I see so many people out there trying to get their vitamin D, but they’re burning! They’re staying out in the sun for way too long, or when it’s overcast.
Dr. Joseph Mercola stresses the importance of SAFE SUN EXPOSURE (guidelines listed below) so your body can produce natural vitamin D. He tells us to gently build up our base tan, which helps protect us from the sun’s harmful, UVA rays.
In this article, I listed which foods Dr. Mercola points to which help establish built-in UVA protection (internal sunscreen) in your skin, and foods for optimal skin-health in general. There’s also a list of the toxic ingredients to watch out for in conventional sunscreen lotions, as well as how to make your own, homemade, natural sunscreen.
Getting a safe, daily dose of sunshine benefits us in many ways; we get natural vitamin D production (which cuts our all around cancer risk by 60%!!), improved mood and energy, synchronization of biorhythms and better sleep, and beneficial treatment of depression and various diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and tuberculosis. Wow!
Okay. Let’s start with the principles of safe sunning. Throughout the day, there are two different types of rays we get from the sun. One type is beneficial, and one type is detrimental.
The bad rays, called UVA rays, occur all day long. They penetrate your skin deeply, so they can cause free radical damage. They break through cloud cover, pollution, and penetrate most types of glass. They can damage your skin in the morning and in the late afternoon, when the sun’s rays are bent, or whenever the sun is LESS than 50 degrees above the horizon, which happens year-round in high latitudes such as Alaska.
The BENEFICIAL rays, the UVBs (think: B is for beneficial), are the type of rays that help our bodies make vitamin D. But these beneficial rays only occur in significant amounts between about 10AM – 2PM in the late spring, summer, and early fall at our latitude here on the Central Coast, or when the sun is overhead and the rays are more direct (MORE than 50 degrees above the horizon).
Most recently, Dr. Mercola has outlined the foods which cause our skin to be susceptible to sunburn:
“One of the most important strategies to radically lower your risk of sunburn will be to decrease the amount of seed oils and processed foods as they contain large amounts of seed oils. These seed oils are loaded with omega-6 fats, specifically linoleic acid (LA). Most people don’t realize that sunburn is a result of the UV rays damaging the highly perishable LA that is embedded in the cell membranes of your skin from your diet. If you have very low LA in your diet your skin cells have much less of this easily damaged fat in the cell membranes of your skin and thus it will not be able to be damaged from the UV in sunlight. However it is important to understand that it takes years of a low LA diet to reduce the LA content in your body as its half life is on the order of years, not a day or two like it is with carbs.
“The key to preventing skin damage and skin cancer is to avoid burning. As soon as your skin starts turning the lightest shade of pink (which will be relative, depending on your base skin color), it’s time to get out of the sun or put on protective clothing. A wide-brimmed hat to protect your face is advisable at all times. A majority of your vitamin D production comes from exposing large areas of your body — not your face.
“Topping the list of nutrients that protect your skin from sun damage is astaxanthin. Taking somewhere between 4mg and 12mg daily can allow you to spend far more time outdoors without risking a sunburn. Just remember — it will take a few weeks before the effects become apparent, so start early.
“That said, optimizing your vitamin D and taking natural vitamin E (food sources: raw almonds, raw sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, and peanut butter, OR make sure you’re getting a well-balanced all-natural vitamin E supplement, not a synthetic one…look for a supplement that is free of soy, and soybean oil derivatives and genetically engineered (GE) ingredients like corn & cotton seed oil). Vitamin E can further add to your body’s natural sun protection, as can drinking green tea or taking an ECGC supplement.
MERCOLA’S GUIDELINES FOR SAFE SUN EXPOSURE
1) Try to get out in the sun in the midday, when the sky is clear of clouds/fog/smog, and only stay out as long as it takes YOUR skin to turn a slightly darker shade. For me, since I’m fairly fair-skinned (thanks to my Irish heritage), that’s about 15 minutes in the spring & fall, and only 10 minutes in the summer. As soon as I turn slightly pink, I go back inside or cover up. Lately, I’ve been able to spend longer and longer periods out in the sun without burning, as I’ve slowly and steadily developed my protective base tan. It’s best to let our natural pigmentation (tan) develop slowly to avoid burning even slightly.
