The sun is a very good friend of our health. However, over-exposure to the sun’s rays may bring unwanted consequences. We are experiencing one of the warmest summers in the UK - Here are some tips from Dr.Spiezia on how to keep enjoying the sun, safely:
UV Rays and Vitamin D
Solar light and UV rays stimulate many beneficial functions in our bodies, such as the production of serotonin (the hormone of well-being and euphoria commonly known as ‘hormone of happiness’) with the consequent improvement of mood; the production of Vitamin D in its active form D3 with its ability to influence the absorption of calcium and the health of our bones; the indirectly beneficial effect on the immune system’s reactions; the influence on the circadian rhythms of sleep; helping to keep the skin free from infection – to name a few.
The sun also stimulates circulation thus improving the peripheral diffusion of oxygen, promotes the formation of red blood cells (haemopoyesis), improves physical and mental performance and contributes to the removal of internal waste through increased perspiration (emunctory effect). However, over-exposure to the sun’s rays must be avoided in the case of hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, advanced varicose veins and fragile capillaries (e.g. couperose).
Making the most of summer in a safe way
To make the most of sunlight’s beneficial effects and avoid its potential risks, takes a little planning:
- Expose your skin to the sun gradually, starting with just few minutes and then increasing little by little
- Avoid the middle hours of the day when the sun is at maximum height (zenith) between 12pm and 4pm (or in middle of summer time 11am-3 pm)
- Wear a hat and light cotton clothing especially at peak times (straw hats are great for ventilation!) overheating of the head/meninx can lead to congestion and headaches
- Drink plenty of water (avoid very cold/icy water) up to 3/4 litres a day
- Herbal teas, e.g. peppermint, or ordinary tea with lemon, are recommended for their ability to counteract vasodilation due to the heat which may often lead to a sense of tiredness or fatigue
Daily food intake should be light and fresh:
- Try and eat lots of seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, lettuce, green beans, etc . These are best consumed raw to absorb all of their nutrients and vitamins
- Make the most of the colourful summer fruits such as watermelon, peaches, apricots, figs, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, etc.
- Avoid fatty foods like red or dried meats, fried foods, alcohol and carbohydrates particularly during the hottest part of the day when digestion is more sluggish and calories more easily taken on
- Carrot juice is full of Beta Carotene and helps to naturally tan the skin too, add a teaspoon of linseed oil for some extra Omega3
Looking after your skin
Your skin is the most exposed organ to the sun and therefore needs extra attention. The sun and its UV rays, salt from the sea, wind, excessive sweat, the tendency to stay up late at night and sleep less all contribute to increasing the oxidation and ageing of the skin. Over-exposure to the sun also encourages us to squint, increasing lines around the eyes, and good quality sunglasses with UV protection are recommended. Our hair can also suffer from the effects of salt, UV and wind which damage the hair follicle.
Hydration is fundamental – I always recommend using organic oils on the skin rather than water based products. Natural oils such as Olive, Argan and Coconut have a very similar complexion to our own skin Sebum/oil, meaning they are easily absorbed and help to avoid the overproduction of sebum creating a balance and leaving the skin nourished.
- After a morning shower, massage the body with an organic oil rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamins E & A. Use for the face a rapidly-absorbed oil as moisturising base, followed by medium factor sunscreen which should always be organic to avoid polluting our skin or the environment.
- After swimming in the sea or pool, take a fresh shower to cleanse away the salt or chlorine, and once home take particular care with your face, applying high quality, organic oil-based balms for re-hydration and focusing especially on the areas most exposed to the sun and the most fragile areas around the eyes and lips.
- Complete the facial regime in the evening with a deep cleansing routine. Once a week use a lightly exfoliating mask and an oil-based hair conditioner to returning nourishment after the drying effects of sea salt.
Enjoy the summer months!