The summer season is officially upon us and so the topic of suntans and sunburns are back in the news. The recent saga of the Patricia Krentcil, the now-infamous "Tanning Mom" of New Jersey, only further serves to emphasize the importance of protecting our skin while trying to find a healthy balance as we look to achieve that "summer glow".
Lets face it, nothing ruins a vacation faster than sunburn- and that goes double for those with fair skin. Conventional wisdom has always been to use gobs of sunscreen to protect us from those harmful UV rays. However, recent studies have shown that nearly half of the most popular sunscreens may actually be increasing the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer.
So- what should we do? And is the sun really something dangerous to be feared at all costs? Well- the truth is that moderate sun exposure is really necessary for optimal health. Since our bodies need essential Vitamin D production which occurs from natural sunlight, one could argue that screening can be counterproductive.
Here are some prudent suggestions that will keep you from burning on your next trip to the beach:
- Limit your sun exposure during peak hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Use floppy hats and umbrellas as ways of staying out of direct sun rays while still allowing for the benefits of indirect sunlight.
- Don’t lie in the sun purposely seeking a tan- especially early in the season when you are most susceptible to sunburn. Instead try to build up your tolerance with short sun exposures increased gradually over time.
- If you do get sunburn, aloe vera gel is an extremely soothing and non-toxic solution. Buy it in tubes or tubs and generously coat your sunburn.
- Drinking tea, especially green tea, offers a complex arsenal of antioxidant compounds. How it works and what’s doing it isn’t fully understood, but it’s generally accepted that drinking green tea is a smart move and a mainstay of many healthy traditional cultures. Unsurprisingly, there’s also evidence that dietary green tea, specifically its polyphenols, may inhibit the development of skin tumors by controlling inflammation and preventing DNA damage.
- There is one more way of perhaps preventing sunburn internally. Recent studies have suggested that Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant, is a naturally occurring skin protector that can minimize the damage caused by the sun's rays. But how does this antioxidant prevent sunburn, specifically? The sun's rays damage the skin through free radicals, which are also responsible for causing premature signs of aging and some cancers. Counteracting the activities of free radicals with antioxidants is important in preventing damage, such as sunburn, and astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. So for anyone that is looking for natural protection against sunburns, astaxanthin may be a great alternative to the chemical-laden products that are sold in many stores.
In closing, moderation is always the key. Here's to enjoying a sunny summer filled with health and fun without ending up looking like a cooked lobster fresh out of your steamer pot.