Sunburn Protection                                                                    
by Laurie Lynch, ND.

Now that beautiful sunny whether is back and I just got my first sunburn of the season, itís time to consider sun burn protection. Coming from a family of fair-skinned blonds with serious sun-sensitivities, I have continuously researched information on the beneficial and harmful effects of the sun, and experimented with the various types of sun burn prevention and remediesSo I'd like to share this information with you so you can safely protect yourself and your family from sunburn and other sun damage.

What are the beneficial effects of sun exposure?                                                                                          
The sun's rays promote a feeling of well-being, stimulate blood circulation and production of vitamin D needed for mineral absorption, skeletal development, immune function and blood cell formation.  Experts disagree as to the right amount of sun exposure.  Some say 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure on hands, face and arms two to three times a week is sufficient to keep your vitamin D levels up, while others say an hour a day, and still others say humans were meant to live continually in the sun. UV radiation has been used to treat diseases, such as rickets, psoriasis, eczema, Seasonal Affective Disorder, sleep disorders, P.M.S. and jaundice. However, this therapeutic use cannot prevent the negative side-effects of UV radiation.

What are the harmful effects of sun exposure?                                                                                             .   
What we think is a healthy tan is really a sign that your skin has been damaged and has attempted to protect itself. When sun-damaged, the body produces melanin to create a protective tan, but it can't protect against long-term UV damage that causes skin cancer.  A bad sunburn as a child doubles your chances of developing skin cancer later on. The American Cancer Society says 80% of the suns cumulative damage occurs before age 20.   
The sun's ultraviolet radiation can penetrate and change the structure of skin cells, damage connective tissue and increase the risk for developing skin cancers; it can also cause premature aging; eye problems; sun poisoning; immune system suppression; wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and "age spots".  UV rays reach you in any season, even on cloudy days, and will reflect off any surface like water, cement, sand, and snow. 

Why are some people more sensitive to the sun than others?                                     .                        .   
Aside from fair skin, there are other factors that contribute to sun sensitivity:

  •  Chemicals such as some used in industrial cleaners.

  •   Medicinal drugs, such as antibiotics; anti-inflammatories; coal tars found in synthetic vitamin supplements, acne medications; psoriasis medications; photoactive dyes; anti-depressant drugs such as Thorazine; high blood pressure medications; anesthesia; steroids and other hormonal drugs; pain relievers; and petroleum products found in synthetic vitamins and some drugs.

  •  St. John's Wort causes sun sensitivity. 

  •  Oils on the skin, in skin lotions, ointments, sun tan lotions, sun screens, and sun blocks; cosmetics, and perfumes, magnify the suns rays causing skin damage. 

  •  Glass magnifies the suns radiation, especially through car windshields.

 The bad news about sun protection                                                                                                             
 Although doctors recommend use of sunscreens, studies have shown that sunscreens do not prevent skin cancer and may actually promote skin cancers, as well as colon and breast cancer.  The British Journal of Cancer reported that the yearly incidence of melanoma in Norway had increased by 350% for men and by 440% for women during the period 1957 to 1984, coinciding with the use of sun screens, before the problem of ozone depletion developed.  Why has the incidence of melanoma continued to rise since the wide use of sunscreens? Chemicals are absorbed through the skin into the blood stream.  Most sunscreens contain the chemical benzophenone, a powerful free radical generator that is activated by ultraviolet light, which could cause melanoma and other skin cancers. Benzophenone and 4 other sunscreen chemicals tested were shown to have estrogenic effects which could contribute to uterine and breast cancer. And this female hormone-like chemical is certainly not good for our sons!  Other common sunscreen ingredients were found to damage skin cells, especially when exposed to light.  Sunscreens also inhibit vitamin D production.

The Good news about sun protection                                                                                                     .         
There are safe, effective methods of sun burn prevention: 

  •  Avoid sun exposure from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest, but regular, moderate unprotected sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon will help the body to produce sufficient Vitamin D.    When you can't avoid the midday sun, you can try the following:  
  •  Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, tightly woven long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
  •  Eat healthy. Research has shown that eating 2 servings of fresh, raw organic fruits, 4 servings of fresh, raw organic vegetables, and 2 servings of whole grains a day provide needed nutrients that help protect from sun damage and cancers, as does avoiding bad dietary fats (heated and hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats), and eating more good fats (raw olive oil, avocados, flax or hemp seed oils). 
  •  Applying fresh lemon juice or Aloe Vera juice (from the live plant) on skin before sun exposure, prevents burning, helps heal existing burns, and kills infection.  These may be a little drying to older skin, so I found that adding water and honey to lemon juice prevents drying, protects skin, and tastes absolutely delicious, so what you donít use on your skin you can drink. Your skin will feel sticky for a few minutes, so you may want to rinse the inside of your hands.

1 fresh LEMON, juiced                     1 Tbsp. Raw HONEY                        4-8 ounces WATER
Mix and taste test to see if it needs more honey or lemon.

I hope this information will help you and your family to safely enjoy fun in the sun.                                                                                                   

Laurie Lynch is a Naturopathic Doctor, Master Herbalist, Certified Hypnotherapist, Wellness Consultant with several degrees in Nutrition, and may be contacted at the Living Well Health & Education Center, (910) 426-5159

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      Copyright © Laurie Lynch, N.D., 2008-2011