It’s happened to all of us: you go on holiday, the sun is gracing you with its sunny presence, you get over-excited to get outside and you end up coming home an unflattering shade of fire red!
Sunburn is highly damaging to the skin and can truly affect your health, increasing the risk of skin cancer and promoting premature aging. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Never fear, sun-worshipers, I’ve got you covered with 5 ways to prep and pamper your skin for the sun this summer.
1 – Have a healthy relationship with the sun and learn what you’re up against.
What are UVA and UVB rays? Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) are the two types of sun rays that travel through the earth’s atmosphere and shine directly on your skin. In short, UVA rays can age us and UVB rays can burn us.
UVA (long wave ultraviolet A) rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer.
They are the forces behind the signs of aging, including wrinkles, sagging skin, leathery skin and sun spots.
Often we think we are safe from these rays when the sun is not blasting down on us, but these rays can come through a cloudy sky and penetrate your skin without you realising.
They are less likely to give you sunburn, that’s the UVB rays job, but they are still linked to increased risk of skin cancer.
UVB (short wave ultraviolet B) rays impact the top layer of your skin. UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin. The intensity of UVB rays vary by season, location and time of day.
These rays are the main contributors to skin cancer and are strongest between 10am and 4pm. Be especially wary during the summer months when they are much stronger.
2 – Use a natural sunscreen
Avoid toxic, chemical-laden sunscreen and choose a natural, preferably organic, option that has a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) coverage and an SPF of at least 15.
Look out for Titanium Dioxide and Zinc oxide combined. These are minerals that provide broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and deflect rays before reaching the body. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before any sun exposure and reapply often.
When looking at the SPF number on a bottle of sun cream, look at it as a measure of time. If your skin would typically burn after 10 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen with SPF 15 should allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer (150 minutes) before your skin starts to burn.
Of course please take into account what your activities are; if you are running, hiking, swimming or generally sweating a lot, you will need to reapply more often to keep the effectiveness up because it will wear off through sweat.
Pop on a hat and sunnies, cover up and keep your sunscreen applied and at hand!
3 – Stay hydrated
Ensuring you’re drinking at least 2 litres of water a day not only keeps your body hydrated, preventing dehydration and all the nasty effects of that, but it also ensures your skin is hydrated. Any burn will draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body so it is even more important to rehydrate yourself if you catch the sun at all.
Coconut water is packed with electrolytes which are mineral salts that include sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. These help to balance fluid levels in the body which is important after all the fluid loss through sweating.
It’s also loaded with antioxidants to help protect you from the damaging effects of less sleep, more sun and prolonged dehydration. Try consuming this throughout the sunny days.
Dehydration can cause thirst, reduced urination, headaches, dizziness and sleepiness, with children being especially vulnerable. Keep an eye out and make sure they stay hydrated.
Avoid caffeinated drinks such as cola, coffee or tea as these actually make you lose water, the opposite of what you are after!
4 – Eat an antioxidant rich whole food diet
Eat the rainbow!
Keep a focus on your diet and eat as much fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables as you possibly can. The more variety the better!
These colourful foods are rich in antioxidants and nutrients, and all provide you with a bunch of colour-coded health warriors to keep your health protected and your skin prepared and cared for.
These antioxidants have a natural ability to act like an internal sun cream, helping to protect against the sun’s rays and work as an anti-inflammatory, bringing down the burn should you catch the sun. See our blog Foods to Naturally Increase Your Skin’s UV Resistance here.
Do not rely entirely on your diet to protect you against sunburn, but be aware they can certainly help with reducing the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and mop up the damages caused by them.
The more of these health-boosting antioxidants and nutritional foods your body receives and absorbs, the more effective and efficient your body will be at dealing with the negative effects of too much exposure to the sun, or the dreaded sun burn.
Juice them, blend them, make superfood salads, raw treats and everything in between!
So what antioxidants should I eat and where do they come from?
Berries and stone fruits contain many things to tout about, but one vitamin in particular to give praise to is Vitamin C.
Not only does Vitamin C boost your immune system, this amazing antioxidant has the power to protect the skin from harmful damaging free-radicals from sun damage and environmental factors. High levels of vitamin C can help reduce free radical damage caused by exposure to UV radiation.
Vitamin C is also needed collagen production thus it will help encourage plump, firm tight youthful skin.
Get your daily dose in the form of sweet strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries, peaches, nectarines, plum and apricots, and super food powders Camu Camu, baobab and Amla Berry.
The antioxidant lycopene has been shown to protect the skin against sunburn by blocking UV light and ridding the body of free radicals.
Find this antioxidant in tomatoes (particularly Heirloom), red bell peppers, pink grapefruit, watermelons and papaya.
Beta-carotene is another antioxidant that has natural sunscreen properties. You can find it in red and orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, mango and apricots.
Green and black teas are both packed with polyphenols that have been shown to block DNA damage as a result of the sun.
They can also help to reduce the redness of sunburn should you have burned. Try it in tea bags, tea leaves or for a super punch of antioxidants, try it in Matcha tea.
Matcha can be consumed as a hot tea or combined with lime and mint leaves and made into an iced tea. It can also be added to smoothies or homemade ice creams. See our previous blog on How to Make Matcha Tea here.
Two other important sources of polyphenols come in pomegranate seeds, shown to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB free radicals, and Acai berries, which have the added benefit of also being rich in essential fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9.
Incredibly high in antioxidants, they are powerful oxidisers and natural anti-inflammatories. These antioxidants can help our cells fight against environmental stressors and toxins, helping to reduce the negative effect of our daily exposure to harmful oxidising elements.
Look for kale, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion greens and mustard greens, as well as fresh herbs like parsley, basil, sage and rosemary; all packed with free-radical-fighting, skin-protecting antioxidants.
Spirulina and chlorella are two micro-algaes that are packed with minerals and nutrients. They also contain the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been shown to protect the skin and eyes against UV radiation.
5 – Ouch! I missed a spot…
Maybe you missed a spot when you were applying your sun cream, or maybe you stayed out a little too long in the sun. Here are some helpful tips to recover your skin’s health.
Since antioxidants help reduce inflammation and free radicals, loading your diet with them will go a long way against sunburn and skin damage as a result of UV rays. However, internal therapy can only go so far.
Topically, you can try the following:
Either fresh off the plant, or in a bottle, Aloe vera is your best friend when it comes to relieving sunburn. It can help bring the heat and sting out your burn and bring moisture and nutrients to the skin.
Apple cider vinegar
To take the heat out from sun-damaged skin, gently apply raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. The ingredient malic acid is a very effective pain reducer so apply as often as needed to the affected area.
Other options include coconut oil, avocado oil, calendula lotions, mashed up cucumber and green tea (more commonly used on the face) as well as antioxidant rich rosehip oil
In between packing your flip flops and swimming costume, don’t forget to throw a few of these items in your bag before you go to meet the sun. Your skin will thank you for it.
So there we have it! Now you have my 5 Ways to Prep (and Pamper!) Your Skin for Sun.
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of organic food, wholesome pantry essentials, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, natural skincare, waste free and eco-friendly products. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention