Summer is here! To get the most fun out of your pool parties and barbecues, protect your skin from excessive sun exposure and biting bugs—the natural way.
To Deflect the Sun’s Rays
Check Your Sunscreen’s Report Card
A little sun exposure, which prompts your skin to make vitamin D, is OK. As naturopathic physician Holly Lucille, ND, puts it, “In general, a range of about five minutes for those with very fair skin to about 20 minutes for those with darker complexions is adequate.”
After that, you should use sunscreen. Lucille says she keeps tubes of it in her beach bag, purse and travel bag to make sure she always has sunscreen on hand.
The key number is a product’s Sun Protection Factor (SPF), a measure of how well it protects the skin. But with dozens of sunscreens on the market, how can you know which ones are safe?
Look for paraben-free, eco-friendly, organic varieties; for guidance, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/ ewg.org/sunscreen. An interactive search function on the EWG’s website allows you to plug in a sunscreen brand and type to see how it stacks up.
Sip Some Green Tea
You may already know green tea is good for you. But it may also help protect you from the sun, says Lucille, who adds, “I use green tea in my practice all the time.”†
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that compounds called catechins in green tea may help prevent premature skin aging (who needs that?) and may also make you more resistant to UV rays.†
Make Your Plate Pretty in Pink (and Red)
Tomatoes and watermelon are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that may help protect skin cells from UV rays, says Christy Brissette, RD. So should you skip the sunscreen and gorge on pizza? Not so fast.†
“While these results are exciting, tomatoes are no replacement for protecting yourself from the sun,” Brissette says. “Think of tomatoes as a bonus for sun protection, not one of your main strategies. They won’t prevent sunburns on their own.”†
Wear UPF-Rated Clothing
More clothing brands are offering items such as shirts, hats and pants made of fabric designed to shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays. When shopping for sun-protective clothing, look for its ultraviolet protective factor (UPF) rating; anything more than UPF 15 is good but a rating of 50 or more is better.
Don’t want to splurge? Wearing any clothing at all can reduce your exposure risk by 27%, according to the EWG.
Soothe Burns Naturally
If you do get a sunburn, you can try lavender oil or aloe vera to help ease the discomfort. In fact, if you have an aloe plant, cut a leaf open lengthwise and rub on the burn.†
To Beat the Bugs
Skip the Sweets
Mosquitos and other bugs tend to be attracted to sweet smells from alcohol, wine, fruits and honey, Brissette says.
On the other hand, “there’s some evidence that the smell of pungent foods, like garlic and onion, as well as vinegar, might repel mosquitos,” she continues. “So go ahead and add some red onion to your salads and kabobs and bring on the Italian and Mediterranean cuisines to keep the bugs away.”
B Prepared for Bug Season
If you haven’t already, start taking B-complex vitamins, suggests Gabrielle Francis, ND. “The B vitamins give off an odor that mosquitos don’t like,” she says. Start taking them a month in advance of your vacation or other time that you plan to spend outdoors and continue taking them throughout the summer.†
Wear Light Colors
It’s not just fashionable to wear white after Memorial Day, it’s also practical. “Mosquitos tend to like dark colors and can often bite through the fabric,” Francis says. Because of this, she suggests wearing loose-fitting cotton clothes that are white or in light colors.
Blend Essential Oils
Mosquitos despise essential oils, says Francis, who adds that bug-deterring oils include geranium, lemongrass, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, cedar, rosemary and peppermint, among others. For a natural mosquito repellant, Francis suggests mixing any combination of these oils with 190-proof grain alcohol.
For a more general insect repellant, Francis offers an easy recipe: 20 drops of eucalyptus oil, 20 drops of cedarwood oil, 10 drops of tea tree oil, 10 drops of geranium oil and 2 ounces of carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond. Mix the ingredients together in a four-ounce container and apply it to the skin.
Your cat might go crazy for catnip. But it has the opposite effect on mosquitoes, according to scientists.
In fact, the wild-growing herb was found to be about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the chemical found in most insect repellents in research conducted by scientists from Iowa State University. The study team reported that nepetalactone, an essential oil in catnip, gives off an odor that mosquitoes don’t seem to like.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.