Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me….Sunburned?

I don’t know about you, but one of the highlights of a tropical vacation for me is feeling that wonderful sun on my skin, although, nothing ruins a great tropical vacation like a bad sunburn, and with all that beautiful sand and clear water, it can happen before you know it. How do you enjoy that well deserved sunshine on vacation without paying the price – short OR long term? Here are a few suggestions:

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Sunscreen is of course, the most widely recommended protection against sun damage to your skin. How do you choose the one that’s right for you? Most dermatologists recommend a broad spectrum of full spectrum sunscreen, one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Doctors usually recommend an SPF of at least 15 and reapplication at least every 2 hours or more if you’re in the water. Check on the bottle to see how many minutes before sun exposure you should apply your first coat of sunscreen.

Avoiding Rays During Peak Hours:
The sun’s rays are most damaging during its peak hours of about 10am – 4 pm, so if you are out in the sun (especially in or near the water) be sure you have good sunscreen coverage and/or protective clothing and hat coverage.

Reef Friendly Sunscreen
Recently we’ve been reading a lot about “reef friendly” sunscreen. Scientific research is showing that chemicals in common sunscreens are dangerous to delicate coral and can destroy the algae reefs rely on. (See article in National Geographic News) According to National Geographic News, approximately 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off in reef areas every year causing some of the rapid kill off of our delicate ocean coral.

Which sunscreen chemicals have been found to be most dangerous to coral? Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), Octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), Propylene glycol and Butylparaben, Camphor, and Cinnamate.

So does this mean that you need to throw out your current sunscreen bottle collection and replace it with new “reef safe” sunscreen? Well, first of all, many of the ingredients found in common products used everyday can have the same negative effect on delicate coral reefs. Organic or biodegradeable products are usually better for us and coral than chemicals, but many experts say to especially avoid product ingredients starting with the prefix “oxy” or “hexa”.

Secondly, there are other larger threats to coral reefs, such as ocean and coastal pollution. But, if there’s something small we can each do to reduce the amount of toxins entering our ocean, isn’t it worth looking in to?

Where do you find “reef safe” sunscreen? The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has published results from their studies of the Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens. On the list it gives links to stores that carry the product listed. I suspect that many diving shops may carry “reef safe” products too and it’s amazing the number of products you can find on Amazon anymore! Reef Friendly Sunscreens on Amazon

Foods That Provide Some Skin Protection
And lastly, for those of us that are looking for as many natural alternatives in our chemically overloaded lives as possible, there has been some interesting research done on foods that give natural skin and sun protection. Not that you should forego using sunscreen or following good sun sense guidelines, but adding these foods to your diet prior to a tropical vacation may increase your skin’s ability to protect itself and possibly even repair some sun damage. What are some of these super skin foods?

Lycopene: apparently lycopene is a biggie. Found in red and pink produce such as watermelon, pink grapefruit and tomatoes – especially cooked tomatoes and tomato paste.

Greens and fresh herbs: spinach, parsley, basil, sage and rosemary

Green and Black Teas

Dark Chocolate! Yes – chocolate! Flavanoids may improve the skin’s ability to protect against some skin damage.

For more info on foods that provide some sun protection and repair, read  6 Food Groups That Will Protect You From the Sun.

Hope this has given you some ideas to increase your “sun sense” and to help protect your skin in the short and long term. Short from avoiding the sun altogether (ummm, not on MY vacation!) these tips could keep you singing “Sunshine On My Shoulders AND Legs, AND arms, Makes Me…Happy!”

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