Summer fun brings with it outdoor activities, fresh air, and lots of sun! Sunshine can be especially healthy because our bodies use it to create immune boosting Vitamin D, in which many people are deficient. To make Vitamin D, sunshine has to hit your bare skin directly. That's why a certain amount of sun exposure is actually great for you. However, too much sun can cause your skin to burn, creating damage to the cells, increasing your risk for skin cancer, and encouraging premature wrinkles. The key is to find the balance between healthy immune boosting sunshine and overexposure.
If you are planning outdoor activities, here are some guidelines for healthy summer skin:
1. Know Your Limit. We tolerate the sun differently based on genetics. People with fair skin tend to burn much quicker and need less exposure. It is important to know what your threshold is. If you have fair skin, start with only 5 minutes of sun on your bare skin before using sun protection. If you have a darker skin tone, you might try a few minutes longer. It also depends on the location of the sun and the time of year. At the peak of summer, UVB rays can be especially potent. Use your best judgement and aim for smaller amounts of exposure more frequently to get the best immune boost.
2. Avoid Toxic Sunscreens. Many sunscreens on the market contain toxic chemicals that get absorbed directly into your bloodstream when applied to your skin. If you are going to be protecting your skin with sunscreen, use all-natural alternatives. One excellent resource to find the perfect sunscreen is the Environmental Working Group 2013 Guide to Safer Sunscreens.
3. Try a Cover-up. Another safe alternative is to cover your skin. UVB rays need to contact your skin directly to do damage. That is why we get tan lines in areas that are covered by our clothes. Some helpful coverups include bathing suit cover-ups and wraps, hats or shawls, or even shirts with long sleeves. If you are going to be adding layers of clothing as a cover-up option, it is important to stay cool and hydrated.
Sometimes, even our best attempts to avoid overexposure can fail, resulting in a sunburn. Or, maybe you have sun damage from the past. Here are some tips to help heal and repair the skin:
1. Aloe Vera. For immediate sunburns, apply a light layer of fresh aloe to the skin. If you have an aloe plant, simply snap off a few stems, break them open, and apply the pulp directly to your skin. The gel will not only cool the skin, research is showing that properties in the plant help moisturize and heal the skin. You can also get gels made with healing Aloe oil from your local health food store.
2. Antioxidants. To repair damage from the inside out, add potent antioxidants to your diet. These powerful nutrients help to both protect the skin and heal it from sun damage. Foods high in Vitamin C are especially healing for the skin such as papayas, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and pineapple. Add these to your salads, fresh smoothies, or eat raw.
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Papayas are tropical fruits that are high in Vitamin C, providing over 300% of your
daily need in one serving. They are also high in Vitamin A, making them a great nutrient-rich food for the skin. Papayas have other amazing health benefits as well that make them a summer super food. They are rich in antioxidants, carotenes, flavonoids, and minerals. Because they are high in fiber, it helps the body absorb the sugars they contain at a slower rate. They help promote the health of the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and provide protection against colon cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and macular degeneration. Because papaya contains the digestive enzyme, papain, it also helps aid in digestion and can reduce inflammation. To get more papaya in your diet consider eating it fresh, blending it in smoothies, or adding it to salads. Papaya seeds are edible, and some like their slightly peppery flavor but you do not have to eat the seeds to get the many health benefits of the fruit. Simply scoop them out and eat the Papaya like you would any other melon.
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Pour ingredients into a blender and puree. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze at least 4 hours. Serve.
For added skin protection and cellular repair, add in this potent vitamin trio by eating vitamin-rich foods or by taking them in supplement form. Vitamin C is an essential skin nutrient because its potent antioxidant properties help repair sun damage. It is also absolutely essential for collagen repair. This can help protect your skin from premature aging and sun damage. Vitamin E is another critical skin nutrient with potent antioxidant properties that help protect your cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E is essential for the overall health of your skin, and has cancer-fighting properties that make it a great skin supplement. The final skin nutrient is Vitamin D, which plays a significant role in wound healing and tissue repair, and makes the skin less photosensitive and susceptible to sun damage. Most people have low or deficient levels of Vitamin D in their system.
You can add vitamins C and E to your diet by eating fresh summer salads full of fruits and veggies. Try to add in as many colors of the rainbow as you can when selecting produce. Add in fresh smoothies filled with leafy greens, citrus fruits, melons, and healthy oils like wheat germ and sunflower. Vitamin D can only be added with either sun exposure or in supplement form. Before adding nutrients in supplement form, talk with your Naturopathic Doctor. Vitamin E and D are both fat soluble and must be used at the correct dose. In addition, your doctor can help you choose high quality supplements from reputable companies.
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Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root portion of the Curcuma longa plant, and has been used medicinally throughout the world. It is what gives mustard its yellow color, and is one of the star ingredients in curry. Turmeric has many cancer-fighting properties, making it a great addition to anyone concerned about skin cancer. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties that help with conditions like IBS and Rheumatoid Arthritis. It also has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and is especially effective for breast, prostate, lung, colon, and prostate cancer. This super food also helps lower the risk of leukemia, improves liver function, boosts the cardiovascular system, helps lower cholesterol, and may offer protection against Alzheimer's Disease. Everyone can benefit from having more Turmeric in their diet. Try adding it to egg salad and deviled eggs for a brilliant yellow color, use it to flavor rice and soups, add it to salad dressings or season steamed veggies with it. Be careful, its potent yellow color can stain! If you notice you are sensitive or reacting to Turmeric, please discontinue.
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Skin wrapping is the process of applying potent substances to the skin that are healing and nourishing. Sometimes a wrap is used to hold these healing salves next to the skin and keep them slightly moist for optimal absorption. They can be especially useful for anti-aging skin care regimes, and for healing sunburns and sun damage. To heal a sunburn, add in fresh extracts of cucumber and aloe. Research shows that both contain phytonutrients that help heal the skin, reduce inflammation, are rich antioxidants and have cancer-fighting properties. They are very moisturizing and cooling to the skin as well. Use a cool wrap made from 100% cotton to help sooth the skin.
RECIPE: CUCUMBER ALOE SKIN WRAP
3 pieces of fresh aloe vera
Coarsely chop the cucumber and use a blender to make it into a smooth mass. Put the mass in a strainer to get rid of excess water. Remove the meat from the aloe vera and rinse it under running water (the yellow juice in aloe vera will be itchy on your skin so it needs to be washed off). Place the aloe meat in the blender and blend until smooth. Mix the cucumber and aloe together in a bowl to form a paste. Apply the paste to your skin and lightly wrap with a cool cotton cloth. Replace wrap every 5 minutes once the skin begins to warm up. This helps to keep the body cool, and keeps the sunburn from being aggravated by a buildup of excess heat.