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Sun Protection For Summer

Updated: Jun 26

Who’s ready for summer?

When it comes to sun exposure, balance is everything. The right amount at the right time is beneficial for our health. However, too much can lead to skin damage.

Here’s a little background info...


UV radiation is divided into UVA, UVB, and UVC:

  • UVA penetrates deeper into the skin

  • UVB is most frequently associated with damage to the top layer of skin causing ageing, pigmentation

  • UVC is filtered by the ozone and does not reach the skin.

The reason why we are advised to wear sunscreen to prevent sun damage is that when our skin is exposed to UV radiation, free radicals are generated. These free radicals are unstable particles that can cause damage to our cells and DNA, unless they are neutralized. What neutralizes them? Antioxidants.

This is why, as well as applying non-toxic sunscreen, the antioxidant quality of your diet is an important way to protect yourself from the free radicals and oxidative stress caused by UV light.

If I could give you two takeaways, it’ll be to EAT MORE PLANTS and stay hydrated. Plant polyphenols are a broad class of phytochemicals found in the plant kingdom that have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Plants use these to protect themselves from the harsh environment that they may have to survive, and when we consume plants, we get to benefit. Antioxidants from plants have been credited with their ability to promote the skin’s ability to neutralize the reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals created in response to UV radiation [1] So eat the rainbow, eat lots of plants and include tea, herbs and spices in your diet (if you don’t know how to, I have an e-book 'How to Eat More Plants’ to help you here.)

Now, let’s talk more specifically about particular nutrients that may have beneficial properties:

  • Resveratrol, found in grapes, wine, and peanuts, has been shown to act as an antioxidant, topical UVB protectant, anti-inflammatory [2]. Now, alcohol itself can cause oxidative stress, so don’t go guzzling wine just to get your resveratrol - you can get that from eating grapes. Grape skin also contains proanthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants that help scavenge free radicals. I have started to enjoy a small glass of red wine here and there since finding a brand I liked called SmartVine - read my full blog article here. If you drink, please make sure you do so responsibly as excess alcohol is harmful to health.

  • Quercetin - you must be sick of hearing about quercetin from me - as well as helping with seasonal allergies, it’s been tested as a topical sunscreen for humans and determined to provide protection from both UVA and UVB radiation [3] - great sources include: tea, onion, apples, capers, berries and, leafy greens.

  • Carotenoids - a class of compounds that include lycopene, the substance that makes tomatoes and watermelon red, found in studies to naturally protect against sun damage [4] - sources: tomatoes, watermelon, orange foods like sweet potatoes and, leafy greens.

  • Vitamin C - important in collagen synthesis, and as a cofactor in the glutathione pathway - the master antioxidant. Found in fruits, vegetables and some of the highest sources include: Citrus, broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers.

  • Vitamin E - an antioxidant, found to protect against UV damage, works synergistically with beta-carotene to prevent the breakdown of proteins such as collagen and elastin within the extracellular matrix (this is what maintains skin suppleness) - good sources include nuts like almonds, seeds, avocado, leafy greens.

  • You guys know I’m a massive fan of matcha, and it turns out that green tea has been found in several studies to protect against UV damage, so drink up. Here are my favorite brands Pique and Encha. You will always see me carrying matcha with me on vacation for this very reason. [5]

Apart from optimizing our diet, some other measures to stay safe:

  • HYDRATION - it is incredibly easy to get dehydrated in the summer because we are sweating more. Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you are already moderately dehydrated. Set yourself a reminder to drink water regularly. One way I love to use to make drinking water more enticing is to make infused water with fruits, herbs like peppermint or a few pieces of citrus.

  • Keep an eye on how long you are in the sun and seek shade after the safe limit is up - the safe limit will depend on your location and time of the month. You can get helpful info on UV index with the app D-minder.

  • Choose a safe sunscreen, and remember, higher SPF is not always better - you can read about my take on sunscreen here.

  • Cover up - remember to utilize physical barriers like sunglasses, hats, thin long sleeves.

What to do if you do get burnt?


Despite the best intentions, sunburn, unfortunately, does happen, and dang does it hurt. Here are some strategies I have to take some of the sting out:

  1. Cool the area - towel wrapped around an ice pack - to bring the inflammation down.

  2. I love BLDG Active spray to help with skin healing - check it out here and use this discount code at checkout: Plateful10

  3. Double down on anti-inflammatory foods above and try to stay away from foods that trigger inflammation like dairy and processed foods high in omega 6 fats and refined sugar.

  4. I also love Leefy Organics. Use my discount code Plateful for 15% off - this is a Turmeric and Ginger elixir that I take for its anti-inflammatory actions - this helps us with pain relief and inflammatory ailments.

  5. Load up on vitamin C rich and protein-rich foods to aid the skin healing process

  6. Cover up the burnt area so it is not exposed to anymore.

Enjoy the summer heat and load up on that immune-boosting vitamin D safely, everyone!

References:

  1. Dunaway S, Odin R, Zhou L, Ji L, Zhang Y, Kadekaro AL. Natural Antioxidants: Multiple Mechanisms to Protect Skin From Solar Radiation. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9

  2. Korać RR, Khambholja KM. Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacogn Rev.2011;5(10):164-173; PMID: 22279374

  3. Korać RR, Khambholja KM. Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacogn Rev.2011;5(10):164-173; PMID: 22279374

  4. Stahl W, Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr.2012;96(5):1179S-84S

  5. Roh E, Kim JE, Kwon JY, et al. Molecular mechanisms of green tea polyphenols with protective effects against skin photoaging. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(8):1631-1637. doi:10.1080/10408398.2014.1003365

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