It’s the hottest, driest part of summer for those of us in the US. Depending where you live, you’re either out there trying to absorb it or doing what you can to shield from it. Whether you live in a desert landscape and find yourself scorching, or are in a climate where you only get a few weeks of it (Montana), right now, you want to make sure you are doing what you can to be Sun Smart.
I know this is controversial, but I am not a big believer in sunscreen. Years ago, when it was all the rage, I doubted it. Now, there’s preliminary science showing my skepticism was right.
Here’s the crazy reality: IT HAS NEVER BEEN PROVEN, NOT ONCE, THAT JUST BECAUSE YOUR SKIN ISN’T GETTING RED, THAT IT ISN’T GETTING THE DAMAGE.
I believe, based on twenty years client experience and a gazillion hours research, that sunscreen reduces occurrence of erythema, the superficial reddening of skin, and creates a misconceived sense of safety: “I’m not red, so it’s fine.” In the meantime, we slather ourselves, and our children, with such high hopes.
Check out this graph which clearly shows the occurrence of melanoma going up, even after the heightened awareness and use of sunscreen.
Our intuition still rules. Humans aren’t supposed to be fully exposed during the hottest parts of the day. Even plants and animals with the highest natural protective mechanisms have a way to shield themselves from middle-of-day sunshine.
I do believe in enjoying the heck out of every sunny summer day. This is the Brazilian-born, Southern California-raised, Montana-base in me. I love sunshine. I will happily trade a few sunspots for being on a glacier-fed river or lake in the middle of July, absorbing sunshine for my soul, or *gasp* getting a tan!
There are plenty of ways to be “Sun Smart, Not Sun Scared” (I made that sentence up. If you see Coppertone use it, know they stole it.) None of the ways depend on you slathering a bunch of chemicals on yourself.
8 ways to be Sun Smart, Not Sun Scared
1. BUILD UP YOUR INTERNAL DEFENSE MECHANISMS: Your skin, given the right nutrients, was biologically created for this. There’s a reason we crave orange/red fruits and vegetables this time of year. Beta-carotene is nature’s sunscreen. My clients usually start building up their levels in April with 4oz a day of carrot juice or equivalent. When you see your palms get a little orange, that’s when you know your beta-carotene levels are ready to defend you. If you’re just starting now, incorporate as much carrot, watermelon, red pepper, papaya and other fruits and vegetable high in Vitamin A as you possibly can. I’ve been known to survive on an 80% watermelon diet during the dog days of summer. The other 20% is anchovies, salmon, basil, tomatoes, feta cheese and champagne.
2. COVER UP: You do not have to look like you walked out of a Sierra Nevada catalog to cover up. You can still look really hot while having most of your skin covered up middle of the day. I am a big fan of black lace oversize shirts over a bathing suit, men’s button up shirts, cool t-shirts, big hats that make you look and feel like a celebrity hiding from paparazzi (because they are always trying to catch you cocky-fresh). In the car, I always carry a light-weight scarf to throw over my chest and arms while driving. And I am totally thinking of bringing back the driving gloves. I have my share of hyper-pigmentation, well-earned on many road-trips. Doesn’t mean I have to keep getting it.
3. DRINK WISELY: Studies show ingesting vitamin C-based beverages while exposed to sun helps ward off a bunch of the damage. So, as much as I abhor citrus in skincare (you will see this rant many times), internally it is powerful. Be so careful if squeezing fresh lemons, limes and oranges and do not get it on your skin. Get it in your drink, and plan outdoor cocktails ahead of time. Watermelon Spritzer-YES! Basil Lemonade- premade YES.
