We hear reminders all the time about using sunscreen. Good or Bad Advice?
Recently the middle and youngest dear daughter took off on an adventure day to the beach. I love that we live close enough to the beach that spur of the moment trips are possible. Well, they just grabbed some sunscreen at the store and hit the road. Great idea? Sounds like it, but in reality, not so much. Hana ended up with some sunburn AND a crazy rash from the lotion. We used some lavender and melaleuca to soothe the rash, but it left me wondering – there must be ways to prevent sunburn naturally. If you’re dealing with chronic illness this is especially important because many meds make us more sensitive to sun exposure.
What is in sunscreen that would make her have any kind of reaction? And why did she still get burnt? Many top-selling sunscreen brands including Neutrogena, Rite Aid, Walgreens “Well” brand, “Up and Up” brand from Target, and Coppertone were among those that made EWG’s most toxic list. The most toxic sunscreens typically contained the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, which poses cancer concerns. (read more). The ambiguous “synthetic fragrance” is a likely culprit to what irritated her skin. Reading all this made me even more determined to find a way to prevent sunburn naturally.
And another thing, with everyone using sunscreen these days wouldn’t you imagine that skin cancer rates would be dropping? Check out these alarming facts:
- Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people.
- Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer1 than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
- Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
I don’t know about you, but that was not very comforting. So how can we better take care of our skin and prevent sunburn (and skin cancer) naturally? Well turns out INTERNAL sunscreen is a whole heck of a lot more effective than EXTERNAL sunscreen. What the What???
Omega-3 fatty acids (found in many foods & supplements) have incredible anti-inflammatory powers. Researchsuggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect cells from free radical damage (like that caused by the sun). It helps to protect our skin cells against inflammation resulting from sun exposure. This also can aid in preventing some types of skin cancer.
A sunburn is an inflammatory reaction that we experience as redness and swelling and ultimately a flaking off of the top layer of dead cells. Since omega-3 fatty acid help regulate skin inflammation, they can play a role in regulating inflammatory response. In turn, they can help reduce the tendency to sunburn. (and also results in overall healthier skin cells, lower risk of skin cancer, and younger looking skin. Win. Win. Win.) Seems like a pretty simple way to prevent sunburn naturally.
I see more and more every day the benefits of fueling our body properly. I’ve had a reduction in inflammation from eliminating wheat and most dairy from my diet, so it’s not a huge surprise to me that diet would also be a key to preventing sunburn naturally. And honestly, the benefits from omega 3 fatty acids reach far beyond skin health. Omega fatty acids help support joint, cardiovascular, and brain health, and support healthy immune function – all of which are tremendously important as I work on managing my rheumatoid arthritis. I eat pretty healthy – very little processed foods, low carb, LOTS of green veggies, and of course, avocados are life.
But is a healthy diet enough?
Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids from the foods we eat is the optimum situation, but many plant sources of Omega 3s are also high in Omega 6 fatty acid (the bad stuff) and eating a diet rich in fish has other toxicity issues. So supplementing is an important addition to getting enough of these vital nutrients. But there are probably a million different omega supplements out there. What is worth spending our hard earned money on?
There is no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, but some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. The supplements I take contain 900 mg with 300 mg of EPA and 300 mg of DHA per daily serving, and 70 mg of other omega-3s. I’ve been taking them as part of my daily supplement routine, and never connected the dots as to why I was not having issues with the sun like I used to.
For a while I was on the drug methotrexate, which many of you know means you can’t even THINK about sun without getting a burn. After I came off of that medication, I noticed I could stay out in the sun much longer without sunscreen and have no sun issues. I never really thought about my diet and supplements as something that was helping to prevent sunscreen naturally. Now, I’m not saying to completely ditch the sunscreen – but here IS what I’d like you to consider:
#1 Eat a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and supplement them as well (my supplements of choice).
#2 READ the label on your sunscreen and check with EWG for recommendations.
#3 Mainly use sunscreen when you’ll be spending an extended period in the sun. Otherwise, get your vitamin D but use good judgement, cover-ups, and umbrellas.
I understand more and more that natural ways are the best ways. What tricks do you have to stay safe in the sun?