprays.
Did you know that many essential oils deter bugs more powerfully than chemical options? Keep those mosquitos and spiders away with orange, lemon, and grapefruit essential oil. Most bugs also hate tea tree, sage, and peppermint essential oil.
You can easily add these natural oils to an essential oil diffuser to keep outside if you’re having a party, or you can add a drop or two to your favorite lotion to spread on your body. Choose a scent option that you enjoy and keep those bugs and bites away the safe way!
4. Eat foods rich in vitamins A and C
Vitamins A and C protect your skin, naturally, and it’s always best to get those nutrients from your food first. Besides their well-known roles in fighting skin-damaging free radicals, these nutrients also help support collagen production and maintenance in skin.
Choose from these delicious foods to get your fill of vitamins A and C all summer long: mango, cantaloupe, kale, parsley, spinach, romaine, pineapple, strawberries, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, and berries. Eat them raw, in salads, with your breakfast, lunch or dinner, and feel free to toss several into your favorite smoothie!
5. Don’t forget your omegas
Omega-3 fatty acids and certain omega-6 fatty acids also help protect your skin from the sun. The best options to choose when it comes to omega-rich foods are cold-milled flax seed or freshly ground flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. Wild fish is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains the beneficial components of omega-3s known as EPA and DHA. (If eating fish, just be sure it is wild-caught and carefully sourced to avoid mercury exposure.)
Hemp seeds and acai berry also contain healthy amounts of omega-6 fats that are not inflammatory like omega-6 fats found in refined vegetable oils, such as corn and soybean oil.
Don’t forget that natural sunlight is the best source of vitamin D which is essential to a healthy colon, a healthy brain, a healthy heart, and the maintenance of healthy bones. So try not to be so concerned with SPF factors and skin protectants that you forget Mother Nature’s natural gift to us through sunlight. Too much sun can be a harmful thing, but a little sun on your skin and face will go a long way towards enhancing your health and keeping you feeling great!
For more options, check out all the sun-safe products offered at Vitacost for all your skincare needs this summer. There’s a variety to choose no matter what your age or skin needs are!