A big sun hat and some watermelon juice - both offer sun protection!
A little sun is health promoting; it’s warming, energizing, and happiness producing. And this makes sense, since sunlight is the energy that sustains life on planet Earth!
Sunlight exposure is also the best way to get your Vitamin D intake, which helps keep your bones and immune system healthy. A minimum of just 15 minutes of sun a day can deliver the amount you need, depending on the sun intensity and your skin tone (pale skin takes in vitamin D more quickly). If you want to take a supplement for your Vitamin D, the best one is a liquid D3 supplement such as this one, which I’ll sometimes use in the winter if I’m feeling especially sun deprived.
But while I love the sun and appreciate the benefits, I also appreciate all things anti-aging, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or UVA and UVB rays, is thought to account for 80%-90% of the symptoms of premature aging, such as wrinkles and the loss of skin elasticity! Take a look at this truck driver, who forgot to put his sunscreen on for the 28 years of his career – the left side of his face, which was more exposed to the sun as he was driving, is dramatically more wrinkled! And of course we also want to protect ourselves from burning and skin cancer.
Clearly the sun has powerful effects on the skin, and that’s where sunscreen enters the equation. And since we’re slathering this stuff on ourselves all the time in the name of health and beauty protection, we want to make sure our sunscreen truly is health and beauty promoting, i.e. not delivering any dangerous or cancer causing chemicals into our system!
Here’s the bottom line – you want a micronized zinc oxide or titanium sunscreen that doesn’t have harmful inactive ingredients. The zinc and titanium in these sunscreens are literally just finely ground up minerals (i.e. rocks), and they sit on top of your skin and physically block out both UVA and UVB rays.
Zinc and titanium sunscreens have traditionally been white and difficult to rub in, so newer, “micronized” sunscreens have smaller particles, making the sunscreen smoother and more translucent. We don’t want to go too small though, because trouble seems to begin when sunscreen is absorbed into the skin. Nanoparticles are even smaller than micronized at less than 100 nanometers in diameter, so we generally want to avoid nano sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens are sketchy
It’s well documented that chemical sunscreens get absorbed into and permeate the skin, and can then enter the blood stream and interact with your organs. That’s not good, since the majority of the FDA approved chemical sunscreens out in the American marketplace today are said to be endocrine disruptors (i.e. they mess up normal hormone function). Endocrine disruptors can produce symptoms like abnormal development of infants and children, early puberty, low sperm count and breast cancer. (For more info, go here.)
Watch out for these common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
In the inactive ingredients, watch out for: parabens, phthalates, PEG’s (polyethylene glycols), propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, SLS/SLES and artificial scents, colors and dyes.
Hayley, Molly and I enjoying the sun in Montauk!
What I use
I’ve tried a lot of sunscreens, and my favorite is Pratima’s Neem Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 30! I was using a high end sunscreen from the place that does my facials before I started using this, and I swear this one is way more luxurious, light and moisturizing, and also blends well with makeup! It combines micronized zinc oxide with organic botanicals like herbs, roots, flowers and plants – amazing!!! Can’t recommend enough. They also have a body sunscreen, which is also completely amazing. For other options, go here. On SPF, I’m not as concerned about having a high number SPF as I am about natural ingredients that I don’t mind reapplying!
Anti-aging tips – protect yourself from the sun!
It’s pretty simple, if you want to prevent premature aging and skin cancer, you need to protect your skin from the sun. I’ve been adamant about protecting my skin since my early 20s, which I know because of a memories from my time in Italy. Italians LOVE the sun, and it was not uncommon for them to be smothering on nothing other than baby oil for an entire day out by the Mediterranean just taking in the rays. Super brown was the norm, and even though I have a fairly medium skin tone to begin with, I got used to being accused “Sei troppo bianca!” (You’re too white!) because of my adamant sunscreen usage! To blend in a little bit, my summer sun strategy began: a full coat of sunscreen before going out to be in the sun, sun hats, a little bit of sun here and there, and a little bit of self-tanner to look like I’ve gotten sun. (I haven’t found a holistic, natural self-tanner yet, and I’m not sure there’s one on the market. If anyone knows of one, please let me know!) Here are my anti-aging sun protection tips:
1 – Use sunscreen every day, rain or shine, winter or summer. Sun exposure is cumulative, so little bits add up over time. Your face sunscreen should be in your make up or toiletry bag and be part of your daily morning routine. I also use an eye cream with SPF daily.
2 – Don’t forget your neck, decollete and the backs of your hands! These places are most often exposed to the sun, and they’re the first places to show signs of aging.
3 – Wear hats and sunglasses – Use cute sun hats while you’re out and about or baseball caps while you’re working out to block the sun from your face. Good quality sunglasses protect your eyes (which age from the sun too!) and the delicate skin around your eyes.
4 – Eat your antioxidants – antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have sun protection properties, allowing you to stay in the sun longer without getting burned, and fight the free radicals that come along with sun exposure. On the flip side, there’s evidence a bad diet can make your skin more sensitive to the effects of the sun.
5 – For heaven’s sake, no tanning beds – Tanning beds emit damaging UV rays, just like the sun. I think of this one like smoking cigarettes – if you’re doing it, you’re not too concerned about beauty and anti-aging. If you need to be tan before an event, it’s better to get a high end spray tan.
Protect your skin now and you’ll be thanking yourself in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond!