Fun in the Sun: Tips for Summer Skin Protection
While it may seem like summer is winding down and turning into fall, August is Summer Sun Safety Month, and there’s still plenty of hot sun left to experience this year. We all know that excessive sun poses a risk to our skin via ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but it’s also not reasonable—or healthy—to avoid the sun by staying inside all summer. After all, fresh air, physical activity, and natural production of vitamin D from the sun are all very important for health.
So, what can you do to protect your skin while outside? You probably know about wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses, as well as finding some shade. But, did you know that there’s also a lot to glean from the day’s UV Index? Or that there are specific foods that contain nutrients known to help protect the skin? Keep reading to learn more!
The UV Index is a tool that can be used to assess the risk of overexposure to the sun. Using a scale of 1 to 11+, it predicts the intensity of UV rays.
1-2. Minimal Risk : No Protection Required
3-5. Moderate Risk : Protection Required
6-7. High Risk : Protection Required
8-10: Very High Risk : Extra Protection Required
11+. Extreme Risk : Extra Protection Required
The UV Index is usually included in a weather forecast, including those in phone apps. So, if you find yourself in the sun and wondering about the risk, check the UV Index to see if it might be wise to cover up and/or find some shade, or continue on with confidence that you’re experiencing minimal risk.
Image via United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/enviro/uv-index-overview
As mentioned, there are specific foods that contain nutrients known to help protect the skin, including from sun damage. While a balanced, varied diet is always the best type of preventative medicine year-round, here are some specific foods to include in your diet during the sunny months.
Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit. These foods are all high in lycopene, the red/pink pigment known to be an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from UV damage. Processed tomatoes, including canned, sun dried, and tomato paste, are the best sources of lycopene.
Carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe. These foods are all high in beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is vital for skin health, and beta carotene is linked to protection from sun damage.
Sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, avocado. These foods are all good sources of vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and is known to protect against UV damage. BONUS: it’s also known to protect against environmental pollution!
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and flax seeds. If you’ve been following the blog, you’re well aware that these foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to previously discussed benefits of omega-3s, another benefit is possible resistance to sunburn and protection from UV damage.
Green tea. This one gets its own category. It’s high in polyphenols that are known to be powerful antioxidants and are linked to decrease incidence of skin cancer.
In addition to everything discussed above, please note that it’s important to talk with a trusted healthcare provider about individual sun exposure needs and risks, as well as what to look for if there are any concerns about skin health. We hope that you’ve found this information useful and that it empowers you to safely enjoy AND benefit from the summer sun!