2) Avoid burning at all costs. Sunburn is one of the biggest risk factors for skin cancer and photo-aging. If you accidentally do burn, use raw aloe vera to sooth and heal your skin. If you have to be out in the sun for extended periods, cover up, or use a non-chemical sunscreen (see “sunscreen lotion” below).
3) When sunning, get as much of your skin exposed as possible, even if it’s simply rolling up your sleeves and pant legs, but shade your delicate face and eyes.
4) Avoid sunning through a window or glass, or foggy/overcast sky, where the beneficial UVB rays get blocked but the bad UVA rays come through.
5) Avoid foods which weaken your skin’s natural sun protection: refined vegetable oils, processed foods, foods with chemical additives, and inflammatory foods. Eat plenty of real foods which contribute to your skin’s natural sun protection: virgin coconut oil, plenty of omega 3 fats, quality vitamin C, oral Vitamin D3, and the supplement Astazanthin (which occurs in micro-algae and in fish/krill oils).
6) After sunning, when showering, wash your armpits and groin with soap but try not to scrub the rest of your skin with soap as it interferes with you body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. You see, vitamin D production happens in the sebum (oils) of your skin, which can take up to 2 days to be absorbed into your body.
If you’re in the sun for extended periods and you want to wear a sunscreen instead of covering up, it’s smart to use a natural, non-chemical formula that’s safe and healthy for your skin. Natural health experts tell us to not put anything on our skin that we wouldn’t eat, as our skin is an absorbative organ.
I like California Baby and Elemental Herbs SPF 33. And, of course, www.mercola.com for natural, affordable sunscreens AND bug repellents.
Know that there are many potentially harmful chemicals in conventional sunscreen such as dioxybenzone and oxybenzone, which are some of the most powerful free radical generators known to man! So, toss your conventional sunscreen in the trash if it contains dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or any of these other chemicals: Para amino benzoic acid…Octyl salicyclate…Avobenzone…Oxybenzone…Cinoxate…Padimate O…Dioxybenzone…Phenylbenzimidazole…Homosalate…Sulisobenzone…Menthyl anthranilate…Trolamine salicyclate…Octocrylene…
Also, research suggests several of these common ingredients in sunscreen awaken harmful dormant viruses within coral reefs. National Geographic came out with a startling discovery: Sunscreen chemicals are killing coral reefs around the world. Four ingredients commonly found in popular brands of sunscreen – paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone, and a camphor derivative – are suspected of awakening dormant viruses which kill certain algae that live inside coral reefs. Essential to the health and well-being of coral, these algae provide coral with its food energy and contribute to its vibrant color. Without these algae, coral turns white – or “bleaches” – and dies. Tragically, these sunscreen chemical-driven viruses replicate until the algae explode, spreading viruses into surrounding coral communities.
FOODS WHICH CREATE BUILT-IN SUN PROTECTION
To paraphrase Dr. Joseph Mercola:
When it comes to your skin, what you eat has a lot to do with your complexion, and, a number of skin problems can be cleared up simply by altering your diet. By keeping your insides healthy and clean, your skin will have no choice but follow suit and mirror your internal state.
As a general rule, a diet high in fresh vegetables, which are rich in bioflavanoids, and plenty of omega-3 fat, will lay the necessary groundwork for a healthy, youthful complexion. Certain nutrients also have protective benefits, helping your skin develop some natural, built in sun protection, and ward off the damage caused by exposure to the elements.
Remember that your skin needs healthy fats to stay firm, supple, and wrinkle free. I recommend low-mercury fish that are high in omega-3, such as wild Alaskan salmon (not Atlantic salmon, which is typically farmed), and small fatty fish like sardines and anchovies, or take a high quality supplement like krill or salmon oil. Both of these contain a small amount of astaxanthin, which can offer potent sun protection, acting as an internal sunscreen. In terms of antioxidant capacity, astaxanthin is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E. It exhibits VERY STRONG free radical scavenging activity and protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage which helps prevent cancers.
There are only two main sources of astaxanthin — the microalgae that produce it, and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon, shellfish, and krill. Many athletes report astaxanthin allows them to stay in the sun for longer periods of time without feeling ill and without burning. Less burning also means lower skin cancer risk. Cyanotech Corporation funded a study through an independent consumer research laboratory to measure the skin’s resistance to both UVA and UVB light, before and after astaxanthin supplementation. After taking 4 mg of astaxanthin per day for two weeks, subjects showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin.
