by Dr. Hilary Costello
Nature Cures Clinic physician
As we bloom into the heat and sunny weather of another glorious Oregon summer, many of us want to make sure that we are taking good care of our skin. It is our time to shine and build up Vitamin D stores.
After a long spring, such as we have experienced this year, it is a great idea to spend a portion of each day outdoors and soak up some sun. Outdoor exercise, fresh air, and sunlight are also some of the finest ingredients to improve the symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder or the temporary depression or melancholy that can set in with the lack of adequate sunlight.
Each of us has a unique experience being in direct sunlight, so be sure to know your skin type or the skin type of those you may be caring for, such as children and the elderly. Sunlight exposure can be very healing from a holistic perspective and is an important aspect of good skin health. With that being said, we want to take conservative precautions to make sure that we are treating our skin well and not becoming overexposed to the damaging UV rays that can potentially cause DNA changes in the skin and lead to precancerous skin changes such as actinic keratosis or skin cancers. I recommend using a combination of mineral based sunblock, physical barriers such as hats and clothing, and making wise choices in regard to the time of day to have full sun exposure. Sun rays are most intense between 12 and 2 pm. If you plan to be out in the sun during those hours, be sure to have a hat or a topical block in case you feel the light is too intense.
Please refer to The Skin Cancer Foundation website (www.skincancer.org) for detailed information and articles about skin cancer prevention and related skin topics.
Over the last several years, a great controversy has arisen in regard to the use of sunblock. The drug store or grocery store sunscreen brands have become more chemically based and less mineral block based in recent years and some scientists feel that this is contributing to the rising rates of skin cancers. The literature is controversial in itself due to poorly designed studies and unclear results. However, as with all topical medications, cosmetics, hormones, makeup, lotions, and anything else you may choose to put on your skin, I always recommend choosing the companies that have the most chemical free ingredients. The natural body care industry has been in a constant state of economic growth and ever growing demand. There are wonderful companies that are creating lovely and effective formulas that are chemical free and organic in many cases. Health food stores and quality day spas are a great place to find such products.
Ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone (Parsol 1789), and retinol palmitate are a few of the ingredients that are suspect. The understanding is that these types of chemicals can create free radical damage in the skin when exposed to UV rays and therefore can potentially lead to skin cancers. I recommend using sunscreens without these chemicals as a general precaution.
There are many natural skin care lines that have a variety of SPF sunscreens available. The formulas consist of mineral blocks such as zinc or titanium dioxide in addition to a natural lotion base with botanicals and antioxidants. There are naturally UV protective botanicals and many of the herbal based skin care lines incorporate these into their formulas. It is wise to test the consistency of the sunscreen to make sure that is is easy to apply. Some of these products may clump due to the mineral content and formulation. Follow the directions for application, especially if planning to swim. For example, apply 30 minutes before swimming, etc. I recommend using a high SPF for optimal effect, especially in children, and lower SPF for darker, less reactive skin types or if there is not a history of excessive sun burning. If planning a trip to an exceptionally sunny climate, it is best to use extra caution and avoid exposure between 12 and 2 pm, have physical barriers easily accessible, and bring the higher SPF mineral block if needed. Aloe vera gel is the best after sun treatment and Calendula lotions or creams and shea butter are excellent moisturizers and help to rejuvenate and rebuild healthy skin after sun tanning.
In the local Portland area I recommend Kanani Pearl Hawaiian Spa (Pearl District), Zenana Spa (SE Portland), New Seasons Market, People’s Co-Op, Food Front, and Whole Foods Market for the natural skin care lines that will offer sunscreens and after sun care options as well as high quality natural skin care products and makeup. The following are lines that I highly recommend and use for myself and my family.
~Epicuren (California based company, wonderful large product line, excellent creams, botanically based formulas, use of enzymes and essential oils, lovely products)
~Naturopathica (New York based company, all natural botanically based, great products, diverse line for all skin types, woman owned)
~IS Clinical (high quality natural skin care line for all skin types)
~Eminence (Hungary based company, high quality, botanically based, lovely formulas)
~Weleda (German company, affordable and available at most health food stores, great all natural products, great children’s line)
~Dr. Hauschka (German company, sister company to Weleda, also available at most health food stores, wonderful natural formulas, very high quality and natural, anthroposophical farming and philosophy)
~Mychelle (diverse product line, available at health food stores, botanically based)
~Inesscents (Oregon based company, excellent shea butters and body oils, exceptionally natural ingredients, woman owned)
~Amikole (New York based company, excellent shea butters, lovely essential oil varieties, exceptionally natural ingredients, woman owned)
Once you begin to explore the world of natural skin care products, you will experience the absolute simplicity and immense quality of natural skin products. Many of us choose to eat healthy chemical free food and take quality natural medicine supplements or herbs to enhance our health. We make conscious decisions daily to live a life filled with healthy choices. The products that we choose to put on our skin should be included within the scope of those healthy choices.
Another option for addressing basic skin care needs is to create your own formulas at home. This guarantees the purity of the product and it is simple and easy, plus it is a great way to save money and have fun. Please watch our Nature Cures Class Feed Your Skin video to learn more about making your own customized shea butter at home or register for one of my skin care classes through the Nature Cures website.
It is surprising to realize how many chemicals are added to simple things, such as a body lotion. Take a moment to read some of the labels of your top three topical products (lotions, deodorant, shampoo, etc.) and evaluate if there may be a more natural choice. In this day and age, it is crucial to minimize our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and substances that can elicit a negative response in the body, ultimately leading to inflammation or allergic responses.
The skin is the largest organ of the entire body and is responsible for many important functions. It is a highly bioactive tissue that helps to regulate body temperature and hydration, is directly related to liver and gastrointestinal function, and is a primary organ of elimination and detoxification.
As a naturopathic doctor specializing in holistic dermatology, I am continually examining the skin to evaluate the health of the inner body. Any type of skin disorder must be treated from a holistic perspective. At Nature Cures Clinic, we are committed to the principles of naturopathic medicine and are always looking to find the root cause of the imbalance or illness. We treat the whole person, all systems included, which usually involves diet and nutrition, lifestyle, mental/emotional well being, and medicines for the specific issues. Skin health provides an essential look into what is happening on the inside of the body and can help to identify a multitude of imbalances. The skin is an
important gateway into the body. We are often concerned with what is entering our bodies through our gastrointestinal tract or what we are inhaling into the lungs, but we need to consider our skin to be an integral part of optimal health.
Enjoy the lovely July sunshine and I look forward to seeing you soon.