While it is true that we all need regular exposure to sunlight, we want to take care to never burn if we can help it. If you are fair skinned and burn easily, you don’t necessarily have to apply sun block lotions that are full of chemicals, preservatives and artificial colors and scents. There are actually natural materials and alternative ways to shield your skin from the potentially damaging effects of UV rays.
Physical Barriers are Most Effective
This won't shock most people - the first and most effective way to screen excess UV rays from penetrating the skin is a physical barrier. This includes hats, long sleeve shirts, and other articles of clothing that physically shield your skin. Wide, floppy hats are one of the best ways to shield your face from excessive sunlight. However, long sleeve shirts are not usually practical in the summer months.
Another more blocking and physical barrier is zinc oxide. It coats the skin so thickly that it creates a sort of physical barrier between the skin and the sun's penetrating UV rays. Some may have a bit of sensitivity to this method as it also blocks the pores. So those with acne issues may want to find a less pore-clogging alternative.
Common Oils Found to Have Natural Sunscreen Properties
Sesame oil has actually been identified as one of the best natural materials with sun blocking capabilities. Sesame oil is obtained from pressing common sesame seeds. In addition to its sun-blocking capabilities, it has other therapeutic properties for the skin. It not only moisturizes and soothes dry skin. It blocks up to 30% of the sun’s UV rays. Sesame oil is also rich in antioxidants, so it can also help neutralize the free radicals generated by UV exposure.
Hempseed oil is another plant based material that is supposed to offer some sun screening benefits. While the exact sun protection factor is not known, it is often used as a mild sun block on its own. It is also used sometimes as part of a complete sun block formula with chemical ingredients.
Hempseed oil is beneficial because it helps deflect some of the harmful UV rays, without affecting the all too important absorption of vitamin D. It also helps repair damaged skin, and is an excellent emollient for dry skin. Hempseed oil contains essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and chlorophyll, all of which act as potent antioxidants.
Coconut oil is another natural sunscreen that can be utilized. Although it has a lower sun protection factor, blocking roughly 20% of the UV rays, it has many properties that make it desirable for use in the sun. First off, it has a pleasant smell, and imparts a wonderful sheen to the skin when applied. It is an excellent emollient for dry skin. Further, it does not clog the pores like some other oils can.
Cottonseed, peanut, and olive oil all contain about the same UV protection factor as coconut oil. These may not be ideal for use on some types of skin though, due to their heavier nature. Jojoba oil and shea butter both have a small UV protection factor of about 4% for those only looking for a small amount of screening.
Sun Bathing - Why So Many Contradictory Views?
Sun bathing has been demonized in recent years as a cancer-promoting, premature aging pastime. It is not until recently that some of the conventional thought about sun exposure has been debunked, and some have reversed this opinion.
Getting burned, or anything past the slightest bit pink, is still dangerous though. You should never, ever let your skin get burned by the sun’s rays. That fact has not changed. However, you also should not avoid UV light like the plague, as it offers many therapeutic and healthy benefits as well.
The Byproduct of Sunbathing is the Generation of Vitamin D
UVB rays, which are emitted by the sun, actually cause your body to produce vitamin D on its own.
This important vitamin (which is actually a hormone) helps strengthen our immune system, and has recently been discovered to be a powerful cancer fighting agent. Those with high vitamin D levels simply seem to have a better protection against abnormal cell mutation. Those with higher levels also tend to get sick less often.
One hypothesis for the reason behind winter flu and cold season is that people catch them easier due to lower vitamin D levels from less sun exposure. Vitamin D has also been linked to lower risk of depression, and an overall improved mood.
This nutrient has come to light as being a truly powerful remedy against some of the most common and troublesome human afflictions, so getting enough is of vital importance. One of the ways you can ensure you get enough is to get enough sunlight exposure.
Your skin actually makes vitamin D when the UVB light from the sun hits it. Your body then absorbs this vitamin D over the next several hours. It is simply the most effective way to get your vitamin D levels up, and yet so many people still fear sunlight as a cancer causing agent.
Commercial Sunscreen Issues
While it is true that over exposure can cause skin cancer, normal, common sense exposure can be very healthy. Wearing only natural sunscreens is preferable, since so many of the commercial ones on the market today contain chemicals and hormone-interrupting preservatives.
Many commercial sunscreens also contain derivatives of vitamin A, which is a common ingredient in anti aging skin care products. However, vitamin A derivatives such as retinyl palmitate can actually promote cancerous cell growth on the skin when exposed to sunlight.
So essentially that sunscreen that you are putting on your skin could actually be accelerating and promoting skin cancer growth. Make sure you choose a sunscreen without this common additive. Also avoid parabens, oxybenzone, PABA, and other petrochemicals if you can.
Eat Tomatoes for Natural Sun Protection
One of the most important aspects of protecting your skin from the damage that UV rays can induce is to get plenty of antioxidants in your diet. Lycopene in particular can be extremely protective against UVA and UVB cell damage. Lycopene is commonly found in tomatoes and other brightly colored orange or red vegetables.
Astaxanthin is another nutrient that is a great ‘internal sunscreen” that helps protect the skin against UV induced cell mutation. This can be purchased in supplement form, as can lycopene. Both are excellent antioxidants. They help your body to fend off cell damage caused by environmental toxins, UV rays, toxic foods, and the aging process itself.