Everyone is really into lathering up with sunscreen, which is important. I’m also a fan of covering up and limiting sun exposure, because well, reapplying sunscreen every two hours (as the instructions say) and after swimming can become a full-time job!

In addition to external protection against the sun, it is really important to also put in place some “internal protection.” Your antioxidant status is really important for sun protection. What you eat actually plays a role in protecting your skin from sun damage.

Antioxidants to Protect You From Sun Damage

We’re exposed to toxins and pollutants all of the time. Even the sun is a toxin, in a way. These toxins cause oxidative damage to cells, which results in free radicals. Free radical damage is when you have reactive oxygen species, meaning that unstable particles in your body begin to form. It causes damage on a cellular level and to DNA, which is oxidative stress. Antioxidants offset that by correcting free radical damage.

If you keep your diet high in antioxidants, you won’t be as prone to harmful things in the environment causing oxidative damage and free radical stress, which can ultimately lead to tissue damage and even cancer. It is preferable to get antioxidants through food than supplementation, because unprocessed food has more freshness and that makes it more vital.

Here are my favorite ways to consume antioxidants:

  • Green Tea: During the summer it’s a great thing to make sun tea, only make it with green tea and have it really dilute so that you aren’t loading yourself up on caffeine. You can sweeten it with lemon or a little bit of raw honey. This is a great antioxidant that offers phenomenal skin protection.
  • Resveratrol: Another great antioxidant that is often found in red wine. Don’t get too excited, I’m not encouraging you to drink alcohol. While many of us try to convince ourselves that drinking wine is healthy, I think that the alcohol is outweighs any health benefits. Consume resveratrol in supplement form instead!
  • Curcumin: Another favorite antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that increases oxygen to the brain. It’s great for several other conditions as well and is another antioxidant that you can easily incorporate into your food. One thing to note is that Curcumin is best absorbed with saturated fat. Indian and Thai dishes use a lot of coconut milk, which is a healthy saturated fat with medium chain triglycerides, so including curry dishes in your diet is a great way to consume Curcumin. Besides, who doesn’t love Thai food?
  • Acai Berry: This is a great one for smoothies. I buy the frozen Acai smoothie packets and throw it in the Vitamix with the rest of my smoothie ingredients. You can get it in powder or juice form as well.
  • Wheat Grass: A great superfood and antioxidant. Some people don’t like the grassy taste, but you can get it in a capsule or powder form or add it to your smoothie to disguise the taste. Be sure to strain wheatgrass after you juice it to get some of the cellulose out of it, which is a fiber that is difficult for people to digest.

Onions, blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes are all great sources of antioxidants as well. Eating a whole foods diet goes a long way, but some supplemental antioxidants can be really important too.

There are also lab tests where you can have your antioxidant levels measured, so that you can find out if you have a deficiency in any specific antioxidants. Consuming antioxidants is really important for sun protection, in addition to covering up and using sunscreen.

How to Choose a Healthy Sunscreen

It’s wise to be really careful about choosing sunscreens. Like other beauty products, there are a lot of toxic ingredients in most sunscreens on the market, some of which can be carcinogenic.

Three ingredients to avoid:

  • Methyl-parabens
  • Propyl parabens
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate.

The good news is that there are some really good brands out there that don’t contain them. The active ingredient in sunscreen is titanium dioxide. When you see lifeguards at the beach with the white substance on their noses, that is titanium dioxide. I often take a healthy moisturizer and combine it with titanium dioxide in my hand and then apply it to my skin because otherwise it is very drying. You could consider it a DIY (do-it-yourself) sunscreen.

Here are a few safe sunscreen brands that I like:

  • Honey badger
  • Kiss my face
  • Alba organics

Be sure to check out locally made sunscreens too…Honey Bee Holistics is a good one that I found on Etsy.

How do you protect yourself from the fun and get your antioxidants in every day? Share your comments below.