4. AVOID CITRUS OILS ON YOUR SKIN: For the first of many times, one of my huge gripes with the beauty industry. I get it. It smells nice. And yes, if you are a lab rat, never exposed to sunshine, citrus-based vitamin C applied topically does have some positive effects. BUT it is so, so phototoxic. Companies will say “It’s only a tiny bit”, “We use steam-distilled”, blah, blah, blah. When you look up the actual data (look up phytophotodermatitis, and if inclined, keep digging from there) citrus in skincare is so irresponsible. You know who uses citrus ingredients? People who create lines for profit only, or who have no experience with actual skin, or who just don't know any better. We hope they are flexible enough to change a formula. Part of how I built a nearly $100k-a-year esthetician clientele is because I could spot someone using a citrus based skin product right away. Once I got them off of it, their skin would eventually normalize under my guidance, and I had a client for life. I wish I had been better about before-and-after photos. No, it does not matter if you are only using citrus products at night. Even after you wash your face repeatedly, the active elements stay present for over 24 hours. Don’t do it. The European Union has outlawed it; a few states have tried but not gotten far because there’s money in them bottles. You have the power. Stop buying it. Stop using it.
5. EAT YOUR FATS: Think like an island babe. Olive Oil, Avocado, Salmon, Anchovies, Rice Bran Oil: eat up, buttercups. Those fats are your skin’s internal tanning lotion. The beta-carotene prevents damage. The fats allow you to get a golden glow, responsibly (before 11am, after 3pm, 20 minute sessions.)
6. THINK ABOUT YOUR BODY CARE! This is where we come in. Our Brilliant Daily Body Serum is a multi-tasking elixir, based on skincare experience, real-life trial and accurate data to help prevent and strengthen against daily damage. We use the equivalent to 20% L-Ascorbic Acid in an oil-soluble form that is more potent and stable, along with 4 active ingredients scientifically proven to strengthen your skin’s response to sun, pollution and environmental damage. This includes Strawberry Seed Oil, a newcomer with fantastic promise; White + Green Tea Extract, long-time beloved heroes in skincare but rarely found in adequate concentrations due to high cost (we went above and beyond); and Rice Bran Oil, a natural source of sun/heat-protecting, bio-available tocotrienols (Vitamin E).
7. REPAIR WISELY: In the evening, after a day out or a day of errands, parking lots and traffic, it is crucial to provide your skin what it needs to repair. By allowing your skin to take care of itself overnight, it enters the next day without the stress of damage. If you finish a day outside--where you slathered with whatever was around, jumped in the shower at night and applied whatever lotion is on your counter--each day’s stress adds to the next, slowly building up an inflammatory response. That is how premature aging happens, and possibly how more stressful medical skin issues happen. Our Cellular Luminosity Overnight Repair Body Creme is filled to the brim with reparative Iris Stem Cells, Brightening Peptides, luscious anti-aging Rosehip Seed Oil and nutrients to reduce inflammatory response to a day well lived. Slather that!
8. PLAN YOUR DAY: Get outside earlier and later. Hang indoors mid-day. That’s what you would instinctively do if you were an island child. That’s why siestas exist. Humans aren’t meant to be outside middle of a hot, sunny day. If you have to be, plan/dress accordingly, prevent wisely, and repair with intention!
Any of us who love the outdoors will sometimes throw all caution to the wind in exchange for a really fun day outside. We will have more signs of aging than our very cautious counterparts. I accept every bit of it, while preventing as much as possible. We can slow down or prevent a lot of it. I have no intention of arriving at the last breath perfectly preserved, and each sign of a life thoroughly well-lived is a badge of honor. I do have every intention of arriving with skin still glowing, supple, healthy and better with wear.
Enjoy it fully, and intelligently.
A few notes:
I think a zinc sunscreen formula can be worthy. It is crushed up rock, which means shade. It all depends on the rest of the formula. I apply a mineral powder some days.
If you want more data, check out this article I wrote for Dermascope a few years ago, then dig from there. I have no idea how I would go about having kiddos. It is complicated.
*Please remember, I am a very smart esthetician, with an obsessive research brain and access to medical research libraries. I do not just "google it". These are still just my opinions. I am not a dermatologist or medical professional. I do think sunscreen companies are making money selling us crap, but that is an educated opinion, not a fact.