What If You DO Want Sunscreen?

Welcome to July! I hope you had a great holiday weekend, and didn’t splurge TOO badly!

Last post, I talked about one natural way of vamping up your body’s natural ability to protect itself from sun damage. And I hope you arr trying to incorporate more orange and red produce items into your diet because of it.

But, all that aside, if you DO decide sun screen is a protective measure you want to take, you’re in luck! There IS a way to sort through the plethora of products, the bundle of bottles, the lists of lotions, the overabundance of options! The work has already been done for you! *Whew!*

That wonderful group, the Environmental Working Group, has tamed the chaos and researched the safety of the different products.

The number one protective product out there….(drum roll, pleeeeze)… shirt and hat!

Yup, EWG says “The best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No chemicals to absorb through the skin, no questions about whether they work.”

Ok, ok – before you start chucking tomatoes at me (hmmmm, actually, go ahead and chuck! That’s some good natural sunscreen stuff!) here is their information:

EWG says you want a product that will protect you from both UV-A and UV-B sun rays while having as few chemical toxins as possible. Top products will contain either zinc or titanium minerals to help cut UV-A exposure, and Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX are also good ingredients to look for. These items are less likely to be absorbed by your skin into your body. You want to avoid Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), or products that also include insect repellent. Oxybenzone works like a synthetic estrogen that is more readily absorbed by the skin and will contaminate your body! Yuck! Protect yourself from that! The Vitamin A, while wonderful if part of a whole food and ingested, really doesn’t need to be spread on your skin for sun protection. It doesn’t actually help anything, but it’s a wonderful marketing ploy. And the bug repellent would just be another slew of chemicals on your body.  Instead, get a separate bug repellent if you absolutely need it, and put it on before the sun screen.

EWG recommends creams rather than sprays or powders. Creams will last longer, meaning fewer applications and thus less toxic exposure. With sprays and powders, you may end up inhaling some chemicals, and, well, we’re trying to AVOID getting gunk in your body! As for those ultra SPFs? Again – not worth it. EWG states “Anything higher than “SPF 50+” can tempt you to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburn but not other kinds of skin damage. FDA says these numbers are misleading.”

So that gives you an idea of what to look for, and what guidelines EWG is using: “Our top-rated sunscreens all contain the minerals zinc or titanium. They are the right choice for people who are looking for the best UVA protection without any sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor. None of the products contain oxybenzone or vitamin A and none are sprayed or powdered.” You can see their complete listing here but here are some of their top choices, in alphabetical order:

  • California Baby – Sunblock Stick, No Fragrance, SPF 30+
  • Loving Naturals – Sunscreen SPF 30+
  • Purple Prairie Botanicals – SunStuff SPF 30 and Sun Stick SPF 30
  • Soleo Organics – All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+, Soleo Organics/Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+, and Soleo Organics/Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+
  • Thinkbaby and Thinksport – Sunscreen SPF 30+
  • UV Natural – Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+ and Sunscreen Sport SPF 30+

They also provide a list of non-mineral options for those who want to avoid zinc or titanium or don’t like the feel or scent of standard sunscreen. The say there is a trade-off, though. “All non-mineral products contain at least one sunscreen chemical considered to be a potential hormone disruptor, and many offer only moderate or weak UVA protection.” But that same link from above (click here) also gives that listing.

There it is! Less dangerous, more natural sun protection if you want it. They may not be easy to find sometimes, but check with your area natural food stores, or you can always order online.

Here’s hoping July is a wonderful month, full of health and love!

Natural Sun Protection

pic courtesy of David Besa

As the sun starts beating down, many of us dream of some good, relaxing sun-filled afternoons. And the media pelts us with two sides of the issue: sunscreen.

One side proclaims that we need to let the sun come. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, and the sun is a way to naturally trigger your body’s production.

On the other side, too much sun may put you at risk for skin cancer.

What, oh what, is a person to do?

Eat tomatoes, of course!

Several studies have been done looking at protecting the skin via diet, and what components may offer protection. Antioxidants are, of course, an important component in health, maintaining skin integrity and cell health – keeping you healthy and younger looking. But some studies are looking more at something a tad more specific than that.

One study had participants eat tomato paste daily for 4 or 10 weeks, and saw less erythema, or reddening of the skin when exposed to UV light in BOTH groups. Yup, less propensity towards burning by 35%! Nice!

You probably don’t need to be slurping paste – they were using that in their study, but they noticed higher levels of serum lycopene and total carotenoids in the skin – things that you can raise through any form of tomato intake (the deeper the red, the better), and pushing some of your other orange foods, too – like carrots and squash. If you go with ketchup – a staple during the wonderful grilling season – see if you can find Organic. It has been found to far surpass conventional ketchup for lycopene content.

Whichever form, DO try to combine it with a little bit of healthy fat as this will help you absorb more of the fat-soluble carotenoids. In fact, selenium, a mineral found in Brazil nuts, has ALSO been shown to have sun-protective effects.

At the University of Dundee in Scotland, another study was done looking at phytochemicals as protectors. They were looking at phytochemicals with fun ‘n’ fancy names like alkaloids, flavonoids, carotnoids, and isothiocyanates. “These phytochemicals have been consumed by humans for many centuries as part of plant-rich diets and are presumed to be of low toxicity, an essential requirement for a chemoprotective agent. Mechanistically, they affect multiple signalling pathways and protect against UV radiation-inflicted damage by their ability to act as direct and indirect antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory agents.” So some of their excitement is in the fact these are all plant-based components – which means more natural and pretty darn hard to overdose on! (Now don’t any of you run off and drink 5 straight gallons of tomato juice just to prove I’m wrong! BALANCED EATING, my friends!)

