Somerville Summer: Skip the Sunburn

Dillan Headshot copyToday’s post is written by Dillan DiGiovanni, a certified integrative nutrition health coach and teacher. He creates programs for healthier people and workplaces from his office in Union Square. Dillan regularly contributes his expertise on health and wellness to the Beat.

It’s officially summer! And that means BBQs, camping, sailing and other outdoor activities. And being outdoors more often means absorbing more sunlight and vitamin D from exposed arms, legs and whatever else you feel like showing. Part of the reason we may struggle with low moods in the winter is because so much less of our skin is drinking in the rays of the sun and vitamin D, which is responsible for so many important body functions.

Did you know that your skin is your largest organ?

That’s right. Your skin processes everything you consume, from water to greens to donuts to stress from a toxic job or relationship. And it might be telling you what you need to know about your current nutrition or lifestyle choices. If you’re struggling with acne or any kind of skin inflammation, consider that your nutrition or other habits might be playing a major role.

And then there’s skincare, especially summer skincare. Your skin absorbs whatever you put in or on it. If you’re going to spend precious time and energy thinking about what you’re eating, drinking and picking up or putting down, you may also want to consider what you’re slathering on your skin in form of lotions, creams and sprays, especially for the sun.


Here are a few tips to make summer skincare a cinch:

Know your letters. The sunlight rays that reach us do different things, UVA rays age your skin, the UVB rays can burn it. Remember: UVA = age, UVB = burn. You want to find a sunscreen that protects you from both rays to reduce your risk of skin damage in the short and long term. Just like anything else we do, including eating and drinking and other habits, your relationship to sunning yourself matters. While a tan is sexy now, consider the long-term impact of your sun-soaking habits.

Chemical or mineral. Sunscreen falls into two categories: chemical and mineral/barrier. Chemical sunscreen is what I was raised on, the companies you find at the dollar store or pharmacies. These sunscreens are chockfull of chemicals that are absorbed into your skin and limit the impact of UVB and UVA rays. Read your labels. If it has a huge long list of ingredients, which it probably does, do some research about what those ingredients are. (The Environmental Working Group has a helpful tool for this.) Be in the know about what you’re putting on your skin because those chemicals are being absorbed into your bloodstream. Barrier sunscreen may contain some chemicals but it’s usually minerals like zinc or titanium. They are generally a bit safer because they sit on top of your skin and don’t sink below. Yes, you will look a bit pasty like Spicoli’s nose in The Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but it’s worth it to know you’re not absorbing harmful chemicals. These sunscreens may be a bit pricier, but is there anything more you want to invest in than your own health. I highly, highly recommend BurnOut, which was formulated by a surfer, dude. (You can buy more natural sunscreens just over the city line at Cambridge Naturals in Porter Square.)

Cambridge Naturals

Know your companies. Was the face lotion you bought tested on animals? What are the dumping practices of the company, are they polluting local bodies of water in their communities? Think about the impact of the companies you’re buying from, since they’re affecting the short- and long-term health of the folks living nearby and the entire planet.

Consider alternatives. Instead of putting lotion on your skin, try alternatives that limit your skin’s exposure to the sun. Wear long sleeves of lightweight fabrics or hang out in the shade as much as possible. At restaurants, sit near the window inside instead of the patio. Wear hats with brims while walking around or during outside activities, especially while poolside, to keep your head cool and the sunlight off your face. Less wrinkles and sunspots are a good thing.

I hope these tips make it easier for you to keep your skin looking good while also protecting your whole body and the planet.

P.S. Make sure you sunscreen up when Somerville’s two outdoor pools open for the summer!

Spicoli image source. Cambridge Naturals image source.

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