long hot days at the beach sipping mint juleps, and the only work on your mind is getting rid of tan lines. Sound fab? Yeah, as long as you wear long sleeves, cover your legs, slather what's left with SPF30 sunscreen, wear a hat with a 3-inch brim and stay in the shade between 11 am and 4 pm. Depleted ozone sure has taken the fun out of solar vacations -- must be time to join the eco-activists so we can get our summers back.
Meanwhile, we have to protect our precious dermal layer from ultraviolet radiation -- both UVB rays, which are blocked by windows, and UVA, which aren't. Any trek outdoors during frying hours, whether it's cloudy or not, calls for a generous coating of sunblock. The question is, which one?
Always look for a product that says "broad spectrum,' which means it blocks both kinds of rays. Beyond that, holistic types recommend that you avoid chemical ingredients as much as possible -- some are toxic or could be carcinogenic.
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), shows up in most commercial sunblocks, but many are allergic to it. Some alt-health manufacturers have come out with a food-grade PABA (Aubrey Organics, for example) which they swear is milder than the chemical one. It's called padimate O (paba ester).
In the sunblock biz, once you get beyond paba, there has to be some potent active agent like oxybenzone, cinnamate, salicylate or titanium dioxide. All of these turn up in both the commercial and alternative market.
Nature's Gate sunblock contains octyl methoxycinnamate and the harsh oxybenzone, and others. But unlike drug-store concoctions, it uses a nature-friendly base including aloe, calendula, grapeseed, wild pansy, vitamin E. Aubrey Organics uses coconut acids, jojoba, shea butter and aloe.
There are also nutritional ways to minimize sunburn, although their effects are modest. A recent study shows that 3 to 10 cups per day or 500 to 1,500 mg of standardized extract of green tea may inhibit tumour growth and DNA cell damage from UVA and UVB exposure. Vitamins E and C taken eight days prior to exposure protect skin 20 per cent longer before burning.
The antioxidant qualities of these as well as beta carotene, selenium and zinc, plus herbs like bilberry, turmeric and ginkgo biloba, neutralize free radicals in cells that can cause cancer.
To treat burns, apply aloe vera, which contains vitamins C and E and zinc. As well, take vitamin E orally to speed recovery. To prevent blistering, add 3 drops of lavender oil to the burned area, and for a severe burn, use a salve made with St. John's wort and calendula flowers or homeopathic remedies Urtica urens and Rhus tox. For hydrotherapy, apply a cold compress and bathe with apple cider vinegar or colloidal oatmeal.
"Take antioxidant supplements with vitamins E, A, selenium and essential fatty acids to maintain good skin integrity. Take 1,500 to 2,000 mg vitamin C and 15 mg zinc daily to boost your immune system.'
SCOTT CLACK Naturopath
"We add shea butter, wild pansy and coffee extracts, which are UV protectors, so we can reduce our synthetic elements. We use a combo of ingredients so a person sensitive to any one will be less likely to have a reaction.'
"There is evidence that green tea and aloe vera may be protective. Antioxidants like vitamin E and C are all under study. My advice is to be happy with your skin colour.'
Dermatologist, Toronto Western Hospital