How To Enjoy The Summer Sun Safely
Warmer weather, longer days, more relaxation, and hopefully a respite for many from what has been an incredibly challenging year. Like us, we are sure many of you can’t wait to spend more time outdoors at the beach, the lake, in the backyard, or wherever else the sun is shining brightly. Despite lots of changes one thing that has remained the same is how the sun’s harmful rays can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. From sunscreen to food, here are our tips on how to enjoy the summer sun safely and still soak it all in.
Get Better Sunscreen
As if remembering to put sunscreen on wasn’t enough, choosing the right sunscreen is just as important. And, like everything else you put in, and on, your body, sunscreen has its questionable and potentially unsafe ingredients. So, what’s a sun worshiper to do? Head to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website (ewg.org) to choose a safe and effective sunscreen.
Due to inadequate regulations governing the safety and efficacy of sunscreens, store shelves are often filled with products that either offer lousy protection, potentially dangerous ingredients, or both. According to EWG, numerous new studies have linked common sunscreen ingredients to hormone disruption including preliminary findings that oxybenzone and homosalate are unsafe for use at current levels. And what about those SPF levels…the higher the better, the right? Not necessarily so. Labels continue to confuse as independent testing finds that actual SPF values are significantly lower than what is on the bottle. This is nothing new, but be wary of SPF value claims, especially over 50, which can give you a false sense of prolonging your time in the sun without reapplication.
The good news: EWG’s annual updated guide provides a one-stop location for finding safer, more effective products/brands (and we are not just talking sunscreen, so have fun researching!). The FDA is due to propose new sunscreen regulations this fall. But, as of now, the FDA recognizes just two ingredients as safe and effective: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. EWG’s analysis of sunscreens is based on overall ingredient hazards, UVB protection, UVA protection, the balance of protection, and how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun. EWG’s list is extensive, with sunscreen for everyone. Kiss My Face (kissmyface.com) and Badger (badgerbalm.com) have helped us enjoy the summer sun safely.
Hydrate Well And Often
Summer notwithstanding, you should always aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So if you are 150 pounds, shoot for 75 ounces (at least nine 8-ounce glasses) of water daily. That said, the heat leaches water from your body in the way of sweat, and working out will take more on top of that. Increase your normal amount by several glasses to compensate for what you lose.
Water is still the best way to hydrate, and you don’t need fancy-colored beverages. Remember that those store-bought electrolyte drinks also contain lots of sugar, dyes, and additives. For a completely natural electrolyte beverage, try our recipe for Electrolyte Water below.
- 32 oz. filtered water
- 4 oz. coconut water (we like Harmless Harvest, due to its raw, unprocessed properties)
- 2 heaping tablespoons collagen powder (try Vital Proteins Collagen, which can be purchased here)
- 2 pinches Himalayan sea salt
- Add your favorite fruit, cucumbers, or herbs (mint, basil, lavender)
- Combine the above into a large pitcher and stir; add ice
- Experiment with flavors and have fun
Eat Your Sun Protection
Did you know that some foods act as internal sunscreens to mitigate the damage from UV rays? You can eat your sun protection to enjoy the summer sun safely. By fortifying the skin internally with plant-protective phytonutrients (these are the colorful pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant hues), as well as vitamins C and E, you are helping to prevent collagen damage and prevent changes to cellular DNA.
One study showed that eating lycopene-rich foods, such as tomatoes or watermelon, for 10 – 12 weeks led to reduced sensitivity toward UV-induced redness. Lycopene is a carotenoid. It, along with beta-carotene, exists in high levels in the skin, which makes them both especially good at absorbing UV rays and protecting against sun damage through their antioxidant properties.
The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil, specifically the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, might also help reduce some of the impacts of UV rays on the skin.
One review article found the greatest promise in terms of preventing nonmelanoma skin cancer came from whole foods (versus supplementation). Here are some of the best foods that have either been researched in connection with UV protection or are rich in one or more of the elements above. (Note: these recommendations are never meant to replace sunscreen—they are just an additional way you can enjoy the summer safely).
- Chocolate, especially high-flavanol cocoa
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Green leafy vegetables
- Sweet Potato
Head For The Setting Sun
It may seem like a no-brainer, but attempting to stay out of direct sunlight goes a long way towards sun protection. Try to plan outdoor activities for early morning, late afternoon, or evening to avoid peak rays. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If altering your schedule is not an option then the shade is your friend. Think of it as adding another layer between you and the brightest star. Even manufactured shade like an umbrella, a gazebo, or a tent does the body good.
Don’t Forget Your Meds
Fun in the sun can take a twist if you are unaware of the sun’s interaction with your meds. Certain medications cause dehydration, which can be particularly challenging during the summer months. Antihistamines, blood pressure meds, and chemo drugs fall into this category. Sensitivity to sunlight is a side effect of many prescription and OTC drugs. Almost all psychiatric medications, as well as certain acne and arthritis meds, can increase your sensitivity to heat and sun. Be sure to speak with your medical professional to find out if you are taking anything that could put you at greater risk of skin rashes, irritations, redness or sunburn, or hives.
When you use the right sunscreen, hydrate well, eat a variety of color-rich fruits and vegetables, seek cover, and remember to check your meds you will be in good shape to enjoy the summer sun safely.