I love being outdoors, but I hate wearing sunscreen. I have tried numerous different types of sunscreen brands and have narrowed it down to my favorites. However, it is still a daily struggle for me to put sunscreen on. I can compare it to trying to get a 4 year-old to brush their teeth. I know it’s good for me but, “Do I have to?”
Skin protection is really close to my heart. At 19 years old I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer. I had a serious tanning addiction and I paid the price.
Did you know that someone dies from Melanoma every single hour of the day?! That is a scary statistic!
Now, ten years later you still won’t find me hiding indoors afraid of the sun. In fact, I make an effort to get outside daily. The only difference is that I am more aware of how fragile my skin (and yours) can be and I make a point to protect myself.
Thankfully, there are some alternative ways to protect your skin from those harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays besides just with sunscreen. While I still recommend using sunscreen every day (even if you don’t want to), I have also begun to incorporate some of these other skin protection methods into my life.
1. Eat more foods that provide sun protection
Yep, that’s right. The foods we eat can actually help to protect our skin from sun damage. It’s the antioxidants found in these specific foods that help fight the free radicals that build up from sun exposure. Free radicals can lead to wrinkles and premature aging, but more importantly can lead to the formation of cancer cells. The antioxidants found in certain foods can help to protect against free radical formation. Eat more of these 10 antioxidant rich foods for added skin protection:
Contain an antixidant called lycopene which can provide protection against UV radiation.
Also contains lycopene antioxidant protection. I was really excited about this one because I love watermelon! If you prefer guava fruit or apricots, they also contain lycopene protection!
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, and trout have anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to reduce free radical damage and even prevent some skin cancer.
Yes!! The antioxidants called flavanoids in dark chocolate can help to protect the skin against sun damage and even prevent sun burns. Chocoholics rejoice!
Leafy herbs and vegetables
Fresh herbs like basil, parsley, sage, and rosemary are jam packed with free radical fighting antioxidants. Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and chard contain polyphenols and carotenoids which can protect the skin from the sun.
The fact that green teas start as leafy herbs means they are packed with antioxidants called polyphenols that have been shown to stop the progression of cancer by limiting the blood supply to the cancer cells. It has been shown to prevent some types of skin cancer.
Red and orange vegetables
Colored vegetables such as carrots, squash, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns.
Blackberries, rasberries, black rasberries, strawberries, and blueberries all contain cancer-fighting antioxidants called anthocyanins which can slow down the growth of cancerous cells.
Broccoli contains a high level of sulforaphane which boosts the body’s protective mechanisms and flush out cancer-causing chemicals. Sulforaphane can also be found in lower levels in cauliflower and cabbage.
Almonds and sunflower seeds contain a lot of Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant that can protect against sun damage. Add them to your salads or eat them as a snack!
2. Wear protective clothing
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, sunscreen alone is not enough to protect your skin. A better way to protect yourself against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays altogether is to cover your skin with protective clothing. It doesn’t have to be ugly or uncomfortable. There are more and more clothing brands coming out with UV-protective clothing that you will want to wear.
As an outdoor lover, one of my favorite brands of sun protective clothing is Columbia. Their Omni-Shade line provides UV-protection with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 on most shirts, shorts, pants, and hats. That means than only 1/30th of the UV radiation from the sun that hits the material of the clothing actually passes through to your skin. I think that’s pretty good!
3. Know when and where you are safe
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about when and where you are at risk for harmful sun exposure. You don’t have to be at the beach under sunny skies to be exposed to those harmful UV rays. I learned that lesson when I went skiing one year without sunglasses on and burned my eyeballs. I burned my eyes and it hurt!
From someone who has done their research on sun protection, this is what I’ve learned:
- You are still exposed to dangerous UV rays when it’s overcast or cloudy.
- Just because it’s cold outside, you are still exposed to the sun
- If you are around snow and/or water, your exposure may be even higher as the UV rays can reflect off these surfaces and onto your skin (think under your chin).
If you insist on not wearing sunscreen or protective clothing, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of skin damage and cancer:
- Make sure you protect your lips by wearing a UVA-protective lip balm.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your most sensitive body part from exposure (your face).
- Avoid the high UV hours of the day, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible. You can still enjoy the outdoors but do it under a covered area.
In the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. 90 percent of skin cancer cases are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. That means that we can prevent this by protecting ourselves from these UV rays!
My Favorite Sunscreens
In case you were wondering, I have a few sunscreens that I wear daily. After going through many different brands, these are my absolute favorites:
- I use the Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing SPF 15 lotion daily for my face and the Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Daily SPF 15 Moisturizer for my body. You put lotion on anyways, so why not make it SPF?
- I hardly ever wear makeup but when I want a little bit of extra coverage I use the Aveeno Positively Radiant CC Cream SPF 30 Tinted Moisturizer.
- If I know I am going to be outside for any extended time period (longer than 30 minutes) I usually use the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer DryTouch SPF 45 for my face and the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunblock Body Mist SPF 45 for my body. I use these for active outdoor days because they don’t run. No sweaty sunscreen dripping in my eyes is a good thing!
I know that may seem like a lot, but it’s worth it. Combined with eating more sun protective foods and wearing more sun protective clothing, I plan on continuing to enjoy the great outdoors while kicking skin cancers butt!
What’s your favorite method of sun protection?
I hope you’ll share this article with a friend and help save their life too!