Why Use an Antioxidant Under Your Sunscreen?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 2010 Sunscreen Guide* on Memorial Day, marking the unofficial beginning of the season of outdoor living. The report examines and rates sunscreens.
EWG researchers could recommend only 39 out of 500 sunscreens they tested. The most common problem they saw was a sunscreen not providing the amount of sun protection listed on its package, thus giving the user a false sense of security in the sun. What is more, the researchers expressed concerns that certain sunscreen ingredients themselves may speed up skin damage, raise skin cancer risk, and disrupt hormones in the body.
I encourage you to read the EWG Sunscreen Guide. Even if your typical sun exposure is only casual, you owe it to yourself to keep up to date about your options for protecting your skin.
Whatever sunscreen or sunblock you may pick, consider using one of the following antioxidant treatments under it. These treatments may increase the overall effectiveness of a sunscreen in minimizing sun damage to your skin. They may also counteract any damage caused by the sunscreen itself. They are not mentioned specifically in the EWG Guide but have been mentioned in other studies. The natural ingredients below are not meant to substitute for a sunscreen but to work in a complementary way with a good quality sunscreen.
Green tea. The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to protect against sunburn and photoaging. They work through biochemical, cellular, and molecular channels both in test tubes and in living subjects. “Green tea polyphenols thus have the potential, when used in conjunction with traditional sunscreens, to further protect the skin against the adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation” (Yusef, Irby, Katiyar, Elmets, 2007). Brew a cup of green tea; apply it to your skin and let it dry before putting on your sunscreen.
Vitamin C. Free radicals contribute to the skin damage that UVA light exposure causes. Antioxidants fight these free radicals. Applying Vitamin C has been shown to help counteract moderate photodamage of facial skin (Traikovich, 1999). You can use one of the many Vitamin C serums on the market with a 10% concentration or higher. Or, you can save a lot of money by making your own 10% serum with 1/2 teaspoon of powdered Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) and 4 teaspoons of water. Apply the mixture to your skin and allow it to dry before using sunscreen.
Red raspberry seed oil. This oil has an estimated equivalent sun protection factor (SPF) of 24 to 50 (Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission; Oomah et al., 2000). Raspberries are also high in polyphenols (with cancer-fighting properties), antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories. Put undiluted red raspberry seed oil on your skin and let it soak in for a while before applying sunscreen. Diluting the red raspberry seed oil with extra virgin olive oil (another oil that decreases sun damage) will make the mixture less expensive and easier to spread onto the skin, but will reduce the degree of sun protection.
Working out a sun protection strategy for your skin is an important but sometimes bewildering job. Sort through the pros and cons of the various retail and do-it-yourself options. Whatever sunscreen you choose, putting an antioxidant base under it will provide excellent support. This approach, along with the EWG’s recommendations of wearing protective clothing and finding shade, will help keep your skin healthy as you get the most out of summer.
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