So in the study, they turn to produce for these phytochemicals. Cool bonus? Unlike sunscreen, which – in blocking your skin from the UV light – blocks your body’s ability to synthesize much-needed vitamin D, protection from foods “is comprehensive, long-lasting, and unlikely to cause pro-oxidant effects or interfere with the synthesis of vitamin D.”

There are a slew of other foods that can also offer you protection from the potential damage caused by UV sunlight: raspberries and blueberries, cherries, and citrus all contain various health properties. Green tea and its epigallocatechins block damage. Keep up with your fresh food – you never know when another study will come out showing other benefits to produce.

So rather than slathering yourself with chemical-packed sunscreens (and your skin – your largest organ – just loooves to absorb things that are rubbed on it) make sure you’re keeping a good, steady supply of lycopene- and carotenoid-rich foods in your daily consumption even before beach-season.

Well, ok, not too rich – if your skin starts getting slightly red-orange even before hitting the beach, you may have had more than ya need! But don’t worry – “lycopenodermia,” when your skin takes on a deep orange discoloration, is a harmless, reversible coloring that lessens if you cut back on your lycopene intake.

Of course, always remember – YOU know YOU best! If you have fair skin, weigh the cost/benefits of diet and sunscreen. Perhaps with some precautions, you can just use less or lower powered sunscreen, for example, and less chemically hazardous ones. Burnt-dead skin is not a pleasant feeling.

Later, I’ll post a little bit about picking a sunblock should you choose one.  But for now, go enjoy a few minutes of sunlight.

Skin-so-Smooth(ie)

This is a smoothie that has some great benefits for your skin.  First, the recipe, and then, for you with the interest, the scientificy-geeky details that I love about WHY this is such a great drink to include in your collection. (Though high in natural fruit-sugar, so plan accordingly)

Skin So Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Skin So Smoothie

  • 3 c. grapes (organic red grapes with seeds are best)
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 collard green leaves, de-stemmed
  • 1 c. spinach (or more!)
  • 1 Tbs flax oil

Directions

Throw it all in a blender, and blend it all! Add ice to chill, if preferred.

Recipe from http://www.DublinDietitian.com

And those promised Geek-tails (details for the food geek):

 

Nutrition Details:

Seeded Grapes: So many benefits in that red skin! And I could probably do an entire post about the health properties. But for today, I’m looking at the grape seeds. The oil in grape seeds is commonly found in facial products because of its beautifying benefits. I talked with a woman who makes her own soaps, trained by her Cherokee grandmother who was a medicine woman for her tribe. She says “You are right about the grapeseed oil. It is VERY good for your skin, hair, nails. It is one of the 11 oils that go into my lotions for its healing properties.” So can you get these benefits by ingesting rather than applying topically? Absolutely! Beauty really does start from the inside, and can be compounded by the products you use on the outside. Grape seeds and skins also are anti-microbial, helping your pores and cells stay healthy. Additionally, grapes are rich in antioxidants which will help protect your skin from aging oxidative damage to the cells (read: fine lines, wrinkles, and less firmly toned skin.  No fun!) They are also rich in manganese, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and promotes optimal functioning of your thyroid gland.

Lemons: rich in enzymes, they also help stimulate your liver function; and your liver is one of your main organs to rid your body of waste and toxins, and burn fat. They are also packed with the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C. And the Mayo Clinic states that research suggests a diet rich in vitamin C may promote younger looking skin.

Collard Greens (or Kale) and Spinach: These are rich in vitamin A, which is very important to skin health. It helps with tissue repair, and the formation of skin-tightening collagen and elastin, fibers that help support skin structure. And collards, being from the same family as kale, have strong properties that help your liver naturally detoxify your body.

Flax Oil: Rich in omega-3s and omega-6s in a healthy balance, these essential fatty acids (EFAs) are beneficial for many parts of your body. One of those benefits being healthy skin. EFAs help with healthy cell membranes, which helps the cells no only work as a barrier for harmful things, but to allow nutrients to cross, and let waste out of the cells. It also will help hold the healthy waters in, keeping cells hydrated and firm.

And of course, the whole beverage is from water-rich produce, so that adds extra hydration to your body, keeping joints, eyes, cell, and everything supple and lubricated. The healthier you are inside, the more it will show outside!

But it does take time. You won’t notice huge changes overnight, as your body is going to be more concerned with healing your inner cells first. But over time, you will notice your outward appearance picking up the healthy, youthful glow.

Drink up, and keep that hydration going!

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Blackberry Bursting Smoothie

Blackberry Bursting Smoothie
2 c spinach
2 c romaine
1/2 cucumber
1 tbs flax oil
1.5 c red grapes
6oz blackberries
ice

Antioxidant PACKED! Along with the wonderful, cool hydrating effects of the cucumber, the skin-healing properties of red grapes, and the omega-rich benefits of flax oil

The blackberries actually turned this green smoothie into a beautiful burgundy!

If you have still been hesitant to try a smoothie, I recommend using blackberries or pineapple as a base – they have potent sweetness that helps to overcome “greeness.” And just start with some spinach, as it is less flavor-bursting green than Romaine and other leafies.

Have fun and give a smoothie a try!