‘Lather on the sunscreen if you want to be safe in the sun’ is the word on the street and yet I beg to differ. I have rather controversial views on sun protection and really believe that we need a fresh approach.
I’ve long advocated the healing power of the sun. Naturopaths from time in memoriam recommended daily sun – bathing, albeit under controlled conditions for approximately one hour a day. We need sunlight in order to have adequate levels of vitamin D and it’s thought we have something of a worldwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. Cases of rickets have increased by more than 400 per cent since 1996.
Vitamin D is a vitamin and pro-hormone which our bodies naturally produce by synthesising ultraviolet light from the sun. It’s essential to make proper use of calcium for stronger bones and teeth and maintain a healthy immune system. Beware though synthetic supplements which contain only a tiny amount of Vitamin D! A recent report claimed that Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements – but only if you put them in the sun before you eat them, sixty minutes’ exposure is required for them to produce the Vitamin D and it’s thought then that the sun-exposed mushrooms are as effective at boosting and maintaining vitamin D levels as supplements are.
So while we should ensure that we do supplement when necessary, we also need to embrace some sun exposure yet avoid getting sunburnt. Staying in the shade and covering up remains the best protector (big glasses and parasols, film star style!) but for those times when we are going to be fully exposed to strong sunshine how do we protect ourselves?
Forget chemical sunscreens, they can be potentially toxic and bizarrely when some of the synthetic chemicals interact they can actually be carcinogenic, and inhibit the formation of Vitamin D. There are some more natural sun-creams (more later) but for perhaps the most interesting consideration is that certain foods can be sun protective or at least by consuming certain nutrients we can increase our skins own sun protection.
These include Carotenoids and Lycopene found of course in red peppers, watermelon and tomatoes (eat crushed tomatoes to get the most bioavailable lycopene, in one study people consuming tomato paste had more protection against sunburn that a control group after three months). Xanthophyll’s are Carotenoids which contain oxygen – green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and spring greens – all good for us anyway! Then there’s the orange coloured carotenoids, including pumpkins, apricots and sweet potatoes.
So it seems that by eating a rainbow of colours we can indeed increase our natural sun protection, in addition we can consume Raw Organic Coconut Oil which is said to be sun protective, at any rate it’s great as an antibacterial and very high in Lauric Acid – the main component of breast milk. In terms of applying topically to our skin nothing works better than coconut oil as an after sun moisturiser and deep protective hair conditioner. Argan oil also has sun protective qualities.
For when you do need to apply sun protection (because it’s critical that you don’t burn) then use one of the more natural sun creams such as those from Weleda or Green People, remember too that mineral make-up has a natural SPF factor and if heaven forbid you do burn, then apply neat Lavender Oil (to lightly burned skin) or Aloe Vera gel – snip straight from the plant if possible, and use raw extra virgin coconut oil to soothe and nourish. The purest and best is the fair trade Raw Organic Coconut Oil from www.tiana-coconut.com