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The best skin protection under the sun

Liberty, Maria

Citation: Better Nutrition for Today's


 Living, July 1994 v56 n7 p56(4)

Subjects: Skin Protection
Sunburn Prevention
Sunscreens (Cosmetics) Usage
Reference #: A15549752

Full Text COPYRIGHT Communication Channels Inc. 1994

Many of us agree with John Di Giovanni, M.D., who said that, "A healthy tan is an oxymoron." We've all seen the tanaholics—bronzed and aging fast. And we've read the melanoma statistics indicating that this form of skin cancer is one of the most prevalent in the United States.

In four decades, for the most part, we've gone from exalting to demonizing the sun. We've finally come to recognize that the primary cause of wrinkling and over-all skin deterioration is sun damage. Some experts believe that 90 percent of all wrinkles are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Until the 1930s, when Coco Chanel sported the first intentional tan, ladies protected their valuable complexions with parasols and bonnets. Now, having discovered a keen awareness of the damage that can result from UV radiation, we have come full circle and are again protecting against the searing rays with sunscreens and sunblocks. So, totally unnecessary wrinkles can be prevented. Sunscreens have been heralded as the only "true antiaging product in the marketplace." When used, a sunscreen not only blocks the rays of the sun, but also allows your skin's healing processes to swing into high gear, reversing much of the damage, provided it hasn't progressed into precancerous or cancerous lesions.

Newer sunscreens include free-radical fighters and healers, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, as well as synthetic melanin, an oxidant that protects against both UVA (long wave, deep, penetrating, cumulative damage) and UVB (causing most sunburns) radiation. Tests are being done on a vitamin C sun preparation that doesn't block the rays, but instead works to prevent cross linking of cells, thereby helping your skin avoid UV damage.

Some cold-pressed oils, especially those that are high in the free radical-fighting vitamins A, C and E, are mild sunscreens. Rose hips oil is especially high in vitamin C. Avocado and wheat germ oils are rich in vitamin E. Vitamin A is available in cod liver oil. Vitamin C combined with ascorbyl palmitate and oil-based vitamin E are found in natural formulas.

The basis for choosing a sun shield is Sun Protection Factor (SPF). Always choose an SPF of at least 15, which means that if you begin to turn red in five minutes without a sunscreeen and you apply an SPF 15, then 5 x 15 = 75 minutes is allowed before the same degree of burn is sustained. You can still burn while wearing a sunscreen, it just takes a little longer. When choosing a sun preparation, make sure it lists SPF or the word "sunscreen" or "sunblock" on the label or you might be getting a tanning lotion without protection. Also, make sure protection is for both UVA and UVB radiation. Finding a sunscreen that is compatible with your skin can be a trial and error endeavor. Many of us have sensitivities to the ingredients in some sunscreens.

For example, if you have problems with PABA, the vitamin B cousin, other ingredients are also efficient sunscreens. As a matter of fact, PABA is a good ingredient for many people to avoid, since preliminary studies have shown it to be allergenic in susceptible people.

Depending on your skin type, choose a natural oil-based sunscreen, which lasts longer but may clog pores, or choose an alcohol base, which has a drying action. For oil-based sunscreens, look for formulas containing natural oils. Oil-based formulas may cost more, but are well worth the investment.

If you have sensitive skin, be especially careful, since some sunscreens are weak allergens. If you can't find a brand that doesn't cause itching or burning with an SPF 15, then try a lower SPF and wear a hat or protective clothing in addition. Or try an opaque foundation that includes a natural sunscreen. Apply a sunscreen at least 30 minutes before being exposed to the sun's rays. It takes that long for the ingredients in the sunscreen to penetrate the epidermis. Apply a generous amount at first and reapply at regular intervals. If your sunscreen has an alcohol base, reapply after you come out of the water. Sunscreen is needed year-around, since UVs from the sun penetrate haze and clouds, bounce off of water, snow and sand, penetrate three feet below the surface of water and even through glass while driving your car. When applying sunscreens, always include the tops of ears, hands and feet, lips and bald spots on men. For lips, apply a sunscreen especially made for this area.

"I don't object to moderate protected sunning; indeed, a certain amount of sunshine helps vitamin D production and can alleviate depression," said Robert M. Giller, M.D., in Natural Prescriptions. "But the baking and basting of the old days is just asking for trouble, and not only in terms of wrinkling but also the dramatic increase in skin cancer statistics is truly alarming. So, get some sun but never without a sunscreen." He added that if you find that after using a sunscreen you break out in a rash or suffer a sunburn, you might be allergic to a common sunscreen ingredient—PABA, para-aminobenzoic acid. So try another formula with different active ingredients; before using it in the sun, test it on your wrist or arm for a few days to see if you have any reaction.

"While (using) sunscreens on the beach is essential, it's a mistake to save them for (only) special occasions; daily use is advisable, especially if you spend any amount of time outdoors," Giller added. "Many of my patients tell me that a sunscreen is the first thing they put on their face in the morning after showering. One woman with beautiful skin told me that she has been using a sunscreen on her face and hands every morning for nearly 10 years. Fortunately, many makeup are now being formulated with sunscreens included. If you're relying on them, just be sure their SPF is 15 or above." Also, if you are going to be spending some time in the sun, fluids and potassium need to be replenished. Free-form amino acids, free radical fighters, such as vitamins A, C and E, and the mineral zinc and bioflavonoids are all needed for tissue repair, healing and reduction of scar tissue.

What about your hair? It needs sun protection, too. If you're heading for the pool or the beach you can let the sun work for you. Wash your hair with a mild, all-natural, cruelty-free shampoo, then comb a conditioner with a sunscreen through your hair. Secure your hair as gently as possible with pins or combs, avoiding putting tension on the strands. When you get home, simply shampoo the conditioner out with luke warm water, being sure to remove it completely. The warmth of the sun will have given you a free heat-activated, deep conditioning treatment.


Busch, Julia. Treat Your Face Like a Salad. Coral Gables, Fla.: Anti-Aging Press, Inc., 1993.

Elson, Mervin L., M.D., and Hartley, John, M.D. The Good Look Book. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1992.

Everyday Health Tips. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press, 1988. Giller, Robert M., M.D., and Matthews, Kathy. Natural Prescriptions. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1994.


  • Drink six to eight 8-oz glasses of water daily.

  • Always use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, not just when you're at the beach. Apply each day before you leave the house and reapply it at midday, if possible.

  • Stop smoking. If you smoke a pack and a half a day you'll wrinkle about 10 years sooner than a nonsmoker. Pursing your lips to inhale and exhale encourages vertical lines to form around your mouth. Smoke dries the face, especially the skin around the delicate eye area, and encourages wrinkles to form.

  • Moisturize your skin daily.

  • In addition to your daily supplements, add 1,000 mg/day of vitamin C and 10,000 IU/day of beta carotene.

SOURCE: Giller, Robert M., M.D., and Matthews, Kathy. Natural Prescriptions. New York: Carol Southern Books, 1994.



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