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You don’t need me to tell you that too much sun exposure is bad for you. The effects of excess sun exposure are well known, and that’s why we all use sunscreen, right?

What you might not know is that even though the use of sunscreens and blocks is widespread, the rate of skin cancer hasn’t decreased. The Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Guide to Sunscreen states, “Despite a growing awareness of the dangers of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and a multi-billion dollar sunscreen industry, melanoma rates have tripled over the past three decades.”

Wait, what?

I recommend taking the time to read the EWG’s full report over here for more details on the safety concerns and false marketing claims from the sunscreen industry.

In the meantime, let’s talk natural skin care.

First, it’s important to understand that the sun isn’t public enemy #1. Some sun exposure is necessary for our skin to produce vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone and brain health, and immune system function among others.

But like anything you can have too much of a good thing. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind so you can enjoy the sun without risking your health.

Start with your best health

Surprise! Your diet may have an effect on your body’s natural defenses against sun damage and how your body repairs itself after exposure. While we’re still not clear on how the sun actually damages our body, we do know that it plays a role in the breakdown of collagen, a protein that pretty much holds our body together, and the production of free radicals.

A diet rich in antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E and minerals such as selenium and zinc can help protect against free radical damage. Vitamin C is also essential in collagen synthesis. The best way to get these powerful little nutrients into your diet is to simply eat an abundance of colourful foods. Get that rainbow on to your plate!

Let’s be clear – I am not naïve enough to think that a handful of blueberries in my morning smoothie will protect me from a day in the sun. But I do know that handful of blueberries will contribute to supporting my body’s best health, which includes fostering it’s natural ability to protect and repair itself, so load me up. And if nothing else they taste good so why the eff not?

Stay out of the sun

You know that the sun has the potential to be harmful, SO STAY OUT OF THE SUN.

That doesn’t mean that you need to sequester yourself indoors during daylight hours. But it does mean that you should be mindful of limiting your exposure to the sun when it’s strongest.

When you’re going to be out in the sun wear light layers that cover your skin. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Find the shadiest spot at the beach. Walk on the shady side of the street. Use a UV filtering umbrella.

You’re a grown up, you know what to do.

Use protection

And for those times when prolonged sun exposure is unavoidable, use proper protection.

I don’t use any beauty products without first running them through the EWG’s Skin Deep database and the same goes for my sun protection. I look for products that don’t include vitamin A, with an SPF around 30. I also prefer products that create a physical barrier using zinc instead of a chemical barrier.

Here are my favourites:

  1. Matter Company Substance Sun Care Crème

I’ve been using mineral-based sunscreens for some time but the sun care crème from Toronto-based Matter Company is the first one I’ve really LOVED. Mineral sunscreens can have a powdery finish that I’m not wild about but Substance has a nice finish. I usually always buy unscented products by default but I couldn’t resist the subtle geranium scent of the Natural Sun Care Crème. Geranium also acts as a mild bug repellent. All three of us, including the baby, use this product.

  1. Hurraw SPF 15 Sun Balm

I bought this lip balm because I was dying for a little lip moisture one day, at the time I didn’t realize that it had SPF in it but I’m glad that I did! It’s easy to forget your lips when you’ll be out in the sun, but this little stick has got you covered. As far as I’m concerned the SPF is a bonus – I just love how smooth and buttery this balm is. It also holds up well in your bag when it’s hot outside!

3. Consonant Perfect Sunscreen

There is a reason Consonant, another Toronto-based natural skincare company, called this product The Perfect Sunscreen. It’s clean and it works. With an SPF of 30 this is the product I use on my face when I’m going to be outside for a good portion of the day. It is lightly tinted which gives your complexion an even finish and avoids the “ghostly” look that mineral sunscreen can leave on your face.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a natural SPF of about 4-6 and it doesn’t inhibit vitamin D production. This is what I use for my day-to-day moisturizer on my body and my face, and even though the SPF is low it’s a nice bonus. I’m comfortable heading out with only coconut oil when I’ll be in the sun for just a few minutes at a time.

It’s summer and the sunshine is one of the best parts of the season. So go out there and enjoy it but be sensible! I’d love to know how you protect yourself from prolonged sun exposure.