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Sun Sense for the Sensitive

Your skin may be more sensitive to the sun than you think, and there’s more you can do about it too.

relaxing_woman_music_headphones_nature_nap_picIf it’s summertime in your part of the world right now, you’re probably outdoors a lot more, enjoying the sun-drenched longer days. While sunshine is a natural mood-enhancer and a great source of vitamin D, be aware that some medications—including herbs—can increase your skin’s photosensitivity.

How much sun exposure it takes to cause a reaction varies from person to person and is influenced by a variety of factors, including what you eat, drink, or put on your skin. A few medications to be mindful of can include certain antibiotics, antihistamines, cancer chemotherapy drugs, diuretics, diabetes meds, painkillers, and skin and acne medications. Herbs that are most likely to cause a reaction include St. John’s Wort and kava kava. Remember, if you take a multivitamin it may also contain herbs, so be sure and read the label.

Some vegetables and plants can cause sun sensitivity from direct skin contact. These include lime or lemon, mango peel, celery, and others. Even fragrances can make you more susceptible to burns for as long as 24 hours after you apply them. You may want to avoid musk, cedar, sandalwood, and some citrus, such as lemon. Bergamot essential oil contains a photosensitizer that can cause severe reactions.

Identifying the things that make you photosensitive is important. Because a reaction can be triggered by artificial colors, sweeteners, and chemical additives, you have another reason to eat clean, whole foods during the high-sunlight months!


man_sit_wall_guitar_play_music_summer_sun_picThe full effect of your sunburn may not be seen for more than 24 hours. Sunburns typically peak within 24–36 hours after exposure and generally heal within three to five days. In addition to using topical old standbys like aloe vera and calendula for faster healing, drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages to rehydrate, and try these DIY remedies for sunburn relief:


Grind a cup of unflavored oatmeal into a fine powder, dissolve it in warm water, and pour into your bath. Soak for 20–30 minutes. Do not rinse.

Potato slices

Apply thin slices of uncooked potato directly onto your sunburned skin.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Make sure the vinegar is diluted, start with 1:1 and adjust based on how your skin feels.

Two application methods you can try include:

  • Filling a spray bottle with ACV and water to spray on
  • Adding ACV to a cool bath and taking a soak

Foods that may provide protection

girl_happy_picnic_nature_apple_blanket_healthy_picDiet has a huge impact on inflammation in the body. Because sunburn is a form of inflammation, a large part of natural sun protection includes eating an anti-inflammatorydiet. Foods high in vitamin C, such as bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes are beneficial. Drinking green tea is also thought to be helpful because of its antioxidant properties.

Foods to avoid

Sometimes what we don’t eat is as important as what we do. Stay away from inflammation-causing edibles such as grains, sugar, vegetable oils, and all processed foods.

Natural sun protection

Over the counter, chemical-based sunscreen comes with its own inherent risks. Check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website for a report and listing of the best and worst commercial sunscreens. Meanwhile, consider utilizing some natural sun prevention as well.


There are a variety of supplements claiming to provide protection from the sun. Used in conjunction with other methods, adding supplements to your summer skincare repertoire may be worth a look. Astaxanthin, for example, is microalgae known for its anti-inflammatory attributes, and is also said to have sunscreen properties. Additionally, antioxidants such as beta-carotene, selenium, and lycopene have been shown to provide some skin protection.


Some natural, not highly refined oils contain sun protection properties, with carrot seed oil, raspberry seed oil, and wheat germ oil seeming to hold the most benefit.

A DIY sunscreen

Start with a bottle of your favorite body lotion (be sure it doesn’t contain citrus oils). Add a couple tablespoons of non-nano and uncoated zinc oxide powder. Mix well. Apply as needed.

Have fun outdoors!

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