Just because you love the sun doesn’t mean you won’t get burned. In fact, it’s estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, thanks primarily to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. At the same time, no one wants to spend the summer in the shadows. So, before you embrace the old advice about always keeping your face toward the sun, it’s essential to consider ways to protect your skin. The good news is, if you act smartly now, prevention really can be the cure. Better still, while many commercial sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that can harm your health and the planet, there are better, straightforward ways to protect your skin from the sun.
From understanding UV radiation to embracing natural alternatives and adopting sun-smart habits, let’s uncover the secrets to nurturing your skin under the sun in a chemical-free way.
Why is it important to protect your skin from the sun?
The sun generates UV radiation, which can damage DNA and create genetic mutations. (On a more superficial note, it can also cause wrinkles and sunspots, aging us prematurely.) If enough DNA damage builds up over time, cells can grow out of control, which may lead to skin cancer. One side note: the sun’s UV rays are a year-round concern, and you should take care whether it’s summer or winter, sunny or not, since clouds, while deceptively shielding us from light, do nothing against UV rays.
So, how is sunscreen dangerous?
Not all sunscreen is considered dangerous — it all depends on the ingredients. Nine of the 15 main chemicals found in most commercial sunscreens are known endocrine disruptors, which can lead to hormonal imbalances. These imbalances can alter estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones, and cause abnormal development in fetuses, lower sperm counts, different cancers, and even infertility. Additionally, several ingredients are suspected carcinogens. Sunscreens are meant to help protect you from sun exposure to lower your chance of cancer, not increase it. Some main sunscreen ingredients to avoid are oxybenzone, octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate), homosalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone.
These chemical sunscreens are also harmful to marine life
If not for yourself, avoid these harsh sunscreens for the safety of aquatic species. Numerous studies indicate that oxybenzone — the most common ingredient in commercial sunscreens — and octinoxatecan cause coral bleaching, DNA damage, and the loss of beneficial algae that live on and feed the coral. These chemicals are so harmful that popular destinations, including Hawaii and Key West, Florida, have banned sunscreens that contain them. So, always look for a sunscreen labeled “reef safe” and double-check the ingredients before purchasing.
At SaltyLama, we’re proud our plant-based eco-friendly laundry sheets contain none of the toxins that routinely pump into waterways. The key to sustainable living is to have as little impact on the natural world as possible.
How to protect your skin from the sun without chemicals
But just because you need to be cautious doesn’t mean you should let the UV rays keep you indoors. Instead, take care of your skin year-round with these skincare tips.
Use natural sunscreens
Opt for mineral-based sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients instead of any alternatives listed above. These minerals create a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting and scattering UV rays.
Mineral sunscreens provide effective protection without the potential risks associated with chemical sunscreen ingredients. Look for brands that prioritize transparency and use organic or natural ingredients.
Protective clothing is key
Clothing can be one of the most effective forms of sun protection. Seek clothing with a tight weave and a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. Dark, densely woven fabrics provide better protection than light or loosely woven materials. Wear wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts to shield your skin from direct sunlight.
Layering can be more difficult in the heat, but some materials will help keep you cool. Choosing lightweight linen or cotton paired with natural sunscreen lets you stay cool and comfortable while protecting your skin from the sun.
Don’t forget the shades
Protecting your eyes from UV radiation is equally important. Look for sunglasses that provide strong UV protection. Consider styles that wrap around your face and have larger lenses to block out rays from all angles. Polarized or anti-glare lenses reduce light glare and eyestrain, improving vision and safety in the sun. By safeguarding your eyes, you reduce the risk of UV-related eye conditions while maintaining healthy vision.
The shade is your friend
When the sun is at its peak, seek shade to reduce your overall sun exposure. Trees, umbrellas, and canopies can provide excellent natural shade. For extra protection, you can plan outdoor activities during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t as intense. Just remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Boost your internal sun defense
In addition to external protection, you can also nourish your skin from within by including antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. Colorful fruits and vegetables help fight free radicals caused by UV radiation. Certain foods like tomatoes, green tea, dark chocolate, and aloe vera contain compounds that will enhance your skin’s natural defense against sun damage.
Speaking of nourishing yourself from within, stay hydrated when you’re out in the sun. Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining healthy skin. Drinking adequate water helps keep your skin moisturized, preventing dryness and aiding in its natural healing process. Hydration also supports your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, keeping you cool on hot summer days.
Incorporate natural remedies to care for your skin
Nature provides us with an array of remedies that can complement sun protection. Aloe vera gel, derived from the succulent plant, can soothe and moisturize sun-exposed skin. Just get yourself an aloe vera plant or a whole leaf, cut it down the middle, extract its gel, and apply it to your skin. Staying hydrated and applying cold compresses made with chamomile tea or diluted apple cider vinegar can also help alleviate sunburn discomfort. These natural remedies are excellent choices that aid skin recovery without using chemical-based products.
Following these skin care tips, you can keep your skin sun-safe without relying on chemical-laden products. So, go ahead, savor the sun’s warmth, and prioritize the health and well-being of your skin without synthetic chemicals.