The Sun gives life to the Earth, but our relationship with it must be one of sustained balance. Although it is true that our skin needs it to synthesize the vitamin D responsible for very important functions in the body, it is also true that an excess of sun exposure, especially in the central hours of the day, can have serious repercussions on our skin and not only of an aesthetic nature.
In an article by Marta Beltrà García-Calvo and Ana Belén Ropero Lara, professors of Nutrition and Bromatology* at the Miguel Hernández University of Alicante; an analysis is made about the need for the vitamin of the sun in order to strengthen our defenses and the prevention of infectious diseases among other multiple functions.
*Bromatology is, along with nutrition, an academic discipline that deals with studying the chemical composition of foods, as well as the calories and nutrients they contain, their physical properties and their toxicology.
WE NEED THE SUN TO SYNTHESIZE VITAMIN D
Our skin produces this micronutrient thanks to the sun’s UVB rays, but we can also get vitamin D through food. In both cases, in order to function properly in the body, you must first go through a chemical process that is developed in the liver and kidneys.
Among the few foods that contain vitamin D we find butter, eggs or oily fish. However, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition recommends avoiding or limiting the consumption of large fish with high mercury content, including swordfish, bluefin tuna, shark and pike.
Functions of this vitamin
1) The role of vitamin D in bone health has been known for years. It promotes the absorption of calcium in the intestine and is used for many biological processes. In addition, this micronutrient is necessary for the growth and development of bones in children. It also helps, along with calcium, to reduce the loss of bone mineralization in postmenopausal women and prevents osteoporosis.
When there is vitamin D deficiency, the bones are the main affected. In children it manifests itself in the form of rickets, which can lead to bone fractures and poor tooth development. In adults it causes osteomalacia (weak bones, bone pain and muscle weakness) and osteoporosis in older people.
2) Vitamin D is also involved in other biological functions. Muscles, the immune system, phosphorus metabolism and teeth are some of its targets.
Studies show that vitamin D deficiencies are associated with increased risk of several diseases: upper respiratory tract infections, autoimmune diseases or allergies, cardiovascular problems and even higher mortality. Lower levels of vitamin D have also been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The World Cancer Research Foundation is the international institution of reference in the field of cancer. In its 2018 report, it indicates that an adequate intake of vitamin D could be related to a lower incidence of colorectal cancer. Despite all the information we have, there is considerable controversy regarding the optimal doses to achieve clear benefits with vitamin D. The clinical efficacy of supplements does not meet expectations. Even worse: it is difficult to find an appropriate method to detect deficiencies in vitamin D.
So how much sun do we need to take according to the experts?
Apparently, the ideal is to do outdoor activities in winter and autumn, since the intensity of solar radiation is low and we are more covered.
In summer and spring, when the sun’s rays fall perpendicular, it is enough to sunbathe on legs, arms and face for 15 minutes, at least 3 times a week.
Despite the sun’s benefits in vitamin D synthesis, UVB rays can cause skin cancer. For this reason, we must take many precautions. In summer, even on cloudy days, you should not be exposed to the sun between 12 and 17 hours and it is advisable to use a sunscreen.
With regard to this issue of sun protection is where more controversies arise about natural or “homemade” sunscreen products. The main complaint is that how is it possible to know the degree of photo protection of a homemade sunscreen.
But is this really that important? If we are not supposed to be exposed to the sun in the central hours of the day, do we really need a protective factor of 50 as some experts publish? And what is actually a protection factor of 50?
The photoprotection of 50 does not really exist, there are approximations that are formulated based on endocrine disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone.
The sunscreens that we normally find on the market, usually contain a high percentage of sunscreen filters, which are mostly chemical filters. These chemical filters have the advantage that our skin absorbs them well and that they are easy to apply, but they also have several drawbacks, as we will see below:
According to the researcher Berta López Sánchez-Laorden, from the Institute of Neurosciences of the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
“Using sunscreen creams protects against immediate radiation damage such as sunburn, but radiation can still penetrate, as well as damage cell DNA and cause cancer.”
