Summer is here! In all its sweaty, sunny glory. Portland got hit hard with the sunshine this weekend, the temperature spiked to 104 degrees according to the car thermostat. Maybe the universe is trying to make up for the record-setting depressingly gray winter and spring, but perhaps we could spread that out a bit? Clearly, I'm a typical northwest kid... can never be happy with the weather. Too rainy, too hot, too windy, too not. But I digress...
In spite of the heat, now that the sunshine has arrived, I'm a MUCH happier person. I love the rain, you may even call me a pluviophile. When we have long stretches of sunny weather, I'm the person that describes my soul as thirsty for rain. That being said... I'm a totally different (i.e. more pleasant) person when the sun comes to visit.
For the past month, I've been starting most of my days off coaching outdoor workouts at Irving Park. It's been so glorious; the fresh air, the quiet, the morning sun (yes. I was also amazed that the sun makes an appearance so early.)
This outside time just makes me feel healthier and happier (and I'm not even the one doing the workout!).
And of course this makes sense.
Healthy sun exposure, specifically from UVB rays, is linked with improved mood and energy, melatonin regulation (ie sleep patterns), better immune function and most importantly, higher Vitamin D production. Low levels of Vitamin D are correlated with development of certain cancers, high blood pressure, calcification of arteries, diabetes, and neurological disorders. Adequate Vitamin D production is especially important for women and levels can effect fertility, bone mass, immune function and more.
Now this doesn't mean we should rush to the beach and lounge in the sun for hours unprotected. As nice as that sounds...
There IS such a thing as too much sun exposure. Burning to a crisp may be just as harmful as not getting sun exposure.
Studies suggest, to produce adequate serum Vitamin D levels, you only need approximately 30 minutes of unfiltered sun exposure each day. Sounds like another benefit of working out in the park each morning! This time estimate varies with the amount of melatonin in your skin. The darker your complexion, the more sun exposure you'll need. This is also dependent on your diet. Vitamin D works synergistically with vitamin A and K and with calcium. Be sure to eat lots of colorful veggies and foods that naturally contain vitamin D like egg yolks, liver and fatty fish.
If you plan on playing in the direct sunshine for more than a half hour, you'll want to take some precautions to protect your skin!
Four Ways to Practice Safe Suncare
More than 30 minutes in the sun? Take a break in the shade!
Find a nice spot under an umbrella or tree. Hit up the cabana! You hang out near cabanas, right?
Fair warning: not all shade is created equal, the sun's rays can reflect off the water and you may still susceptible to burns!
Eat plenty of fatty fish!
Huh? Let me explain... This is more preventative care than anything. Eating ahi tuna on the beach while sipping on a cool beverage won't protect you from burns in the moment. BUT eating plenty of omega-3 rich foods like salmon, tuna, and sardines can actually reduce your susceptibility to burn over time! Omega-3s are vital to managing your body's inflammatory response (sunburn is inflammation in this case.) Also remember our friend, Vitamin D? That guy is a fat soluble vitamin, which means you need healthy fats (like those found in fish, coconut oil, avocado etc.) for Vitamin D (and A, E, and K) to function optimally in the body.
Not so much into fish? Try supplementing with Cod Liver Oil.
Wear protective clothing
Donning a floppy hat and a sweet pair of shades not only looks cute AF, but it also protects your eyes and sensitive skin on your face from overexposure! Clothes are some of the best barriers from burns. Headed to the beach? Planning on catching some totally righteous waves? Snag a rash guard! Going for a long run? Opt for a light jacket. If you're worried about being too warm, try wearing white! White reflects the sun's rays, keeping you cool.
Use a mineral based sunscreen
Lastly, if you do plan on being in direct sun for extended periods of time, snag some sunscreen to help prevent burns. Mineral sunscreens made with non-nano zinc oxide effectively block UVA and UVB rays without subjecting your skin to harmful chemicals. Zinc acts as a physical barrier, reflecting the sun's rays. The zinc sunscreens on the market today are VASTLY different than the ghostly white creams of yesteryear. So if you associate thick goopy white paste with natural sunscreen, I'm here to tell you there are better options.
Why avoid conventional sunscreen? Chemical based sunscreens, particularly those made with oxybenzone, penetrate the epithelial tissue and get absorbed into the blood stream. This is linked to endocrine disruption, thyroid disfunction, skin irritation and other issues.
Here's a fun one: conventional sunscreens aren't always effective at blocking UVA rays and studies show there is no direct link between sunscreen use and reduced risk of melanoma.
So when you need sunscreen, opt for safer options.
My favorites include:
- Beautycounter Protect All-Over Sunscreen. *** It goes on smooth, blends in well with all skin types and doesn't easily sweat off. I gave this one the super sweaty workout test and it passed with no stinging eyes! It is also unscented-- so no obnoxious pool smell here.
- Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen. This is a safe and effective formula that is more budget friendly than the Protect All-Over. It's pretty thick and leaves a hint of white glow, but if your cruisin' around the garden or hiking, who cares?
- Protect Face Stick. *** I always keep this in my purse. It's small enough to fit in a pocket and easy to apply to my kiddo's face and arms. It glides on clear and rubs in well.
- Badger Balm Face Stick. This is another budget friendly option. It's unscented and made with non-nano zinc, olive oil and beeswax. It takes a little effort to apply and rub it in to reduce the white residue.
Long story short: We need regular sun exposure for optimal health. But we need be smart about it.
Keep the duration of direct exposure short, take breaks in the shade, wear protective clothing and when necessary use a mineral based sunscreen.
***In the market for safer sunscreen and want to support a great cause? This month I'm donating 5% of all Beautycounter sales to support the ongoing work of Healthy Child Healthy World, an organization that empowers families with the education to create safer homes, offers solutions for non-toxic living, and advocates for policy to protect children's health. And as a thank you for reading, I'm offering free standard shipping for any order over $50 now through June 30 11:59PM PST.