There's no doubt we're all outside as much as humanly possible these days, squeezing every last drop out of those summer rays. A little sun is great, but too much of a good thing can be harmful. Then, there's talk about toxic sunscreen ingredients. Where do you turn for quality sun protection?
Did you know certain nutrients can provide some amount of sun protection? Combined with tried-and-true practices like sunscreen, clothing, and shade, you can enjoy carefree sunny days. Here are a few sun-friendly things to try.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, which is a pigment that gives certain plants and animals their red or pink color. It's found in algae, salmon, shrimp, crab, and other seafoods. In humans, astaxanthin acts as an antioxidant that your skin happens to love.
You can get astaxanthin by eating more salmon, shrimp, and crayfish. You can also take it as a supplement in pill form.
A 9-week study showed that people who took astaxanthin had less skin damage from sun exposure than those who didn't.
You can't just eat a piece of salmon and bake in the sun all day expecting full protection. Be sure to use a safe sunscreen, protective clothing, and shade to back up your nutritional approach to skincare.
Mineral-based sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting UV rays away from the body. They usually contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sunscreens can be less irritating than chemical sunscreens, and they provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Mineral-based sunscreens are said to have less risk than chemical-based sunscreens, which, depending on their ingredients, could be absorbed by the skin.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties. It's found in nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables. You can also take it as a supplement.
A mouse study showed that vitamin E reduced pigmentation (spots) and skin damage after prolonged ultraviolet light exposure.
Again, no one nutrient is going to fully protect your skin from the sun. Even if your vitamin E intake has been on point, you still need to make use of sunscreen, protective clothing, and shade.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties. It's found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables. You can also take it as a supplement.
It's an old wives tale that taking vitamin C may help you recover from a sunburn faster, but it depends on so many factors that we cannot know by looking—the severity of the burn, your sensitivity to the sun, how much melanin is in your skin—there are lots of unknowns. We're not sure about this one, but it couldn't hurt to add some vitamin C to your routine when you're planning to hang out outdoors.
Beta-carotene, the molecule that makes carrots and nectarines orange, is said to provide some level of protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Foods that are high in beta-carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, and cantaloupe.
Combine beta-carotene with other sun barrier methods like mineral sunscreen for best results.
Sun shirts, sun hats, rash guards, and other types of protective clothing can help shield the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. The UV Protection Factor (UPF) rating system is used to measure the amount of UV radiation that a fabric allows through.
A UPF of 50+ means that the fabric allows less than 2 percent of UV rays to pass through it.
Sure, burns happen, and in certain regions with a high UV index, burns can happen fast. Always have your mineral sunscreen handy, and build up your nutrient stores by eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables with lots of antioxidants to keep your skin happy.
And remember, when you're planning to spend long stretches of time out in the sun, seek shade, or when possible, bring an umbrella or shade tent with you!