Pool days are officially in session, and the beautiful summer sun appears to have finally broken through the recent Texas storms for hopefully the remainder of the season. While I can’t wait to soak up some Vitamin D, I know I must be diligent to protect my fair-skinned family from the detrimental effects of overexposure to UV rays. But doing so isn’t always easy considering most sunscreens on the shelf are chalked full of harmful ingredients. So here are five natural ways to protect your family’s skin.
1. Cover Up!
Invest in a swim top. When shopping for my kids’ swim suits, I always make sure to buy rash guards to go with them. For the boys, this is no problem. They are usually excited to have a top to match their trunks. In fact, I don’t think they really realize that boys don’t always wear one to begin with since that’s what I’ve always bought them. But even if my daughter wants a cute suit to start the day off in, having the option to throw a rash guard on after an hour or two makes all the difference in the world. I will even be purchasing some for me and my husband for our upcoming trip. The way I see it is adults can look cool in rash guards, too, even if they aren’t surfing! (Who am I kidding… looking cool is pretty low on my priority list these days!)
It’s always good to have a hat on hand as well, preferably brimmed, to protect the face and neck!
2. Find the shade!
When setting up camp for a day at the pool or beach, be sure to find a shady spot! Having a place to escape the sun’s rays especially in the heat of the day can be the difference between a nice tan and being burnt like a lobster. When necessary, bring your own shade like this pop-up canopy or this handy standing umbrella. Both are purchases my husband and I made last August to brave our kids’ soccer games. They are some of the best items we have ever bought. No more brutal afternoons in the blazing sun watching our sons play. I can’t wait to try out the Wondershade standing umbrella at a beach one day!
3. Watch the time!
Try to plan your outdoor activities for the beginning of the day or toward the end of the day. Exposure to UV rays is greatest when the sun is at its highest point in the sky (between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.) On the other hand, the rays are less intense in the mornings and evenings since they are as not as direct.
Also, pay attention to the length of exposure. The longer you spend in the sun, the more UV rays you will receive. So keep this in mind when planning your time at the pool. Lunch indoors or under a covered patio followed by a little afternoon nap before you go back out should keep you and the family out of harms way.1
4. Eat these foods!
Yup. You read that right. You can actually eat foods that help protect you from the harmful effects of the sun! Isn’t that amazing? Research shows that eating foods high in antioxidants can actually increase the body’s ability to protect itself from UV damage. Foods high in antioxidants include: wild-caught, cold water fish like salmon, red and orange fruits/vegetables like tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens like spinach, and even dark chocolate!2
Essentially if you are following a whole food diet such as the Dr. Brown diet, you are likely eating many of these foods already! If not, it’s time to add these superfoods to your regular menu. Your skin will thank you!
5. Wear non-toxic sunscreen!
First of all, I’ve read many articles that suggest sunscreen is so toxic (and the sun has so many benefits) that sunscreen is best avoided altogether. And in short spurts, I’m in total agreement. In fact, during the spring when the sun is not as intense, I encourage my kids to play out in the sun for about 30-45 minutes in the morning or late afternoon without sunscreen. Their bodies so badly need that Vitamin D! But in the heat of the summer, especially for long days at the pool or beach, that really isn’t an option for us. Most experts agree… the key is to not get burned since that’s the tell tale sign you’ve overdone it. And after about 15-30 minutes in the sun at this time of year and in this part of the world, my fair-skinned cuties will fry like an egg on hot cement!
Choose sunscreen wisely …
So if you plan to spend long hours in the sun, choose your sunscreen wisely. There are currently two different types on the market: the more common ones that use chemical filters and the less common but safer ones that use minerals. Chemical sunscreens are problematic for many reasons including the possibility of allergic reactions and the evidence of hormone disruption. Oxybenzone is believed to be the most troublesome chemical commonly found in sunscreen, but it is certainly not the only one to avoid. Other toxic chemicals frequently added to sunscreen include avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. And that’s just the active ingredients. The “inactive” ingredients are often just as worrisome, such as the preservative, methylisothiazolinone, which was named “allergen of the year” in 2013.3
Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, uses zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as its active ingredients. These minerals are added in the form of nanoparticles which have not been shown to penetrate the skin in significant amounts, if at all, making it the safer choice. As with any product, not every brand is created equal. Look for organic, and be sure to check the inactive ingredients for anything undesirable. Dr. Brown’s brand of choice is Badger.
Now go soak up some sun!!!
But be smart and safe about it.