It might be early in the summer, but I’m already feeling the burn. Spending the year in Southern Spain, the sun is pretty relentless. Even with regular applications of high-SPF sunscreen, your skin and health can suffer from too much sun exposure. In addition to always applying sunscreen, here are my favorite tips from Mother Nature for staying healthy under the sun:
- Choose a Natural, Mineral Sunscreen
It turns out, not all sunscreens are created equal. Some dermatologists are concerned that common chemical sunscreens can be irritating, and there have even been reports that chemical sunscreen residue in the ocean is damaging coral reefs and aquatic life.
For the best protection, opt for a mineral sunscreen. Instead of harsh chemicals, these sunscreens use natural minerals, primarily zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The minerals create a physical barrier against the sun. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens protect you by triggering a reaction that changes light into heat when it hits your skin. This means you’re still getting the nasty effects of all that heat exposure, which could still lead to signs of aging.
Switch to a mineral sunscreen, and not only the oceans, but your skin, will thank you. When shopping, look for the term “mineral sunscreen,” as so-called “natural” sunscreens can still be chemically-based.
- Eat for Skin Health
You can actually protect yourself from the sun from the inside out, by eating the right skin-healthy foods.
Start with plenty of citrus fruits and strawberries. Not only are they full of vitamin C— which helps your skin regenerate and repair damage—but they also contain powerful antioxidants. These help your skin to fight off the free radicals that come from the sun’s rays.
To ward off sun damage, vitamin E might be the most important nutrient for your skin. In fact, one study showed that subjects who consumed the vitamin E content of 20 almonds had less sunburn effects than subjects who didn’t eat almonds. Aside from almonds, avocado oil is another excellent source of vitamin E.
There are a few other sun superfoods you might not know about. Tomatoes and watermelon both contain high amounts of lyocopene, a powerful antioxidant and carotenoid (like the beta carotene in carrots) that can boost your skin’s health. Speaking of beta carotene, carrots are another great snack for healthy skin. The best part? Summer is always the best time to eat fresh, local tomatoes and watermelon.
If you do get a little too much of the sun’s rays, opt for a cup (hot or iced) of green tea. Aside from its high antioxidant content, green tea contains tannic acid, which helps ease sunburn pain.
- Get Your Daily Water
To keep your cells regenerating, and keep your energy levels up in the hot sun, water is a must. If you’re getting your daily recommended water intake, good for you! Just remember that you need to increase your water consumption when you’re in the sun.
There’s no hard and fast rule, but I generally remind myself to drink an extra glass of water each hour that I’m in the sun. If I’m running or hiking, I might try to drink even more than that.
And, if all that water gets monotonous, try these healthy tips for spicing it up.
- Take a Beauty Nap
During the long days of summer, your body might be telling you to get extra rest. Listen! When you’re in the sun, your body has to work harder to maintain a constant, healthy temperature. This means that internally, you’re hard at work, even if you’re lounging by the pool.
Your skin has to work harder to protect itself when you’re out in the sun, so your body diverts hydration and energy from other areas. A sunburn—even a mild one—can make this effect even worse.
If you’re spending the day in the sun, consider popping inside (or at least somewhere cool and shady) for a nap, particularly around 1 or 2 p.m. to avoid the strongest rays.