The FDA (an organization that authorizes or bans medical products in the United States) has recognized that sunscreens do not serve to prevent skin cancer and argue as follows:
Damage the skin: There has been an increase in skin and lip cancers in recent years which are associated with the use of sunscreens with chemical filters, and you may wonder… why? Well, these sunscreens do not form a protective barrier between our skin and the sun as we might think… No, it is not. The latest studies show that ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin and protection is done thanks to reactions that take place in our skin. And as we told you before, since we do not burn, we allow us to spend more hours in the sun. The most negative part is that, since chemical filters do not prevent ultraviolet rays from entering our skin, they end up damaging our cells. And of course, the sun is cumulative and our skin has memory, so, many days a year, for years sunbathing…
They act as hormonal disruptors: Many of us already know what endocrine disruptors are. These substances have the capacity to alter our hormones, this is a very serious issue and one that deserves our full attention. One study links a type of sunscreen, called benzophenone, to an increase in women with endometriosis.
And, in any case, they damage the environment: Chemical filters are not biodegradable, in fact, it is estimated that every year 4000 tons of these chemical filters are deposited and accumulate on the seabed. According to a study of the EHP (Environmental Health Perpectives) carried out by Professor Donovaro in different parts of the world, they concluded that sunscreens with chemical filters have a negative impact on coral reefs. Today it is estimated that more than 60% of coral reefs are in poor condition. Many marine animals live and depend on these reefs so, they too would be affected. In some marine reserves, such as the Tulum biosphere reserve in Mexico, the use of sunscreens with chemical filters is prohibited.
Unfortunately, many of the ecologically certified creams also have an impact on marine life. The best solution is therefore to make or buy photoprotective creams based on physical filters that leave the skin white (since they are not “nano” and are not absorbed). These filters are the best for our skin and also, therefore, for marine life.
And let’s not lose sight of the fact that these commercial sunscreens, apart from “chemical” filters, contain other substances (parabens, phenoxyethanol, silicones, …) that should also be avoided.
TIPS FOR COPING WITH THE SUMMER SUN
-Clothing also serves to protect us from the sun. In fact, our grandparents used it to protect themselves from the sun without chemicals or sunscreen. We may want to wear loose-fitting garments of light fabrics such as cotton muslin and linen. Hats and sunglasses are also very helpful accessories.
-The second golden standard is to avoid the direct exposure to the sun at noon, especially in summer days when the sun’s rays have a much greater incidence.
-And the third rule is to be prepared for the summer with an antioxidant diet since our skin is our first line of defense. Eating lots of summer vegetables and fruits minimizes the chance that free radicals can damage our skin. Nature is very wise, and the foods of the summer season are the ones that contain the greatest amount of antioxidants: apricots, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries …
Thus, provide your body with vitamins and antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin C (fresh fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (nuts, seeds, avocados) and carotenes (red, orange, yellow and green vegetables), which increase the resistance of the skin to solar radiation; it is a great idea to protect ourselves from the impact of rays on our skin and keep it beautiful.
At the same time, consuming foods rich in omega 3 (oily fish, legumes and nuts…) and enough water is also very important. These foods are what our bodies need to have healthy skin and natural protection from the sun.
And, if we have to stay in the sun between 11 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon in the summer, it is advisable to resort to a natural or ecological certified sunscreen that is free of chemical filters and other potentially harmful synthetic ingredients. Certified sunscreens use only harmless physical mineral filters like the ones we promote in our homemade cosmetic recipes.
When we talk about physical filters, also known as mineral filters, we are talking about zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. As the name suggests they are of mineral origin and are those used in natural and BIO cosmetics. Unlike chemical filters that interact with the skin to protect us, these filters make a reflective protective layer on the surface of the skin as a mirror. And this is achieved by leaving a white layer on the skin, which is why they are usually more difficult to extend. These are safe and biodegradable, as long as they do not contain nanoparticles. And this can always be verified very easily. The protectors that leave us white skin do not contain nanoparticles and are not absorbed, that is why our skin is whitish.
