Factors affecting the level of UV protection

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Factors affecting the level of UV protection

21.5.2020


The sun is shining again and winter seems to be behind us now. The sun should be enjoyed as much as possible but our winter-pale skin cannot withstand the burning UV radiation yet. How to protect the skin against excessive sunlight. Here are my thoughts about natural UV protection.

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Natural vitamin D

We all need sunlight. Especially after the winter, the warm sunshine is really welcomed old friend. There is no need to protect yourself from the sun at all if you do not expose yourself to direct sunlight for long periods of time. Excessive sun protection prevents the formation of natural vitamin D in our body. Natural vitamin D formed through the skin is a different vitamin D than the one taken from a jar. We need this natural vitamin D especially abundantly after the winter.

The best way to both protect yourself from excessive sunlight and get the natural vitamin D you need is to move outside in the changing shade and sometimes even in direct sunlight. By moving naturally, the skin does not burn as easily.

Protect yourself and children from excessive sun with clothing

If your skin is very sensitive to the sun you can protect yourself with light clothing. Children burn easily in the sun. Their skin should be protected well because burnt skin will expose skin cancers later on.

Protect children from the sun

An outdoor children’s playground should be set up under the shade of trees. If this is not possible then the playground can be protected by a parasol or shelter.

Children’s clothing should be protective enough. Children are most vulnerable to burning at beaches where the skin is most exposed to the sun. A UV-protective swimsuit as well as sunscreen with an adequate protection factor is the only way to avoid burning of a child’s skin. The children spend time on the beach in a direct sunlight for really long periods of time, unnoticed, swimming and building sand castles. It is the adult’s job to make sure they don’t burn themselves in the sun.

Also, if necessary, protect your own skin from the sun with clothes and shadows. When the skin starts to turn red it is usually already burned. Skin temperature says a lot. Your skin should be warm, not hot.

Nutrition and sun, internal sun protection

Nutrition plays a major role in the skin’s ability to withstand the UV radiation. Many apply yellow carrot oil to their skin in order to protect it from burning. Carrots give the skin sunscreen but only when eaten. The effect of plant phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids on tolerance to the sun has been studied.  The results of these studies tell us that eating carrots and other plants containing carotenoids and flavonoids do actually help the skin to cope better with sunlight.

One of the best ways to improve your skin’s sun resistance is to use a strong enough vitamin D supplement. What is a strong enough vitamin D supplement? You should first measure your own vitamin D levels and, if necessary, start eating a strong vitamin D supplement. However, vitamin D should be re-measured from time to time. It is not worth eating too much.

There are lots of researches done and going on about the impact of food on human health in the US. Based on those American studies I’ve learned that vegetables such as tomato and carrot will help skin better tolerate sunlight. The tomato contains a carotenoid called lycopene. Carotenoids are not only very good antioxidants but also sunscreens.

The good old carrot is very good vegetable in sun protection when taken both externally and internally. Carotenoids in carrots can easily change the colour of the skin to yellowish, especially if you drink a lot of carrot juice. This is not dangerous.

Vitamin C acts as a protective factor for the skin against the harmful effects of the sun. The effect of vitamin C on the skin has been studied both when ingested internally with food and when applied externally to the skin.

Even though nutrition is a very good supplement against the harmful effects of the sun, one should not forget to use adequate, UV-tested sunscreen. Studies have shown that sunscreen from the diet is by no means sufficient, not even if you eat plenty of tomatoes, carrots and vitamin C.

UV protection from vegetable oils

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There are many articles in internet written about the use of flavonoids in vegetable oils for UV protection. Many sites have even defined protection factors for vegetable oils. However, protection factors cannot be assigned to any oil. The UV protection factor is only granted for products that have been tested with appropriate tests to protect against UV radiation. No natural oil has been officially UV tested. They cannot therefore be considered as sunscreen products.

Coconut oil is often referred to as natural sun lotion. This is nonsense. Coconut does not prevent the sun’s UV radiation from damaging the skin. Instead of sunscreen, coconut oil is very good after-sun lotion to soothe the skin. Coconut is a cooling oil with antiseptic properties.

Photosynthetic Pigments

Vegetable oils are good for people enjoying the sunlight as they help the skin to tan beautifully. The pigments contained in the plants, such as chlorophyll or leaf green and carotene, help the plant to photosynthesize. Photosynthesis is plant’s way to obtain energy from sunlight. All plants have multi-coloured pigments. Leaf green, or chlorophyll, is the most common of these. The orange colour pigment in carrots and the red colour pigment in tomato are called carotenoids. They alone cannot transmit solar energy to plants. Carrot and tomato colour pigments, carotenoids, act together with chlorophyll in capturing the sun’s rays.

Carrot oil and carrot seed oil – what is the difference between them?

Carrot oil and carrot seed oil are two very different oils that are usually be mixed to each other. When talking about UV-protective oils, carrot oil is often highlighted. Carrot oil is the most familiar to us.

What is carrot oil?

