Let’s face it: There’s nothing attractive about basking in the sun so long that your skin starts looking like a leather handbag. As relaxing as it can be to enjoy a little sunbathing, it’s important to protect yourself. When it comes to sunshine you can certainly have too much of a good thing.
But before you slather on sunblock, take a look at the ingredients. You may already be mindful about the food you eat, but have you ever thought about what goes into that chemical concoction you rub onto your skin?
Studies have shown that sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone and octisalate can mimic our natural hormones, disrupting our hormonal systems. Oxybenzene, one of the most common and controversial sunscreen ingredients (also used in lipsticks, lip balms, and moisturziers) becomes even more harmful when exposed to the sun’s rays. Several studies have shown that when exposed to the sun, oxybenzone becomes highly allergenic and can lead to severe cell damage. Not to mention the fact that too many of us use sunscreen as an excuse to stay out in the sun way longer than we should.
Don’t fear the sun
With all the advice we hear about covering ourselves with sunscreen you’d think the sun had nothing good to offer us. But when we coat ourselves with sunblock, our bodies aren’t able to produce vitamin D, a fat-soluble hormone that’s essential to our immune systems and protective against cancer. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, depression and – you guessed it – skin cancer.
Use protection and sip your sunscreen
The best way to protect yourself while soaking up some sunshine is to rock a wide-brimmed hat and find some shade. (You may also want to pick up a high quality, all-natural sunscreen for days when you can’t avoid getting sun exposure – just make sure to check the cosmetics database before purchasing.) A quality zinc oxide-based sunscreen will be your best defence to deflect the sun’s rays when they’re at their strongest.
Beyond covering up, we can also help our bodies deal with the effects of the sun through the food we eat. UV radiation increases the free radicals swimming around in our bodies, which can be a contributing factor to cancer. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, so the more sunshine you get, the more antioxidants you should be eating!
Luckily, antioxidant-rich foods happen to be pretty delicious and locally abundant during the summer months. The best defence against sun damage is prevention so make sure you keep eating and sipping some edible sun protection. Try this antioxidant-packed blueberry chocolate smoothie to build up your defences:
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Handful of spinach or your favourite leafy greens
1 tbsp raw cacao powder or cacao beans
2 tbsp goji berries
1 tbsp raw honey (or more to taste)
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 cup ice
1 cup water (more or less to desired consistency)
Blend all ingredients together until smooth. If you want to enjoy this as a frozen treat, ensure berries are frozen and blend with ice.
-Article originally published August 2013.