Humans have had a natural relationship with the sun since far before sunscreen came along – a relationship based on common sense, intuition, and being present by listening to one's own body. Personally, I have never been a huge sunscreen advocate.
If it's not a plant, I'm just not going to want to put it on my skin every day. However, this summer has been part of a bigger journey for me in strengthening my own relationship with the sun. It's starting to sink in that what we get from the sun is far more beneficial than the fear the billion dollar sunscreen industry has instilled in me. It's easy for me to experiment with my own relationship with the sun, mostly because of the knowledge I have about ingredients and chemical reactions within our skin. I typically work indoors and very rarely get my recommended outdoor vitamin D time. Then a recent trip to Hawaii truly tested the health of my skin and body – it also really tested our Sun Facial Serum, as well as my trusty Badger SPF 30. I would love to share a bit of my knowledge with you so that you can begin to conquer your fear of the sun as well. There is way too much information out there about holistic sun care to share in a blog post, but here is my best summary.
The sun's rays. The suns rays are not free radicals, but rather our body's inflammatory response to them that creates free radical stress. Your own body actually CHOOSES how to chemically respond to the sun. Our body can opt to respond to the sun as something damaging, and then our skin will inflame (sunburn & sun damage), or our healthy bodies can process the sun's rays with ease, and can even utilize them in a healthy way to make vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential to our health. The only sufficient source of vitamin D for us is the sun. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to multiple cancers, depression, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and the list goes on. Studies have shown that in general those who spend more time in the sun actually show less of an inflammatory response, and by far have less documented cases of skin cancer than those who spend little to no time in the sun. 20 – 40 minutes a day is what is healthy for our bodies, and that is "a-hem" 20 – 40 minutes without sunscreen. Sunscreen that blocks UVB rays actually blocks vitamin D production. UVB rays are the rays that are responsible for D production, as well as the rays that are responsible for sun burn. UVA rays are the rays connected to melanoma – however, it's when UVAs are isolated that they are the most harmful. Thus, if you do wear sunscreen, make sure it doesn't only block UVB, and allow isolated UVA through. Keep in mind the sun's strongest hours are between 10 am – 2 pm, so if you are a beginner to your "no sunscreen" trial – don't start with those hours. Also, start with 20 minutes, and work your way up to 40. There is a thing as too much sun too. Blueberries are good for you, but you wouldn't eat 3 pounds of them! Everything in moderation, and do your best to listen to your own body and intuition. Wear hats and seek shade whenever necessary.
Being internally healthy matters. A Johns Hopkins study showcased that only those who were vitamin B and/or vitamin D deficient responded negatively to the sun's rays. And again, we are getting our vitamin D from the sun. It only makes sense that if we are in a board room 7 days a week, then head out on a boating adventure for the first time, our skin won't know what hit it! Most of us are vitamin D deficient, from our lack of sun exposure. Other antioxidants, like vitamin B, we can get from our diet. Load up on those fruits and veggies and your body will be more prepared to handle those rays, without the help of sunscreen. Berries, kale, broccoli, cabbage, and turmeric are just a few specific foods to include in your summer diet. Our body even has a super antioxidant that will kick into high gear if we do start to inflame from the sun’s rays. And those fruits and vegetables are a few ingredients that promote our body’s own antioxidant response to kick on. On the flip side, if you’re feeling under the weather or your immune system is lacking, that’s the time to take the zinc sunblock with you. Your body is less likely to handle inflammation and free radicals with ease if your immune system isn't at its best.
Externally, we have options. Coppertone and Banana Boat are brands of the past! Sunscreen chemicals are truly the worst, and most of them are linked to cancer themselves – so please don't swap one cancer for another. Non-nano zinc is the only FDA approved sunscreen drug that has not yet been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, or serious health concerns, and is, therefore, the best option for those who need an additional sunblock. I would recommend a non-nano zinc sunblock if you are spending unusual amounts of time in the sun for yourself, or if you'll be out for a long period of time fully exposed. But let's talk PLANTS – FDA unapproved plants, that have been through countless studies and used historically as sun protection. All high-quality unrefined oils have varying levels of SPF and sun reflecting properties. In addition to those reflecting properties, some of these plants prevent sun damage in other ways like with antioxidants! Vitamin E and vitamin C actually neutralize the free-radical/inflammatory response our body can have from the sun. Your skin even strengthens with use of these antioxidants over time, to build up its own natural defense. In addition to that, healthy skin can even create its own antioxidants to help balance any free radical activity, as we mentioned above. However, skin that does this is seriously healthy skin! Don’t think you can be using Neutrogena all year long, and then walk out the door in mid-July, and suddenly your skin has superpowers. You have to feed your skin the same way you feed your body: with whole foods, superfoods, and nutrient/antioxidant dense foods.
I loved my time in Hawaii; I spent more time in the sun than I think I had in a whole year. I felt happier and had more energy, as well. As for my skin, it has never looked better. I chose not to wear sunscreen on my face the whole trip. I mostly wore our Sun Damage Facial Serum and Daily Facial Balm. I wore Badger SPF 30 on one day when we were out boating. I burnt that day — not because of the Badger, but because I tried to stay out too long, and didn’t listen to my own body. My skin looked the best when I limited my time to 2 hours at a time in the sun, and applied the Sun Body Oil every 30 – 40 minutes (keep in mind I’m a fair Irish gal). Sunscreen is needed in the world, especially because not all of us are fortunate enough to have an antioxidant-rich diet or an antioxidant-rich skincare routine. Most of us want to eat whatever we want, treat our bodies however we want, throw on some sunscreen and enjoy our vacation. However, I know there are purists out there who this isn’t good enough for. Those people want more knowledge to understand their bodies, and make their own health choices based on their own knowledge. The sun is needed too, and it's needed far more than sunscreen. Sunburn is a natural response within our bodies and is far less harmful than toxins in sunscreen. Each person is different and has their own recipe for healthy summer skin. I hope some of this knowledge makes you feel more comfortable, and not too fearful to experiment with your own relationship with the sun.
The Laurel Whole Plant Organics line, newly available at Farmacopia, includes a Facial Cleanser, Facial Elixirs, Anti-Inflammatory Facial Serum, Sun Damage Repair Facial Serum, Antioxidant Facial Serum, Transform Daily Facial Balm, Restore Nightly Facial Balm, Eye Balm, and Honey Berry Enzyme Mask (so delicious…literally!)
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