I would first like to clarify what is carrot oil. It is any carrier oil (e.g., sunflower oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil, etc.) to which dried carrots have been extracted. Carrot oil is orange in colour due to the carotenoids in carrots that are fat soluble. You can make carrot oil quite easily by yourself, by following these instructions. And, carrot oil has not even been claimed to inhibit UV radiation. It is too often mixed with carrot seed oil, for which such a claim exists. Orange carrot oil can be used perfectly in sunscreens as it gives the skin a beautiful tan. So, tune your own sunscreen with orange carrot oil with this recipe. If you are planning to get your carrot oil from a store, first check to which oil the carrots have been extracted. Olive oil is by no means the best oil in this case.

What is Carrot Seed Oil?

Carrot seed oil is again a very expensive and rare oil squeezed from carrot seeds. Carrot seed oil is beautifully green in colour because it is rich in flavonoids. Specifically, the UV protection factor of carrot seed oil is even claimed to be SPF 40. Of course, this is not true. However, flavonoids have a weak sunscreen effect but they cannot by any means protect the skin against sunburn. So never use carrot seed oil as a sunscreen. It does not prevent burning. You can still use carrot seed oil to prevent the signs of aging. It is an excellent oil for that purpose.

Physiological sunscreens

Physiological sunscreens mainly mean minerals such as zinc and titanium dioxide. In natural cosmetics, both minerals may be used, but not in nanoscale. Nano-sized minerals are able to penetrate through the skin and can end up anywhere in the body. There is no definite scientific evidence for this but why use them when there are other options. Nanoscale zinc and titanium dioxide are used in some non-natural quality sunscreen products. It is very difficult to filter the UV radiation effectively. In addition, sunscreen products are increasingly required to be more effective and comfortable to use, as well as they should last longer. That is why cosmetic manufacturers have started to use nanosized particles. So be careful and use only natural cosmetic quality sunscreens. There are plenty of them available in the stores.

Minerals

All minerals block the sun’s UV radiation. They provide mechanical protection for the skin. A lot of magnesium carbonate powder as well as mica powders, which are natural sunscreens are used in home-made cosmetics.

Thanaka powder

Visitors to Asia may have come across to an old Burmese innovation, Thanaka powder. I dare to promote Thanaka powder because Burmese women have used it as a sunscreen for hundreds of years. They are so fond of the powder that they don’t want to use modern sunscreens. The Burmese ultimate beauty means pale skin. Quite many of them actually do have pale skin because thanaka powder protects them from the sun. Our pale north-European skin is certainly not comparable to Burmese skin because south-east Asian people have naturally more sun protection in their skin. That is why I only recommend thanaka powder with reservation for northern people. Thana powder is made from the log of a citrus tree by grinding. It has a beautiful yellow colour. The powder is mixed with water and applied to the skin.

I have used several times thanaka powder to get more sunscreen to sensitive areas of the skin. It is quite difficult to get Thanaka powder here in Europe. Hopefully someone would start importing and selling it.

Like all vegetable oils, minerals, thanaka powder is not officially tested UV protection product. Personally, I use minerals on a daily basis to protect my skin from both air pollution and the occasional excessive sunlight.  But I wouldn’t go to a beach holiday relying on minerals only.

Can we make the sunscreen by ourselves?

Well, yes and no. The sunscreen can be made, say, by adding zinc oxide into a cream. But it is not real sunscreen. Making of good and safe sunscreen is not easy. It is very challenging even for big companies. However, they have spent and are still spending millions to develop a functional and reliable sunscreen – still. It’s really naive to imagine that we at home could do that.

You can easily find recipes for homemade sunscreens containing zinc. However, you cannot spread zinc very evenly on the skin and therefore it does not provide required protection. Zinc is a mineral and does not dissolve in the cream. The effectiveness of the cream does not necessarily depend on the amount or quality of zinc or another mineral. There is no way you can mix zinc evenly in the cream.

An UV protection product must pass accurate and reliable tests before it receives the SPF (sun protect factor) factor. If the product does not have an SPF factor, it cannot be considered a reliable sunscreen.

However, you can make zinc creams. They do no harm to the skin. They can even protect your skin from sun but never trust them to give you enough protection. Always get a reliable tested natural cosmetic quality sunscreen.

Tips for the beach

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When you apply yellow carrot oil to your skin you are attracting tanning sunbeams to you. This is how you get a beautiful tan. Carrot beta-carotene acts as a sun-collecting pigment on the skin. Tomatoes also have carotene called lycopene. Possibly the red colour of the tomato works in the same way. I haven’t heard yet that tomato lycopene could be used for tanning. Next summer I’m going to try tomato oil on the skin.

  • Move around when you are in the sun. The tan is then smoother and you do not burn your skin  so easily.
  • Already have plenty of water and take care of your salt balance especially if the weather is very hot. Dry skin burns faster than moisturized skin.
  • Take small breaks while sunbathing and allow the skin to cool properly.

Sunny summer days for everyone!

What is your favourite sunscreen?

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