Keep in mind that insulin and leptin resistance are major accelerants of the aging processes, which affect both your inside and outside, so it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels low and steer clear of refined foods if you want to maintain a youthful look — not to mention optimal health. The most effective way to do this is by reducing or eliminating processed, packaged, and fast foods, as they’re high in refined sugar, processed fructose, trans fats, processed salt, and other detrimental ingredients. Drugs and alcohol are also clearly enemies of a glowing complexion, and pasteurized dairy products are sometimes to blame for skin ailments.
PLANT-BASED FATS FOR BEAUTIFUL SKIN:
Healthy fats which contribute to a glowing complexion include coconut oil, avocado, olives and olive oil, and raw nuts. Macadamia and pecans contain the most healthy fat while being low in carbs and protein. Brazil nuts are another good choice. Besides being on the higher end in terms of healthy fat, and lower in terms of carbs and protein, they’re also a good source of selenium, which can help protect against sun damage and age spots. As little as 3 to 4 Brazil nuts can provide you with nearly 4 times the recommended daily amount of selenium.
SPECIFIC VEGGIES & FRUITS FOR HEALTHY SKIN:
Traditionally fermented foods and/or a high quality probiotic can also be very helpful for optimizing your skin health. Fermented/Cultured foods help promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria and aid healthy digestion. They also support healthy immune function, and increase B vitamins, omega-3, digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid, and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria and promote healthy skin…your skin often shows an accurate picture of your gut health.
Raw and cooked vegetables as 60-70% of your diet supports your natural detoxification systems. For example, healthy liver function is supported by dark green leafy veggies such as kale, spinach, dandelion greens, and broccoli. Aim for a wide variety of veggies in different colors for the widest variety of nutrients and antioxidants.
Orange-red vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and red peppers are particularly rich in beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which prevents cell damage and premature aging.
Most leafy greens provide lots of vitamin A as well, but spinach, kale, and Swiss chard also provide lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are perhaps most well-known for their eye benefits, but they also greatly benefit your skin. Similar to astaxanthin, research has shown lutein and zeaxanthin can provide a four-fold increase in protection against skin damage caused by UV radiation. Lycopene also offers protection against UV radiation damage by acting as internal sunscreen. Tomatoes are a prime source of lycopene, levels of which are much higher in cooked, processed tomatoes such as tomato paste.
And high-antioxidant treats like cruciferous veggies, raw cacao nibs, and green tea are also known to beautify your skin. Dark chocolate is another source of valuable antioxidants. Cocoa flavanols in particular have been shown to boost skin hydration and improve blood circulation. In one study, women who drank a flavanol-rich cocoa powder drink daily for 12 weeks saw improvements in skin roughness and scaliness compared to the control group. For maximum health benefits, I recommend raw cacao nibs, which are actually bitter, not sweet. If too bitter, opt for the darkest chocolate you can tolerate, ideally 70 percent cacao or higher. Milk chocolate is worthless, as the sugar content is far too high and outweighs any benefits from the little polyphenols present in it.
Vitamin C aids in your body’s production of collagen, which is the protein that forms the basic scaffolding of your skin. It also helps with skin healing, if you’re struggling with any kind of skin problems. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, red bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussel’s sprouts. Citrus fruits also contain limonene which is associated with a 34 percent lower risk of skin cancer.
Besides vitamin C, vitamins D and B3 have also been shown to provide valuable protection against skin damage and skin cancer. B3 rich foods include: high protein foods like meat, liver, milk and peanuts. Also, rice, whole wheat, turnips, celery leaves, sunflower seeds, almonds, fish, prawns, tuna, chicken breast, beef, halibut, and salmon. Other food sources of vitamin B3 include mushrooms, cantaloupe, mangoes, peaches, asparagus, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mustard greens, and squash…green beans, broccoli, and potatoes are also excellent sources of vitamin B3.
And, as mentioned initially, Vitamin D is formed in your skin, and once activated in the liver and kidneys it influences the genes in your skin and helps prevent the type of abnormalities that ultraviolet light causes. As a result, sun avoidance becomes the factor that paradoxically can trigger skin cancer.
Here’s a link to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s super-informative, full article on the importance of safe sun exposure
For more helpful articles, please visit Mercola.com today and receive your FREE Take Control of Your Health E-book, by Dr. Mercola, a New York Times bestselling author!