As the protective layer of the earth becomes thinner with climate change, UV rays become stronger and more damaging.
According to HealthLink BC, "ultraviolet (UV) radiation comes mainly from the sun as part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum. UV rays have wavelengths shorter than visible rays, so we cannot see or feel them."
When you are exposed to UV radiation your body then produces melanin which is what makes your skin turn a darker shade, however, this is also a sign of skin damage.
While we know it can be tempting to take advantage of the last of summer and work on your tan, it's more important than ever before to practice safe sun exposure. Here are our top tips below:
Protect your eyes
UVA and UVB radiation can affect your vision by causing both short and long term damage (1). Even small amounts of exposure to UV radiation over the long term can increase the risk of developing eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration (2).
When the sun is out, be sure to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that are verified with 100% UV protection. And of course, always avoid looking directly at the sun!
Go out at the right times
As the sun is at its highest point and its rays the most powerful during the midday hours it is recommended to avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when ultraviolet radiation is more intense. Even when the weather is cloudy you will not be protected from UV radiation so it's important to still be mindful when you go outside and stay in the shade whenever possible.
Use non-toxic sunscreen
If you do go out in the sun, opt to cover up or use sunscreen. Always choosenatural sunscreenoptions as conventional products are shown to contain chemicals linked to health issues such as endocrine disruption(3).
What's more, many of these chemicals found in non-mineral sunscreens have been identified in the bloodstream from just a single-use and for weeks following application (4). These chemicals don't just sit on your skin, they are absorbed into the body.
Fortunately, many brands are now modifying their formulas and offering mineral sunscreens with zinc and titanium. These are good options for those wanting UV protection without the potentially hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals like oxybenzone or vitamin A.
Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen that can penetrate the skin and filtrate into the bloodstream where it can disrupt the hormone system.
Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A commonly used in conventional sunscreens, may heighten skin cancer risk when used on sun-exposed skin (5).
Not only do most sunscreens pose a threat to human health, but they are also toxic to the environment. Research has shown between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen may enter coral reef areas worldwide every year (6). These chemicals are toxic to marine life and can infiltrate the environment from bathers and wastewater (7).
Choose lotions and creams over sprays and powders to avoid any potential toxicity from the inhalation of particles.
And don't forget to re-apply your sunscreen regularly if you are spending time in the sun!
To avoid the risk of sunburns, cover up your skin as much as you can with light clothing, hats, or by finding shade. This is especially important during those peak hours between 10 am and 4 pminthe summer months.
The skin on our face is thinner than other areas of our body and represents a higher risk of wrinkles and damage from the sun. So don't forget to apply sunscreen here as well and choose a wide-brimmed hat for the most protection.
Protect yourself from the inside out!
We've spoken about sunscreens and covering up but did you also know that you can protect your skin from the inside out? Basically, you can eat your sunscreen! But first, let us explain...
Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that can be taken internally to protect your skin from the sun's effects by exerting antioxidant activity at the epidermis and dermis (8).
You can find astaxanthin in foods such as salmon and shrimp or take as a supplement.
Eating healthy is also really important and because food is also a source of antioxidants! Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are particularly rich in these plant compounds.
Maintaining a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats in your diet will also be beneficial for your skin while providing anti-inflammatory effects in the body. These essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce UV‐induced inflammation in human skin as well as protecting against photocarcinogenesis, photoaging, and photosensitivity disorders (9)(10).
A healthy diet rich in antioxidants and omega fats combined with safe sun practices can help to ensure you protect your skin from damage as well as the effects of aging.
Note: we don't recommend relying on "internal sunscreen" alone, always make sure you are protecting yourself externally at the same time.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.