Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Much ado about the sun

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On a good day, my skin tone bears a marked resemblance to uncooked bread dough.  On a bad one I can be positively ashen.  This is not a look that I cultivate, but it is one that I actively seek not to change.  While I could tan myself to a lovely brown colour of the summer – with careful planning and possibly some judicious product use – I have always choosen not to, fearing the repercussions down the road that tend to afflict those of us of the pasty persuasion.

This summer, in an effort to manage my tendency towards worry in a drug-free way, I’ve been spending more time outside exercising – running, biking, and walking.  Coupled with the fact that I’m trying to walk and bike more, I’m outside a lot, and frequently in the sun.  Given my suddenly more outdoorsy life, I need ways to keep my skin protected from the sun.  Trouble is, I’m allergic to most sunscreen.  Using it results in chemical burns or rashes that can last for days, which is remarkably unpleasant.  In addition, many sunscreens are filled with all kinds of nasties that just don’t sit well with me.

I asked my doctor what he would recommend.  His answer?  Sleeves.  Not a bad idea, except for the heatwave that makes such efforts almost unbearable.  But, I do have a few solutions for managing the sun in ways that let me be outside without having to suffer too badly.  There’s also the old favourite of keeping out of the sun, but sometimes that’s just not possible, and I needed ways to manage sun exposure when I did have to be out in it.

My solutions?

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – this still falls into the category of sunscreen, but the blocking agent is mechanical rather than chemical, meaning that particles in the sunscreen reflect light away from skin.  it’s not a perfect solution, and one that I only use when really necessary, but these sunscreens are far less irritating and moderately less of an issue than their conventional counterparts.  That said, be sure to check brands – some are far and away better than others, and it all depends on what you get.

Linen – linen in the summer is one of the few fabrics that feel tolerable – to me anyway – to completely cover up with.  Loose long-sleeved linen shirts and pants are breezy, cool, and keep a fair amount of sun off.  Plus, they get that attractive wrinkled look, if you’re into that kind of thing.  Other natural fibers can work for this as well, depending on preference, and this is one of the most common ways I keep out of the sun.

Hats – a full-brimmed hat is invaluable in the summer to keep sun off the face and neck.  It’s also an excellent way to keep cool – if you feel as though you’re overheating, douse it in water and put it on – it’s like instant air conditioning.

Anti-oxidants – awhile ago I started putting antioxidants on my skin after sun exposure to help heal and mitigate what damage I may have done during my intentionally limited exposure.  Grapeseed oil was a particular favourite, especially when chilled.  But there’s also some speculation in the medical community that taking in antioxidents in diet can act as an internal form of sunscreen.  Tea, leafy greens, omega oils, and most fuits and veggies with a lot of colour have a lot of antioxidents.  Although I wouldn’t recommend relying completely on diet, it could be one way to moderate the effects a bit more, and getting more of most of these things is usually a pretty good idea.

I haven’t perfected my sun protection yet, and I have a bit of a tan this summer to prove it.  But, for being out in the sun almost daily now, I’m impressed with how well this approach is working so far, and I’m certainly pleased to be keeping sunscreen and the sun off my skin as much as I can.  I’m open to other suggestions too, though, and if anyone has something that works for them, I’d love to hear it.


Written by Jenn

July 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Eating well, Healthy living

Tagged with ,

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