My Answers to your Questions with:
Dr. Jody Snider, ND
My name is Dr Jody Snider. I am a graduate of both Acadia University and more recently the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. As a Naturopathic doctor, I took an oath to educate my patients about disease and disease prevention, as well as empower them to take responsibility for their individual wellness goals. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I look forward to working with you.
Dr. Jody Snider, ND
I see that you have an article on sunscreen and sun protection. What about if we don't protect ourselves properly - anything I can do to heal a bad sunburn more quickly?
Record high temperatures in many North American cities this summer are bound to mean strong sun, and inevitable sunburn or two. Here are a few tips to minimize the damage and pain.
What is sunburn?
Most people understand that sunburn is caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB types). For the most part, when we refer to sunburn, we are actually referring to a first-degree burn â€“ resulting in red, warm skin that is tender to touch. Second-degree burns can also be caused by sun exposure. Swelling, pain, extreme reddening, and potentially blistering, can all be indicative of a second- degree burn. A second-degree burn can be significantly more dangerous, impacting not only the surface layers of skin, but lower layers, as well. Second-degree burns destroy the integrity of the cells causing them to release fluid, leaving us at risk of infection through breaks in the skin.
What so bad about a little sun (burn)?
Fever, chills, nausea and even delirium can all accompany more severe burns (generally referred to as sunstroke). Dehydration is a potentially life threatening symptom of severe burn.
Overexposure to UV rays is a major factor is many types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The tissue damage caused by sunburn disrupts the genetic material of the skin cells, and with time can harm the normal repair mechanisms of the skin. Damaged cells begin to reproduce (instead of being replaced by healthy cells, as in healthy tissue), along with an increasing vulnerability to damage from sun exposure.
Who is at risk?
People with blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, and fair skin are most susceptible to sunburn (and therefore skin cancers). These individuals are thought to have less protective pigment than those with darker skin. These individuals need to be a little more diligent in terms of sunscreen use, particularly after a few months out of the sun.
D... D... D... I love D!
With all this talk of risk, it must also be mentioned how GREAT the sunshine is - Mother Nature's way of supplying us with the all mighty vitamin D. 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun can go along way in terms of ensuring adequate vitamin D stores. As long as you are smart about your exposure, the sun can be amazing medicine. Why do we love vitamin D so much? Check out this article for more information.
Natural Sunburn Treatment
Vitamin A and mixed carotenoids, including Beta Carotene
Beta carotene and other carotenoids, such as lycopene, lutein, and more, are amazing free radical quenchers, significantly impacting the deleterious effects of UV light/oxidative damage on the skin. Studies have shown them to reduce severity of UV light related erythema (redness) by as much as 40% in the first few days following exposure. Vitamin A and beta carotene can also be considered optical filters, meaning that they can actually absorb some UV light, mainly UVA, helping to prevent damage before it happens. In both cases, carotenoids in supplement form, or diets rich in carotenoids (tomato sauce!) would need to be in place prior to sun exposure. This is just one more reason to make bright coloured fruit and vegetable a part of your daily diet... NOW! Caution should always be used when taking high dose vitamin A supplements, especially by women in their childbearing years. Learn more about vitamin A.
Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, helping to calm redness and ease pain following sunburn. It also helps to help protect against free radical damage. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil have a multitude of benefits to our health. To learn more check out our article on fish oil.
CoQ10 is another free radical scavenger that also increases oxygen supply to the cells. Although most often recommended for heart health, CoQ10 can also go a long way in protecting and repairing skin cells. Take a look at our article on CoQ10.
Topically for sunburn, there really is nothing better. Aloe is remarkably effective, easing discomfort, speeding healing time and helping to moisturize skin. If you have a fresh plant, USE it! Fresh pulp is the best.
Prevention is Always the Best Medicine
As always, I have to say something about PREVENTION. Wear an SPF 15 sunscreen, being sure to reapply after prolonged sweating or swimming (don't forget about the tops of your ears and your lips!) Check to make sure it is protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. For more on healthy sunscreen options, check out our Sunscreen Q&A. Stay covered with a hat or breathable protective clothing and sunglasses. Drink plenty of water while out in the sun to prevent dehydration.
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