Practicing Safe Sun

May 3, 2013
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Sun care protection from the inside out/outside in.

In Dr. Plourde’s groundbreaking book, Sunscreens Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste, she suggests that antioxidants are Mother Nature’s protective sunscreens. The antioxidants with the highest proven sunscreen protection are anthocyanins, beta-carotene, carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols, stilbenes, tocopherols, and tocotrienols.

Superfoods like cranberries, pomegranates, wild blueberries, avocadoes, broccoli sprouts, and goji berry juice as well as a plethora of spices like ground cloves, dried oregano, dried rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, turmeric, sage, and dried Szechwan peppers are especially high in the antioxidants that have skin protection power.

The carotenoids lycopene and astaxanthin are the antioxidants of choice which seem to hold special promise as natural sunscreens. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon (as well as supplements) that protect against damaging UV radiation. In addition to consuming lycopene rich foods, I would consider a supplement that contains at least 6 mg of lycopene daily.

Similar to lycopene, astaxanthin is a special substance in plants and ocean animals that absorbs UV rays like a sponge. Highly touted as being 500 times more powerful in antioxidant activity than Vitamin E and ten times more powerful than Vitamin A, this antioxidant does double duty as a natural anti-inflammatory. Although foods like salmon are extremely high in astaxanthin, one would need to consume up to three pounds every day to enhance your skin’s natural protection. Since this is neither practical nor recommended due to heavy metal contamination of fish in this day and age, a daily supplement of about 4-5 mg would be ideal.

An all-around antioxidant like Oxi-Key would complete your skin-protection package.

Include these common sense habits in your sun care regimen:

1)    Although sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – inert minerals – may seem a safer bet than sunscreens loaded with chemicals like benzophenone, they are not. These once-safe ingredients have been nano-sized for absorption deep within the skin’s layers and currently act as hormone disrupting agents like xeno-estrogens and testosterone-inhibiting substances. They must be avoided like the chemical sunscreens on the market, according to Dr. Plourde’s research.

2)    If you must be out in the sun for long periods of time, the only really “safe” sunscreen available is the zinc cream that is sold in pharmacies and is used as a topical application for skin irritations, dermatitis, redness and baby’s bottoms. This sunscreen will remind you of the old-fashioned zinc oxide sunblocks back in the day before nano-particles made the zinc oxide invisible to the naked eye but delivered it deeper into the skin’s structure. The use, however, of this physical sunscreen will prevent the body’s production of Vitamin D.

3)    Don’t entirely shun the sun. Allow yourself regular but brief unprotected sun exposure in the early morning or early evening to keep your vitamin D stores at optimum levels.

4)    Include early morning outdoor exercise in your daily routine. Avoid long term sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are the harshest. If you do need to be out at this time, wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover up with protective clothing. They even make UV protection clothes to help you stay safe in the sun. Thanks to one of my fans for bringing that to my attention! These clothing items are available in a number of online stores.

5)    Use an umbrella to shield your body from the sun, not only when you are at the beach, but also when you are at a ballgame or even walking around town. This is a secret that Thais and Malaysians use to keep their skin supple and young looking even in their sun-drenched tropical climates.

6)    Pay attention to the signals your body gives you and find a comfortable, healthy dose of sunlight that is right for you. Too much sun is an amount that results in red, irritated skin or sunburn, but the full effect of ultraviolet light on the skin takes several hours to develop. This means that you shouldn’t stay in the sun until your skin is red. Realize that the ideal amount of time you can spend in the sun without causing harm to your skin will be different from your neighbor’s. It will depend on your skin; the altitude and climate in which you live; whether there is reflective sand, snow, ice water or concrete that is increasing your exposure; whether your skin is wet or dry; and whether you are taking certain medications such as sulfa drugs that make your skin more sun-sensitive.

Something else to remember when spending time in the sun is the importance of staying hydrated. And nothing cools you down like a glass of fresh lemonade! Try this delicious recipe for your own healthy helping of this classic thirst quencher: Fat Flush Lemonade

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Cara Craig

    Many thanks for this wonderful update! Great, extra motivation to eat as healthfully as possible! I hope everyone enjoys a wonderful, safe Spring & summer!

  2. Jane wong

    Very good article.Thanks.

  3. Sierra

    My job requires me to be out in the sun and I am a fair skinned individual. I do a lot of these things but found the antioxidants interesting. May give it a go. I’m going to try and find a balance with sunscreen for my work. Thank you for the good tips.

  4. Gina

    Thoughts on PABA? I have a mill creek aloe Vera and PABA moisturizing lotion, I seem to be free of any allergic reaction that bothers some.

    • Sierra

      If you are practicing the above tips, I’m not sure that you will really need to use the PABA, but it’s great that it doesn’t bother you

  5. Kathryn

    Can you recommend a sunscreen product?

    • Sierra

      Following the tips in this article seems to be the safest and most practical way to protect yourself.

  6. donna

    I am a white-skinned female living in the caribbean so am exposed to the sun a lot. Can you recommend a sunscreen product? I realize the importance of eating the correct foods but am leary that won’t be enough for me living in the caribbean

    • Sierra

      The Badger brand has some good options. I’ve also made my own by blending coconut oil, beeswax, and zinc oxide powder from the health food store’s beauty section. You could of course customize this by adding shea butter or almond or jojoba oil, but coconut oil has sun protective properties.

  7. Heidi

    Thank you for the information I will be using these tips for my family and myself.


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