Not just skin deepJul 10, 2020
We decamped for the summer to our lovely farmhouse in the forgotten France. Hidden in the Limousin, where the lakes stay cool, the forests are ancient and the sun is hot hot hot, we continue to live and work as we do in London, just with added joie de vivre.
When the girls were young, they’d shed their clothes on arrival and spent the rest of the summer racing around the garden naked - returning to school brown as little nuts. They are more sophisticated these days, but we still do live a green and natural lifestyle.
This means I ask guests not to bring commercially bought sunscreens while they stay with us unless they are organic and/or ayurvedic; I don’t want the chemicals in our saltwater pool.
Firstly: saltwater pools are not salty, but utilise electrolysis to break down the salt as sodium chloride in the water — which means there are no chloramines, causing eye irritation and a pungent chlorine smell. It is the softest, most beautiful and clear water to swim in.
Secondly, I provide homemade sunscreen and after-sun. Made from shea butter and essential oils amongst others, it is full of goodness — if you can’t eat it, don’t stick it on your skin. (Click here for the recipe) While I am not sure of its exact number, it protects, nourishes and is definitely not factor 50.
Factor 50, you see, truly is the bad guy: robbing you of your essential vitamin D exposure, plus slathering harmful chemicals onto your skin that goes directly into your bloodstream. I don’t think there is a conspiracy going on trying to kill us, as one affronted mum accused me of.
But there was very little research into chemicals when we embraced them in the 60’s, and it’s only now, decades later, with the rise of ADHD, autism, chronic skin conditions, breathing disorders such as Asthma and even cancers that we are starting to understand the significance of chemicals in our households.
Ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone protect from UV rays but are also known to cause skin irritation and hormonal disruption, even cancer. Research suggests they may pose risks to developing foetuses when pregnant women are exposed to oxybenzone (as always, I let you do your own research: google keywords plus PubMed, and read for yourself)
The formula sun lotion = protection because sunbathing = skin cancer is not just outdated, it never was true in the first place.
So how ARE you supposed to protect yourself from the sun?
Common sense, that’s how. The sun isn’t even the problem in the first place.
To start with, we only sit in direct sunlight in the mornings and late afternoon. From 12 - 3, we stay in the shade. We may heat up in the sun for 5 minutes before we jump into the pool, but other than that, the trees tend to have napping people or kids building dens underneath them.
We drink plenty of water. And I really mean plenty. Providing it in jugs infused with fresh lemons or mint and cucumber means it is readily available for all ages.
Hats and loose shirts make reusable, chemical-free and environmentally friendly sun protection.
Your diet is your very best sunscreen.
A good diet makes your skin glow and lowers inflammatory occurrences in the body. Think Mediterranean for perfect sunshine food.
Do eat: healthy sources of saturated and monounsaturated fats (i.e: nuts, avocados, canola, sesame or olive oil) and lots of leafy greens.
TOP TIP: add a minimum of 2 tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste into your diet daily. Tomato paste is high in antioxidants, and the more antioxidants, the less free radicals and inflammation in your body. Eat loads of berries, and treat yourself with good quality dark chocolate. There, that’s your diet sorted.
Avoid: processed food, grains, vegetable oils and sugars (especially corn sugar from sodas).
Vitamin D and supplementation
The higher your vitamin D levels, the better your skin can produce melanin. So you do need SOME sun exposure because that is by far the best source of Vitamin D, free and readily provided by simply leaving the house in shorts.
Supplementation will help you to produce and retain melanin, and it is always better to take supplements that have been put together by a professional. For this reason, I take Lifelong Vitality and DDR Prime by dōTERRA, and so do my kids. They were developed to support cellular vitality, provide all your omegas, well-balanced nutrients and antioxidant support. This way I know that I won’t take anything in excess. Mixing and matching vitamins as recommended by various mates can actually be harmful.
How essential oils can support your summer life:
Lavender, Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Geranium, Frankincense and Sandalwood are known for their positive properties for the skin — add a drop to a teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil and gently spread all over the body before sun exposure.
If you do burn, use Teatree, Lavender, Myrrh, Frankincense, and/or Helichrysum in a teaspoon of carrier oil to soothe and help the skin repair itself.
Peppermint and Lavender spray (add 10 drops to a 500ml Glas spray bottle full of water) is beautifully cooling and calming for the skin. I have a bottle in my fridge at all times.
Stay away from all citrus oils: they are phototoxic and can cause severe burns even 12 hours after application (exception: green mandarin)
The bottom line? It’s time to rethink what we have learned since childhood and make new, educated decisions when it gets to our sun protection. And with that, I am off into my hammock. I have some serious thinking to do.
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