Don’t be fooled, a cream that is translucent or almost translucent actually always uses nanoparticles, even if the manufacturer says not to.
In addition, these mineral filters, if we have sensitive skin, rarely cause an allergic reaction. They are called broad-spectrum filters because they protect against UV-B and UV-A radiation. In addition, zinc oxide is superior to titanium dioxide; the latter lacks a small part of the UVA spectrum in its protection.
OUR NATURAL PROPOSAL FOR THE SUMMER
Look at the ingredients of Maison Shea’s mineral screen protective cream with SPF of 20 and based on organic certified natural extracts.
INCI: Butyrospermum Parkii Butter*, Sesamum Indicum Seed Oil*, Mauritius Flexuosa Seed Oil, Zinc Oxide, Bixa Orellana Seed Extract*
This outdoor butter with mineral screen (Zinc Oxide) also contains natural biological filters for an extra protection such as shea butter, urucum extract, and sesame and buriti vegetable oils.
We could summarize the ingredients it contains as follows:
Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii Butter*)
Sesamum Indicum Seed Oil*.
Buriti Vegetable Oil (Mauritius Flexuosa Seed Oil)
Zinc oxide and
Urucum powder (Bixa Orellana Seed Extract*)
Tell me if we can’t formulate a similar cream in a homemade way that will automatically have a similar protection factor?
PHOTOPROTECTIVE BUTTER; WE HAVE FORMULATED IT AS FOLLOWS:
45 gr. of shea butter
25 gr. of sesame or apricot oil, which provides beta-carotene
Optional: 5 grams of buriti or karanja oil (act as powerful biological filters)
10 gr. of urucum infused oil, replaceable by carrot infused oil (also bio filters)
10 gr. of zinc oxide (mineral filter)
5 grams of edible grade diatomaceous earth (we like to add this component so that the recipe has a less oily texture since diatomaceous earth is a good absorbent that provides consistency and dermoprotective substances such as silica). Failing that, it would be substitutable for kaolin clay, although not exactly the same.
5 drops of vitamin E
Optionally: a few drops of lavender essential oil
The essential oils that protect us from the sun are mainly the following: essential oil of lavender, myrrh, carrot seeds, and mint.
*It is very important that zinc oxide is without nanoparticles because these are the ones that can be absorbed and cause toxicity problems. The whiter our skin is, the more protection our mineral filter will offer.
The shea butter is weighed and undone in a water bath until melted.
We lower the heat to a minimum to maintain the quality of the ingredients.
Next, we are adding the rest of the oils, mixing everything very well with the rod.
We continue adding the zinc oxide and the urucum infused oil, mixing well with the rod.
It is time to add vitamin E and lavender essential oil.
We bottle it and leave it in the fridge for a while so that the ointment takes on consistency.
HOW TO MAKE URUCUM INFUSED OIL:
50 ml. of coconut or sesame oil, which are photoprotective in themselves
5 gr. of urucum powder
It is allowed to macerate a week stirring from time to time
It is filtered, preferably with an unbleached coffee filter because the urucum stains the fabrics.
This infused urucum oil will be added to our solar photoprotective butter recipe, and we can also take advantage of it to make a tanning serum. The following recipe is for a container of about 50 ml:
48 ml. of infused urucum oil
20 drops of pomegranate or raspberry CO2 extract
5 drops of vitamin E
Optionally: 4-5 drops of ylang ylang essential oil (can be also geranium, carrot, rosewood…)
PROCEDURE: The ingredients are added one by one, mixing well with the rod and that’s it.
As you can see, it is not difficult at all and leaves the skin luminous and with a beautiful tone. Be very careful with clothing because it can leave stains.
However, it has the great advantage of leaving the skin with a tanned tone without having to worry about sunbathing when you have winter white skin. In addition, it can also be used to soothe the skin after sun exposure.