Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Skin protection

I've always burned in the sun, but avoidance is not the answer. Safe exposure is so important in maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D3, implicated in a healthy immune system. As well as containing toxic xeno-oestrogens and carcinogens, commercially produced suncreams filter out almost all of the ultra-violet light which the skin needs to synthesise vitamin D3.  Our skin is not only a barrier, but a carrier, so whatever you put on it will be absorbed into your blood stream, making more work for the liver. Last summer I made a decision. I ditched the suncream and instead used pure, organic coconut oil. I didn't burn, not even in the hot Ibizan sunshine.

Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids like capric acid, caprylic acid, lauric acid and vitamin E, all of which nourish the skin and cut down on ultra-violet ray damage. But it's not just about coconut oil's amazing properties. Equally important is my changed diet, which has improved my skin's ability to produce melanin, protecting it against sun damage. I drink at least 6 cups of green tea a day. Green tea contains massive amounts of anti-oxidants, which fight off free radicals, can prevent sun damage and even stave off skin cancer thanks to it's anti-inflammatory properties. I take krill oil which is full of astaxanthin, another super anti-oxidant which offers UVA protection. I supplement with 10,000 iu's a day of vitamin D3, which increases sun tolerance and protects against sun damage, which is a beautiful irony considering we should get 90% of our daily dose FROM the sun. I also drink vegetable juices daily. My morning carrot juice is a valuable source of vitamin A, and is full of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, all of which protect, nourish and moisturise the skin. Nutrition from carrots helps to reduce photosensitivity, promotes skin renewal and protects from sun damage.

I'm not advocating the total replacement of suncream with coconut oil. My young children spend hours in the sea when on holiday, and their diets are not sufficiently full of anti-oxidants or phytochemicals to go cream-free. What's important is to maximize safe sun exposure to improve natural levels of D3, whilst avoiding burning. This would mean exposing 80% of your body to the sun for up to 20 minutes, avoiding the hottest part of the day between 11am and 2pm. When I feel that my kids need protection I use a 'clean' sunscreen like Badger, which is unscented and free from chemicals. In previous summers my children never went out in the sun without first being covered in suncream. They NEVER got any natural vitamin D; they were always covered by t-shirts, hats, sunglasses and cream. These days they develop gentle tans, indicating that their skin is reacting positively to the sun. 

We live in a society which warns of the dangers of sunbathing, and suggests that the answer lies in a tube of chemically engineered suncream. Instead the answer lies in proper nutrition and common sense in the sun.

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