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Summer Skincare Guide | Part II with Dr. Nastasia Irons

How to Protect Your Skin from the Inside by Dr. Nastasia Irons

My patients always ask me about the risks vs benefits of sunscreen, and how to boost vitamin D, while also preventing the sun’s continuous damage to our skin and DNA. While sunscreen is an important summer ritual, especially when the sun is strongest (between 10am to 3pm), we want to make sure we aren’t slathering chemicals on to our body’s largest organ, while also blocking our ability to absorb vitamin D (something Canadian’s need a lot more of these days!).

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for the human body, and most people in North America are chronically deficient in it because of how little sunlight we get. It plays a role in mood, hormones, immune health, and even cancer prevention (including skin cancer!). When you slather on sunscreen each day before stepping into the sun, you prevent your natural ability to absorb vitamin D.

We can get 10 000 IU of vitamin D each day from only 20 minutes in the sun (if our arms and legs are exposed).

You can only absorb vitamin D when the sun is strong, which is also the same sun that can burn your skin. It is important to protect your skin, especially during the hours of 10-3pm, or if you don’t have a clock, you can just look at your shadow. As long as your shadow is shorter than your body length, then you are able to absorb vitamin D from the sun, and you are also at risk of a sunburn!

Protecting your skin, while also getting some Vitamin D:

  • After 15-20 minutes in the sun, or shorter if your skin is very fair - apply natural based sunscreens - look for ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium vs oxybenzone (most popular), avobenzone, octocrylene, and octisalate - these chemicals disrupt your endocrine system, leading to hormonal changes, increased risk of certain cancers, and lead to premature aging.
  • Cover up after 15-20 minutes in the sun. Wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants and a hat!
  • Antioxidants can also protect against skin damage and burns - these include Vitamin C, E, N-acetyl cysteine and Rhodiola.
  • Eat foods high in pink and purple antioxidants like grapes, salmon, berries, and algae
  • These foods and supplements can stop you from burning as quickly in the sun, but more importantly, they can help reverse some of the damage if you do get a burn - by lowering inflammation, reversing DNA damage, and improve health of keratinocytes (skin cells)
  • Mositurize after sun exposure with pure plant oils. These oils are rich in antioxidants, omegas and phytonutrients, they will also sooth and hydrate your skin. Sun tanning can dehydrate your skin.
  • If you do get too much sun, check our out what to do to reduce the burn here.

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