Bring on the Sunshine Part 2

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I grew up in Arizona and was one of Those People who thought a tan was the highest form of beauty. And I mean really, really tan! I admit to using baby oil (can you imagine?) to attract more rays (or that was the current thinking) and, okay, prepare yourself: I used foil-wrapped plates to reflect on my FACE!  I'm surprised there's any skin left! Now I know better and try very hard to keep my skin protected from our harsh sun. I have tried using sunscreen with natural ingredients but recently I started investigating and found out that even if marketed as 'natural', you still need to be careful about what you use

In my research, I found a website that provides information to consumers that rates the hazard levels of different body and bath products. The address is: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. This website was developed by Environmental Working Group which is an organization dedicated to providing useful resources to consumers to find products that are safe for their families as well as the environment. The website has a database where you can type in a product you're concerned about and the site will give it a 'Hazard' rating that is 0 (for the least hazardous) to 10 (the worst rating).

I purchased some sunscreens at our local health food store and found out their ratings on that website. The UV Nature Baby Sunscreen rated a 1, as did California Baby SPF 30. Now, what was interesting is that the California Baby SPF 30 'Unscented' sunscreen rated a 3. It shows how you have to be careful even if you are getting something from the same company. Chemicals are chemicals and we need to be cautious about which ones we use. Some professionals say that the chemicals in some run-of-the-mill sunscreens are more dangerous than whatever damage the sun can do to us without any sunscreen at all.  I would encourage you to go to the cosmetic database website and see how your products rate on the hazard scale. This may help make up your mind on which sunscreens are the best and safest. Check out your other products, too!

There are some natural oils you can use as a sunscreen, although most oils don't give you as much protection as is recommended. Sesame seed oil protects the skin up to 30% from UV rays, as opposed to 95% with an SPF 15 lotion. The sesame seed oil would be considered an SPF 5, where most dermatologists want you to use at least a 15. I have made a sunscreen spray and salve with sesame seed oil for myself, but I am not in the sun very much (any more!) so don't feel I need anything more than that.   I have been reading that raspberry seed oil has a pretty high SPF level (claims of 10 to 20) but I haven't researched it thoroughly or made any products yet to test it out. I'll keep you posted!

Now, even with all that we do to protect our children and ourselves there is always that One Time where there is going to be a sunburn to deal with! I try to stay away from using any store-bought products made for this purpose because they usually contain lanolin. Although the cream and/or spray feel cool and soothing, once the product is warmed by the body, the lanolin becomes heated by the body's temperature and there can be discomfort. There are many homemade remedies out there but a couple I use seem to work very well. One I used growing up (those foil-wrapped plates can be brutal!) was wet tea bags. The tannic acid in the tea draws the burn out of the skin and heals it. After just one application, most sunburns are no longer painful and are much less red. However, this treatment will act on the pain but may not prevent peeling.

To use tea bags you will need to:
Make a large pot of boiling water. Add several tea bags to the water and steep until it's really strong tea (about 15-20 minutes). Add ice until the tea is just slightly warm. Put a bath towel (preferably a dark colored one, as a light one will probably be "dyed" brown) into the pot and keep turning the towel until it has soaked up all of the tea. Have the sunburned person lie on the floor or bed on top of an old towel to catch drips. Place the wet towel over the sunburned area of the body. Leave the towel on for a half hour for a moderate burn and an hour for a strong burn. The slightly warm tea will actually feel very cool on burned skin, and cold water would be almost painfully too cold on the hot skin. The burned person immediately feels relief from the wet, getting cooler and cooler gradually, with the actual temperature of the skin also cooling.

Aloe vera is a favorite remedy of mine for both burns caused in the kitchen and the sun. I scrape the pulp out of leaf and place it directly on the sunburn (Yes! It's stinky but the smell goes away, promise!). It is very soothing and draws out the pain. If this is done as soon as possible, you'll be amazed at how fast and how effective it is.  I also make a Sunburn Spray that I keep in the refrigerator. The cooling affect from being refrigerated and the ingredients help the skin feel better. I don't usually use the spray on the face of children since there's a chance they'll rub some of it in their eyes and the essential oils will burn. I use the aloe vera pulp or tea bags instead.

So you can see that using a store-bought sunscreen is fine as long as you do the research. And there are tried and true homemade methods that work very well on sunburn. More importantly, we should take advantage of living in such a beautiful place like Arizona by being outside as much as possible; without skin damage worries!

Sunburn Mist
4 oz aloe vera juice
12 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops peppermint essential oil
1 spring creosote sprig (optional); pinch off any flowers

Method
Put aloe juice in 4 oz spray bottle. Add essential oils and creosote. Shake well. Label and store in refrigerator up to 3 months. A mist is better than a lotion because burned skin is so sensitive to the touch.