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Summer is the time to relax and experience the healing power of nature. Breathing the fresh air, connecting with the environment, and grounding yourself with the earth can be powerful medicine for the mind and body. And this includes getting friendly with the sun.
The sun brings life to the planet, and is needed for all life processes. Plants transform sunlight into energy, and, in turn, nourishment for a variety of animals-including us. But while the sunshine provides nourishment and life, too much can damage the skin. Here’s your guide to promoting radiant summer skin with natural sun protection and sunburn relief.
One of the easiest and most underrated ways to avoid too much sun exposure is to simply cover up. The most commonly sunburned areas of the body include the face, neck, ears, shoulders, and back, which are often the most exposed. Pack a wide brimmed hat, throw on a scarf to cover your shoulders, and don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes.
A recent study analyzed factors in clothing fabrics-including fiber content, weave, color, and finishing processes-that either contributed to or detracted from blocking UV radiation. An ordinary white t-shirt, for example, has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of only around 7. But according to the study, clothing needs a minimum of 40 or 50 UPF to provide protective effects. So it’s very important to consider all factors when packing for the beach, and look for clothing that’s specifically made to provide sun protection, such as Summerskin’s Your Perfect Chambray Shirt Dress UPF 50+.
In addition to clothing, sunscreen is a frontline defense against sun damage. Unfortunately, many of the products available today are loaded with harmful ingredients such as parabens, sodium laurel sulfate, and artificial dyes and fragrances that can harm the skin in other ways. In fact, the Environmental Working Group found that 80 percent of the 1,700 sun protection products they analyzed contained worrisome ingredients.
When shopping for sunscreens, avoid chemical-laden products that can interfere with the body’s hormones, and instead focus on mineral-based products that are free of nanoparticles. Here are some of our favorites:
- Babo Botanicals Super Shield Sport Stick Sunscreen SPF 50
- Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield Clear Spray, SPF 30 (see giveaway below)
- The Honest Company Honest Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
- True Natural All Natural Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Natural Protective Makeup
When summer comes around, it’s time to change your makeup routine by nourishing your skin with products that protect from the sun’s harmful rays. Makeup should not only enhance your natural features, but also support your complexion with all-natural ingredients. Here are the top “must-have” makeup products for summer:
- Alba Botanica Mineral TerraTints Lip Balm, SPF 15
- Bare Minerals Blush in Vintage Peach or Everyday Minerals Cheek Blush in Peony Petal
- Jane Iredale Powder-Me SPF 30 Dry Sunscreen
- Mineral Fusion Illuminating Beauty Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 9
Can something you eat or take in supplement form protect you from sun damage? Possibly. The dietary supplement sector has zeroed in on several promising nutrients that may do just that. These include lycopene (a carotenoid found in tomatoes and other foods); beta carotene (found in carrots and green vegetables); astaxanthin (a carotenoid found in certain algae); and the colorless carotenoids phytoene and phytofluene (found in numerous fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes).
Carotenoids are not the only compounds that help shield the skin from UV damage. Researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York have been testing an extract of the antioxidant-rich tropical fern Polypodium leucotomos, which has a long history of use in South America as a treatment for psoriasis and dermatitis.
Across the pond, researchers at King’s College in London are studying algae unique to Great Barrier Reef coral. The algae are rich in mycosporine amino acids (MAAs) that provide a sunscreen-like benefit for fish and other organisms living in the surrounding clear, shallow waters. Dermatologists say that although the science looks intriguing so far, oral sunscreens have not been proven to be as safe or effective as topical sunscreens-yet.
by Joanna Cosgrove
5 Plants to Soothe Sunburns
The first goal is always prevention, but sometimes sunburns can sneak up unexpectedly. Even on those days when the sun is hidden behind clouds, there’s a risk of getting burned. The classic red painful appearance is actually caused by an inflammatory response within the body from cellular DNA damage and increased blood flow to the area. Repeated sunburns can lead to premature aging and dry skin, and increase the risk of skin cancer. The good news is that the following plants can help soothe the skin while decreasing inflammation and supporting the healing process.
Found in Europe, Asia, and North America, and often considered a weed, this medicinal plant has been used for centuries to soothe irritated skin while aiding the healing process. Plantain is rich in allantoin, which supports the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue. Make a simple infusion by adding a handful of fresh leaves to one cup of boiling water, steep for 15 minutes, strain, and cool. Pour into a spray bottle and spritz on sunburned skin. Or try:
Christopher’s Original Formulas Stings & Bites Ointment
This common fruit is known for its cooling effects, which makes it a perfect remedy to ease painful sunburns. A member of the melon family, cucumber has unique bioactive compounds-including cucurbitacins, cucumegastigmanes, and cucumerin-that nourish the skin while reducing swelling. Simply slice up a cucumber and apply directly to the irritated area. Or try:
MyChelle Dermaceuticals Cucumber Cooler Soothing Spray
Native to Africa, this versatile succulent has been used for thousands of years to soothe inflamed skin with its healing gel. In fact, an animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that assessed the effects of fresh aloe gel on wounds found that aloe significantly enhanced the healing process with zero side effects. If you have a plant at home, split the leaf and directly apply the juice to the burned area for immediate relief. Or try:
George’s “Always Active” Aloe Aloe Spray Mister
Commonly found in Poland, comfrey’s healing power is no secret-it has been used for centuries to treat skin abrasions and burns. In fact, a recent study using 5-10 percent comfrey root extract on sunburned skin demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects comparable to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). This soothing plant can be applied topically in a cream, salve, or infusion. Or try:
Terry Naturally Traumaplant Comfrey Cream
This yellowish orange flower has been shown to decrease inflammation while providing calming relief to the skin. Calendula contains specific constituents that have been proven in animal studies to stimulate the healing process while enhancing blood flow and promoting collagen production. Calendula can be applied to the skin in a cream, salve, poultice, or infusion. Or try:
Topricin MyPainAway AfterBurn Cream
MyChelleDermaceuticals is giving away 25 bottles of their new Sun Shield Clear Spray SFP 30 to Better Nutrition readers. This sheer, mist-style spray contains zinc oxide for UVA and UVB protection, along with skin-nourishing safflower seed oil and oil-absorbing bentonite. You won’t find any chemicals here.
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