The warm, long days of summer are a source of encouragement to spend more time outside and make positive changes that can lead to a healthier you!
In today’s article, we will discuss:
– Safety tips for being outdoors
– What is SPF found in sunscreens
– What sunscreens are safe
– Best times of the day to be outdoors
Safely protect your skin this summer while enjoying the beautiful weather, fresh air and sunshine!
Enjoy these safety tips for being outdoors!
The first few days, you should limit your exposure to the sun to allow your body’s melanocytes (specialized cells that produce the skin-darkening pigment melanin) to increase their ability to produce this protective pigmentation.
What happens when your skin is exposed to the Sun?
When your skin is exposed to the sun’s Ultraviolet (UV) light radiation, melanocytes send more melanin to the surface of your skin. Melanin is very important since it absorbs the suns UV rays and attempts to prevent the skin from burning. As more melanin accumulates your skin will tan or freckles. This pigment (melanin) not only gives you a tan, but also serves to help protect you against overexposure to the sun. Melanocytes are also found in other parts of your body including your hair, inner ear, brain and parts of your eye (iris).
Why does my skin burn or tan in the Sun?
Sunburn occurs when your skin is not able to produce melanin quickly enough to prevent UV rays from injuring blood vessels and damaging cells that are located close to the skin’s surface. This is why you gradually want to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun to build up your levels of melanin in your skin.
If you are a light skinned person and tend to sunburn easily, you will want to limit your initial exposure to a few minutes, especially if it is in the middle of summer. As your skin gradually gets more tanned, you can stay in the sun for longer periods of time. If you are a dark skinned individual, you could safely have 30 minutes on your initial exposure.
Remember your most important goal is to avoid getting sunburned.
What are UV rays from the sun?
It is important to know about the sun’s UV rays in order to know how to protect your skin and prevent skin cancer. Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation and was named this because the spectrum consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those that humans can identify as the color violet.
The sun emits 3 different kinds of light:
- Visible light you see
- Infrared light (you feel as heat) and
- Invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation
It is the UV radiation part of light that affects our skin the most.
There are 3 types of UV rays:
UVA: (Ultraviolet A): 320 to 400 nm in wavelength: You can think of the A for “Aging“.
UVA radiation penetrates deep into your skin and is responsible for premature aging of the skin, tanning and skin cancer.
UVB: (Ultraviolet B): 290 to 320 nm in wavelength: Remember the B for “Burning”
UVB mainly affects the outer layers of the skin, causing sunburns, skin cancer and can also lead to premature aging of the skin . These are the rays which are strongest during the summer months – particularly between 11 am and 4 pm.
UVC: (Ultraviolet C): 100 nm to 290 nm in wavelength. UVC radiation is the strongest, most dangerous form of UV light. However, they are fortunately stopped by the earth’s atmosphere (primarily the ozone layer) which filters out the vast majority of this light so it does not reach the earth’s surface.
Remember, like most things in life, moderation and balance is the key. UV light is needed for human health and has health benefits but too much can cause cellular damage from radiation burn.
- Ideally, stay out of the sun especially between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. standard time from April through September in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Wear a wide-brim hat.
- Your sunglasses should also block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
What does SPF in Sunscreens mean?
SPF refers to the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned and is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays (the kind of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin, and can contribute to skin cancer).
For example, an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without protection from the UVB rays. So if your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (factor of 15 times longer).Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 93% of the incoming UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%.
Sunshine increases our bodies production of serotonin (feel good hormone) and our bodies manufacture vitamin D-3 when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) present in the skin. Vitamin D-3 is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning some dietary fat is needed for its absorption) and is essential for bone health, immune system, heart health and much more. Sunscreens with an SPF value will block UVB rays and will not allow your body to produce vitamin D-3.
It is a tricky balance between getting safe exposure to the sun for its health benefits yet protecting your skin from damage and potential disease.
To protect your skin from the sun before 10 AM or after 3 PM, you can try using high quality red raspberry seed oil, wheatgerm oil, carrot oil or organic extra virgin coconut oil to moisturize your skin.
However even at those times and for the rest of the day (if you still want to be in the open sun), use a non-toxic lotion with SPF15 for uncovered skin, including on your face and around your eyes. Use at least one ounce for full body coverage.
In a Sunscreen look for:
- Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection (SPF between 15 and 50).
- Lotions are better than sprays for better coverage and because you won’t breathe in the particles
- Dr. Andrew Weil recommends sunblocks that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (they block almost the entire spectrum of the sun’s rays without causing irritation).
According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) standards, only 25% of sunscreens on the market are effective and work without potentially harmful chemicals, please visit their website for a list of safer sunscreen options.
* However even when using SPF lotions, be sure to avoid sun burn!
What to Do if You Get Sunburned
If you develop a sunburn, aloe vera is one of the best remedies to help repair your skin as it has powerful glyconutrients that accelerate healing. Ideally, it is best to use the gel from a fresh plant, but there are good commercial products that have active aloe in them that you would apply on your skin. Also drink plenty of water since the skin becomes dehydrated when it burns.
Eat Internal Sunscreens
Be sure to include in your diet carrots, foods rich in omega 3′s (cold-water fish, kidney & black beans, nuts & seeds), broccoli (has sulphoraphane), watermelon & tomatoes (both contain lycopene), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, swiss chard), along with spirulina and chlorella (contain astaxanthin) and papayas, berries and citrus fruits (contain vitamin C). These foods offer many ingredients which have great natural protection against the sun’s rays. Antioxidants protect your skin and eyes from harmful radiation, cellular damage and skin cancer and may also have a rejuvenating effect on your skin!
Always be sure to discuss the best ways to protect your skin from the sun with your doctor.