Summer; we all welcome the longer, warmer and sunnier days, feeling freer in less clothing, enjoying the feel of the sun on our skin, days at the beach, barbies with our friends, picnics with our families. And along with this, is the hazard of the summer sun, the sunburn. There isn’t any way we can tell if we are getting burnt; UV light cannot be seen or felt. The reddish look of ‘sunburn’ is caused by blood vessels swelling around the damaged cells to allow blood to flow and repair the area. “Peeling’ is when there is so much damage that the body attempts to shed the affected cells.
So what do we do?
We all know these days to stay out of the midday sun, and cover up or wear sunscreen between the hours of 9-5, maybe even 6. But then comes the topic of sunscreen itself; not all sunscreens are made the same, and there’s a lot of evidence our there to suggest some are doing you more harm than good.
Sunscreens work in 2 different ways: they either provide a physical barrier or a chemical barrier. Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which mainly work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UVA rays away from the skin. Chemical sunscreen contains organic (carbon-based) compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Unfortunately, oxybenzone can cause high rates of skin allergy and both oxybenzone and octinoxate are considered to have endocrine disrupting activities and could reduce sperm count in men and could contribute to reproductive and endocrine disturbances in women. They can also kill coral and damage coral reefs and for this reason they will be banned in Hawaii in 2021.
So what should you look for in a sunscreen? If you spend hours out in the sun and sea, like I do I suggest buying a high SPF mineral zinc block to your face. My favourite is Avasol, its SPF comes from Zinc and Titanium Dioxide (only the SPF 50) and it includes plant oils such as coconut, cacao, jojoba and shea, which contain natural SPF as well as providing healing, moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties to your skin. Avasol is also cleverly packaged in a biodegradable cardboard container. To put on your body or your face if you are not spending heaps of time in the water, I usually look for something a bit thinner and easier to spread. My go to for this is the Oasis Sun, which has been given the seal of approval by the NZ Eczema Association.
How else can we prevent sun damage?
Thankfully, nature has provided us with natural supplements that can protect ourselves internally from the sun.
· Astanxanthin is a carotenoid pigment found in algae. It is a powerful antioxidant and really beneficial to the skin as it helps protect against sun damage, increases skin elasticity and improves the moisture of the skin. It also helps recovery from exercise so doubly beneficial for all that outdoor activity that you do in summer.
· Fish oils- A high quality, fresh and pure fish oil works for skin health in two ways. Firstly the omegas 3’s are incorporated into the cell membranes and keep them fluid, hydrated and more resistant to sun damage and secondly they are anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce any inflammation caused by excess sun exposure.
· Collagen is a protein is that makes the structural parts of our body; skin, hair, bones, nails, joints, tendons and ligaments. Collagen supplementation can help our skin regenerate and repair after sun damage. Again it has the two fold benefit of helping our skin repair, but also repairing our tendons, ligaments and bones to keep us strong.
So get outside and enjoy, get your vitamin D intake and fresh air, but remember to care for your skin as well.