With all this beautiful weather and summer upon us, many people are spending time outdoors enjoying the sun.
And let’s face it, after being cooped up for the winter, many of us may even be overdoing time in the sun!
While most experts are finally agreeing that sunshine has its health benefits, it’s still vitally important to practice a healthy balance of sun exposure and sun protection.
Healthy Sun Exposure Has Great Benefits
When it comes to health and healing, I recommend that everyone spend at least 10 minutes in the sun per day (without sunscreen) as the best way to keep your serum vitamin D at optimum levels for good health.
Why Healthy Sun Protection Is Critical Too
But what do you do when beautiful weather arrives and you want to be outside all day? How do you protect your skin from the sun?
This question comes up a lot because of the sunscreen controversy in natural health circles today. The thing is, most sunscreens on the market have toxic chemicals that are harmful to your health. And if you’ve been reading our newsletters and articles, we’re certain you really care about creating your best health.
Choosing a good sunscreen is just as important as choosing good, healthy, toxin free foods. After all, your skin eats everything you put on it!
In fact, toxic chemicals from sunscreen absorb straight into your skin and ruin your health by disrupting your hormonal systems and increasing the production of free radicals.
Let’s discuss skin protection for those times when you are in the sun for more than 40 minutes or there is a possibility of sunburn based on the intensity of the sunlight.
Top Sunscreen Ingredients to AVOID
Shopping for the best sunscreen can be confusing at best. Here’s are sunscreen ingredients to avoid:
- Spray or Powdered Suntan Lotion with Micronized and Nano-Scale Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide –Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection and while these ingredients have not been found to penetrate healthy skin, powder and spray products are often inhaled. You can actually inhale these small particles and they can potentially damage your lungs. European companies are already phasing out the use of these products.
- Oxybenzone – a widely utilized ingredient that rates poorly due to high absorption through skin, high rates of allergic reactions, and growing concerns about hormone disruption
Animal studies indicate oxybenzone has estrogenic effects. Numerous other studies have linked oxybenzone to hormone disruption, cell damage, and cancer.
- Fragrance –it is always best to avoid fragrances unless they are plant based. Unfortunately, a loophole in federal law doesn’t require companies to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals that a single product’s fragrance mixture could contain.
- Parabens (Methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben, Isoparaben, etc.) – a common preservative used in sunscreens. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, and some studies show it plays a role in the development of breast cancer and urogenital abnormalities.
- Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate or OMC) – this common ingredient in sunscreens has estrogenic effects, causes disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signaling and reacts when exposed to sunlight.
- Octisalate – a penetration enhancer that may increase the amount of other ingredients passing through the skin.
- Avobenzone – an unstable ingredient that breaks down in to unknown chemicals in sunlight.
- Octocrylene –produces free radicals in UV light, like sunlight.
- Homosalate –a weak hormone disruptor that forms toxic metabolites.
- Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid) – known to produce free radicals in sunlight, causes DNA damage and may cause cancer.
- Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl PABA / PABA Ester) –a paba derivative, releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity and causes allergic reactions in some people.
- Menthyl Anthranilate – produces free radicals and has been banned in Europe and Japan.
If your own health isn’t reason enough to avoid these ingredients, do it for the sake of our oceans. National Geographic presented a theory where they implicate toxic chemicals from sunscreen in the death of coral reefs around the world.
So How Do You Protect Your Skin From Too Much Sun?
There are healthier sunscreens and I am going to share my favorites with you. But first, it’s important to know that what you eat actually has more importance on your skin health than you think!
Eat For Sun Protection
Sun protection starts from the inside because what you eat can naturally protect your skin from the sun. Here are two great examples of how you can nourish yourself to better skin:
- Antioxidants– a diet rich in antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lycopene and selenium has been shown to protect your skin from sun damage.
The reason for this is because antioxidants fight the free radicals from the sun’s UV light. These free radicals contribute to cell damage, aging and the risk of skin cancer. 
A study in 2007 showed that the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids can reduce skin sensitivity to the sun.
If you want to get carotenoids, eat your carrots, kale, spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, papaya and tomatoes. Flavonoids can be found in foods like apples, pears, berries, black beans, cabbage and parsley.
- Probiotics – live good bacteria, called probiotics, can contribute to skin health by enhancing your digestion (for example, you can eat antioxidants, but if you can’t digest them well, you won’t get their full benefits!) and reducing systemic inflammation.
A study published in 2010 found that a supplement containing probiotic and carotenoids reduced skin damage from UV light.
Consuming probiotic foods, drinks and supplements http://store.pbhealthcenter.com/category_s/14.htm) can have many benefits for your overall health!
So is diet alone good enough for sun protection? Well, it helps, but I also recommend choosing an all-natural sunscreen for added protection.
Choose Healthy, Natural Sunscreens
Here are some of my favorite all-natural sunscreens:
- Zinc Oxide – a physical sun blocker similar to oxybenzone, but without the toxic side effects.
- Sun Defense Minerals by Emnence Organics – provides intense SPF 30 sun protection in the form of a make-up powder. The tinted powder is sweat-proof and water-resistant, hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory. Plus it is naturally anti-bacterial and will not clog your pores. Eminence does a great job with sustainable packaging too for an extra bonus!
- Tomato Suntan Lotion (SPF 22) by Organic Skincare – filters the sun’s harmful rays with tomato and other natural ingredients like sesame oil, carrot, aloe and titanium dioxide. The handpicked, organically grown ingredients are rich with body beautifying and protecting antioxidants like lycopene, bioflavonoids, and carotenoids.
- Antioxidant Sun Butter Level 18 Sunblock Cell Protection by ISun Organic Skincare – blends mango seed butter with zinc oxide and Phytoplankton Phytolyase enzymes into a butter that not only guards against sunburns, but also repairs damged skin.
- SPF 30+ Sunscreen No Fragrance by California Baby – this sunscreen isn’t just for babies! California Baby is safe for sensitive skin, free of artificial scents, and has no irritating chemicals while still providing UVA-UVB broad-spectrum protection. California Baby is also very conscious to use earth friendly packaging.
It All Comes Down to 3 Easy Steps
For a worry-free summer, follow these 3 easy steps:
- Keep your skin sunscreen free for a short period (about 10 minutes), so you can keep your vitamin D levels healthy.
- Consume a probiotic and antioxidant-rich diet for good digestive health and UV light protection.
- Use a chemical free natural sunscreen to protect yourself when in the sun for longer periods.
And most of all, enjoy your summer outside!
 Sun and Skin Damage: Is Nutrition Important in Sun Protection? http://www.optiderma.com/en/they-talk-about-it/interviews-skin-experts/sun-et-skin-damage-is-nutrition-important-in-sun-protection.html
 Carotenoids and Flavonoids Contribute to Nutritional Protection against Skin Damage from Sunlight. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t34970046j826u74/
 Clinical evidence of benefits of a dietary supplement containing probiotic and carotenoids on ultraviolet-induced skin damage. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545689