A beautiful topic indeed, which has its roots established in our episode series ranging from 28-31, as we uncover the truth about the Sun, its various roles, and how everything else is tied around it, so we can make the best use of this abundant rich resource at our disposal. Sunlight isn’t harmful, in fact, this life-giving yellow globe of light can only do better than harm. It’s part of the cosmos, it’s part of who we are, and we are undeniably connected to everything else like trees, animals, soil, stars, moon, etc. The sun is the cathode and the Earth its anode and free electrons are generated when they connect, so it becomes highly essential that we connect to the Sun to recharge our batteries.
But most of our time is spent locked up in our houses or offices during the day, we hardly ever get out to enjoy nature’s bounty. Let’s learn a little from our ancestors that did the exact opposite. We need sun rays so that it stimulates our neuroendocrine and immune system which is independent of vitamin D production so that we are protected from various cancers. In fact, vitamin D after getting absorbed from the skin is taken by the adipose tissue or in the liver for storage, which can provide us with vitamin D for days to months end. Also, it becomes distinctly important to remember that vitamin D is a result of an illness and not a cause. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a plunge right into the world of sunglasses and sunscreens that have created a lot of harm to our skin and confusion for the mind.
Sunscreens create a lot of ROS which can increase carbonyl formation in albumin and damage the DNA, which can lead to cancers. Also with the destruction of the DNA strands, the reproductive enzymes cannot copy that, ending up with a sunburn. Sunscreens are known to block UVB radiation which causes sunburn, but then we lose our ability to produce vitamin D as well.
Sunglasses dampen our ability to produce the alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone which literally means sending a signal for melanocyte production to protect us from excess light, but UVB-blocking sunglasses trick the brain into thinking that the sun is either not harsh or isn’t there, so internally there is indirect DNA damage happening which is responsible for melanoma cases. Lastly, once we stop wearing sunglasses and applying chemically laden sunscreens and start building up our solar callus in spring so that when we are faced with peak summers, our body has already adapted to the change and can well-tolerate the intensity.
Anti-oxidants to consider before and after sun exposure:-
- Astaxanthin – Known as the “Internal Sunscreen”. Astaxanthin is a red carotenoid found in shrimp, crabs, wild salmon, and microalgae. It exerts a strong anti-oxidative activity by scavenging free radicals.
- Golden Polypody Fern – Even this is the sunscreen taken by mouth known as Polypodium Leucotomos which is commonly called golden polypody fern or rabbit foot fern. Currently, golden polypody extract is widely available in the United States and Europe as a dietary supplement, FernblockR. This plant has the ability to enhance our internal antioxidant mechanisms, which in turn helps in thwarting the creation of harmful free radicals that can cause damage to both the skin tissue and the DNA within cells. What makes this plant even more intriguing is its remarkable efficacy in safeguarding against damage caused by UV radiation. Several controlled clinical trials, varying in size, have consistently demonstrated that the use of a standardized extract of Polypodium leucotomos effectively shields the skin from UV radiation-induced harm, diminishes photosensitivity, and aids in the prevention of sunburn. Throughout history and in present-day medical practice, Golden polypody has been utilized to alleviate symptoms associated with psoriasis. This beneficial effect could be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties. Furthermore, research suggests that Golden polypody may offer assistance in mitigating pigmentation alterations caused by vitiligo, melasma (dark spots triggered by sun exposure), and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, typically resulting from physical skin damage like acne or eczema. There is evidence indicating that the rhizome of polypody may have interactions with heart medications. Therefore, individuals with a heart condition are advised to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating this plant into their regimen.
- Lycopene rich food – Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, particularly when they are cooked. Research conducted with tomato paste revealed that individuals who consumed tomato paste regularly experienced greater protection against acute sunburn and potential long-term effects of photo damage. It is worth noting that not everyone tolerates nightshade family vegetables, such as tomatoes. Fortunately, there are other fruits that also contain significant amounts of lycopene, and one such example is watermelon. It is highly likely that its substantial lycopene content provides a similar level of sunburn protection. But then there are others like papaya, persimmon, sweet red peppers, red cabbage, and mangoes.
- Carotenoids – They are plant-based pigments that are known for their antioxidant effects and there are many options to choose from such as carrots, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, apricots, pumpkin, sweet potato, kale, and spinach.
- Witch hazel extract – This extract, applied as a compress, has long been used as a topical agent for reducing inflammatory and pruritic skin conditions. It is recognized by ESCOP and approved by the German Commission E as a treatment for skin irritations and minor inflammatory dermatologic and mucosal conditions. A comparative study looking at witch hazel versus cortisone for the treatment of erythema found it to be slightly less effective than cortisone but still noteworthy in its effects, whereas a study on the outcome of treatment of sunburn with witch hazel vs. no treatment found that it led to a significant reduction in erythema and visible skin damage. It has demonstrated a mild anti-inflammatory effect in patients suffering from atopic neurodermatitis and psoriasis.
- Aloe Vera Gel – This succulent cactus-like shrub is blessed with cooling and hydrating properties which can relieve the symptoms of sunburn. It prevents the skin from becoming even drier, leading to peeling and blisters, and it also provides relief from soreness.
