Despite what conventional wisdom would have you believe, it is not in any way a bad thing to spend plenty of time in the sunshine – provided you don’t burn. On the contrary, it is essential to good health; it is the best (and only significant) source of Vitamin D, it ramps up serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone), and boosts your energy and your immune system. With sunshine being so crucial to a happy and healthy life, it therefore makes no sense to stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm when you could be outside enjoying nature. It is important to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet ways – but there are certainly alternatives to the chemically laden, commercial sunscreens found at your local pharmacy.
Eat your sunscreen
Food is a powerful healer, and it turns out that certain foods protect you from the sun from the inside out by boosting your skin’s natural protection against harmful UV rays. If you burn easily, try boosting your intake of the following foods:
Brightly coloured vegetables – Brightly coloured vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and capsicum (bell peppers) should be a significant part of your diet already; but if they are not, consider increasing your consumption. These vegetables in particular are a rich source of beta carotene, which has been proven to reduce sun sensitivity and sunburn intensity.
Leafy Greens – dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, chard and broccoli all contain high levels of the antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which protect the skin against free radical damage from UV rays.
Oily Fish – foods rich in omega 3, like mackerel, salmon and trout, are proven to guard against sunburn. If you’re not the biggest lover of fish, I’d strongly encourage you to take a high quality Omega 3 supplement. A healthy Omega 3: Omega 6 ratio has also proven to significantly reduce the risk of cancer.
Green tea – packed with antioxidants called EGCG’s which dramatically reduce the genetic mutations causes to skin cells by UV radiation. Try drinking Macha for an even more potent dose of these antioxidants.
Natural Sun Screen
If I'm expecting to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, to further reduce my risk of burning I will often make my own sunscreen from entirely natural ingredients. It’s easy to make, is nourishing for the skin, and you’ll smell way better than anyone else at the beach! Try the following recipe to naturally protect yourself from the sun.
1 ounce raspberry seed oil – this oil, which can be found in health food and even cook shops, has a natural SPF of approximately 30
1 ounce coconut oil – not only is it nourishing and intensely moisturising, virgin coconut oil contains an SPF of approximately 10.
2 ounces shea butter – nourishes and moisturises, and protects the skin against free radicals.
2 ounces of beeswax – emulsifies, and is naturally waterproof!
15 grams Zinc Oxide – helps to reflect the harmful UVA and UVB rays
20 drops of your favourite essential oil, such as lemon grass or ginger
In order to maintain a healthy level of tolerance to the sun, it is important that you expose yourself to it frequently (and ideally, for short periods of time.) Take your lunch outside, go on long weekend walks, or take up an outdoor sport if you have the time.
What steps do you take to enjoy the sun without burning? Have you found any effective sunscreens, without all of the chemicals?