I am mentioning a few herbs below that can be made into an infusion for that feeling of coolness in the hot summer whilst helping your skin from sunburn or an ointment or salve for external use.
- Violet – This sweet-tasting herb is cooling and moistening in nature. It is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that help prevent unwanted inflammation. As the sun warms up in the season, heat can aggravate the skin – so externally used for sunburns, redness, inflammation And internally as a mucilage for dehydration, dry throat, and breast health.
- Common Mallow – Mallows also contain Vitamins A, B, C, E, flavonoids; essential fatty acids, and important minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and selenium. Mallow possesses the ability to provide relief and moisture to dry and irritated tissues. Its demulcent property extends beyond direct physical contact and can also have a positive effect on internal tissues that are experiencing dryness and atrophy. This makes it highly beneficial for alleviating rashes, skin inflammations, and even sunburn. Additionally, mallow can be consumed internally to soothe sore eyes, hay fever symptoms, and urinary tract infections.
- Hibiscus – Rich in mucilage, very soothing internally and externally to the skin like a gentle moisturizer. This anti-aging not only has the reputation of keeping your skin youthful but also helps to speed up cell turnover, resulting in a more even-looking skin tone. It contains antioxidants like anthocyanines which are proven to help fight skin-damaging free radicals which spawn when pollutants such as ultraviolet radiation and traffic pollution make contact with the skin.
- Rose petals and Rosehips – I am always in awe of this plant as it’s so powerfully giving in terms of its properties such as being an astringent, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. And not just used for sunburns but rashes, wounds, and stings too, plus also internally for soothing digestive inflammation and relieving musculoskeletal pain.
- Elderflowers – are especially high in antioxidants, and including them in your life can help modulate excess and chronic inflammation. Therefore, washes or lotions can also soothe red and inflamed skin conditions, such as rashes and sunburn. Elderflower can also potentially protect your skin from sun damage. In vitro, research has shown that topical elderflower preparations have the potential to deliver broad-spectrum UV protection.
- Yarrow – It is sometimes considered a skin tonic and can be used in a very effective facial steam to improve complexion through circulation and cooling inflamed tissue. Also, it can be protective against topical sun and wind damage.
- Honeysuckle – It has a collection of lesser-known folk remedies that have been documented, particularly in relation to skin conditions, pain relief, infection treatment, and beauty enhancement. It has been used as a fallback remedy for adder bites in Devon and for soothing stings in Hampshire. In the Highlands, it has been employed as a skin remedy for freckles, sunburn, and even toothache. Some herbals from the 17th century also mentioned its application as an ointment to alleviate the skin discolorations caused by sunburns and freckles. Culpeper amusingly noted that “the maids will love it” for this purpose.
Different Oils that can be employed here to help absorb UVA and UVB rays so that you are protected from the outside in.
- Nilotica Shea Butter – is full of fatty acids, and antioxidants, and is a natural, low SPF sunscreen of 3-4 therefore can help absorb UVB radiation thus protecting against sunburn, preventing erythema, and reducing further risk of sun-induced skin cancer.
- Wheat Germ Oil – When utilized in combination with other natural ingredients, wheat germ oil has the potential to offer sun protection with an SPF of 20. It serves as a beneficial component in natural sunscreens, providing not only sun protection but also a rich source of Vitamin E and antioxidants. Moreover, wheat germ oil aids in the repair of cellular damage and effectively keeps the skin moisturized and hydrated, even under challenging environmental conditions.
- Carrot seed oil and carrot extract – It is effective UVB absorbers and moderate UVA absorbers. Carrot seed oil is aptly used in skin care products for its emollient and antioxidant properties, to increase hydration and protect against free radical damage, and to help reduce scars, irregular skin tone, or wrinkles.
- Raspberry Seed Oil – The primary factors that contribute to premature aging of the skin include UV from the sun, illness, smoking, and drinking. Raspberry seed oil is packed with carotenoids—a plant-derived source of Vitamins A and E. These compounds are widely used in many anti-aging skin care products to help promote youthful skin.
- Sea Buckthorn oil – When your skin is swollen and incredibly red and the pain seems never-ending. Sea buckthorn oil is the answer to your prayers. Research demonstrated that sea-buckthorn fatty acids have the ability to improve the post-inflammatory response resulting from deleterious UV exposure. Moreover, they could alleviate the effects of sunburns, support the regenerative processes of the skin and appease irritation.
Recipe for Sunburn
This multifactorial cream not only offers cooling properties after sun exposure but also helps to regenerate skin from the inside out and the benefit of each ingredient is elucidated above.
3 tbsp Carrot seed oil infused with yarrow aerial parts and elderflowers
2 tbsp Wheat Germ oil
1 tbsp Sea Buckthorn oil
2 tbsp of Niloteca shea butter
1/2 tbsp beeswax
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) Aloe Vera Gel
1/4 cup (2fl oz) Witch Hazel Hydrosol
These are just some of the tangible tools that can be utilized in your day-to-day routine so that it not only empowers you to take steps in the right direction but also to realize that sun is not the demon over here the way we are thought to believe. Do your own due diligence by listening to our podcasts and also empowering others in their journey to wellness and beyond!