Skin and sun: prepare, protect and prolong your tan naturally

Protecting yourself from the sun's harmful effects while enjoying its benefits is a fundamental balance for the proper functioning of the body. Prolonged exposure to the sun can be harmful to our skin in the short and long term. This is why, in addition to a controlled and limited exposure to ultraviolet rays, it is essential to prepare our skin well, to protect it effectively in order to enjoy the benefits of the sun in complete safety. Natural extracts can accompany us in these different stages: preparation for the first exposure to the sun, protection of the skin and extension of the tan.

The effect of the sun on our skin

The sun is a true source of energy for our planet Earth. It emits light energy, heat energy and ultraviolet rays, more commonly known as UV rays. The latter are invisible, do not heat and can be classified into three categories according to their wavelength, biological activity and skin penetration power:

  • UVA, which has a long wavelength, is the most penetrating UV. They reach our epidermis and can even penetrate deep into the skin, all the way to the dermis. They are responsible for an immediate tanning effect, but also for premature skin aging.
  • the UVB, whose wavelength is medium, are partially absorbed by the atmosphere and fortunately, because they present an important biological activity. Although they "only" reach the first layers of the epidermis, they are responsible for burns and delayed tanning. They promote aging and skin cancers.
  • the UVC, whose wavelength is short, are the most harmful, but they are stopped by the atmosphere which absorbs them; they do not reach the surface of the Earth.

Many environmental factors can also influence the UV exposure of an individual such as the time of day, seasonality, altitude, but also latitude or the presence of clouds. These determine a UV index which expresses the intensity of UV. The higher the index, the higher the risk and the more protection is needed.

The evils of the sun

Studies on UVC, UVB and even more recently UVA rays conclude that in addition to sunburn, tanning and premature skin aging, UV rays also promote the development of skin cancers. Other harmful effects can be observed after exposure, such as acne, pigmentation spots, skin dryness, a decrease in skin immunity due to the destruction of certain cells, etc. Therefore, in addition to limiting exposure to the sun, it is important to prepare your skin for the sun and above all to protect it.

To protect oneself, the sunscreens available on the market are varied, they are regulated. Protectionindices (IP or SPF in English Sun Protection Factor) are determined by standardized tests in laboratory, in vitro, authorized and displayed on the products in question. The SPF measures the ability of a cosmetic product/formula to filter out UVB, and some UVA. The PI appears in numbers; 15, 20, 30 or 50 are the indexes found on sun protection products, the highest index having the strongest protection. Below 15, the protection is weak, between 15 and 30 it is average and above it is high protection. How is this IP measured? The calculation is quite simple and is based on the time it takes to get sunburned, without or with protection 20, 30 or 50 for example. Theoretically, a person who gets sunburned in 15 minutes without sun protection will get sunburned after 5 hours with IP 20 protection (15x20 = 300 minutes). In practice, it is always advisable to renew the protection after 2 hours of application because many other criteria come into play (skin phototype, climate and UV intensity, etc.).

The benefits of the sun.

Prolonged exposure is at risk, however UV rays also have benefits. They play a key role in the synthesis of vitamin D, as 70% of it is produced through UV; the remaining 30% comes from food. Vitamin D is essential to our body's bone, muscle and immune systems. In addition, it is recognized that the sun has a real positive impact on our mood and well-being. An adapted sun exposure is therefore recommended, from 15 to 20 minutes depending on the type of skin, and rather in the morning or at the end of the afternoon when UV rays are less aggressive.

Preparing your skin for the sun

Encourage a diet rich in antioxidants and carotenoids

Diet has a real role to play when trying to tan and more specifically to better prepare your skin for the arrival of the first rays of sun. On the one hand, some nutrients participate in the synthesis of melanin by stimulating its production. On the other hand, there are nutrients called "antioxidants" that act on two levels. They can either directly neutralize the free radicals produced during exposure to the sun, or interfere with other substances in the chain of oxidation reactions, thus limiting the latter.

To stimulate the production of melanin, carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin) are to be preferred. These pigments are found in plants, and are in fact what gives them their hue color (yellow, red, green, orange). The copper is also a trace element involved in the production of melanin. It is then possible to consume the following foods daily, one month before exposure:

  • Fruits and vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, pumpkins, melons, apricots, mangoes, peppers, tomatoes and sour cherries are sources of beta-carotene. Cooked tomatoes with their skin, guava, watermelon and grapefruit contain lycopene. Cabbage, watercress, spinach, chard, zucchini and leeks are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. It is recommended to respect the seasonality of fruits and vegetables: plants in season are more interesting nutritionally speaking. If the equivalent of half of your plate is represented by these plants, you will have the best chance of obtaining a tanned complexion.
  • Spices and aromatic herbs: cumin, pepper, turmeric, paprika but also parsley, coriander, sage, basil, thyme, chives, oregano and mint are spices and aromatic herbs sources of copper and carotenoids, easy to introduce in the daily diet.
  • Dried seaweed: a little less common, dried seaweed is nevertheless very rich in beta-carotene. They include Japanese kombu, wakame, dulse, bladderwrack and sea bean. On average, less than 5 g of dried seaweed is enough to meet the daily requirement of beta-carotene.
  • Seeds and nuts: nuts are carriers of antioxidants and copper. It is wise to add a handful a day of seeds and oil nuts to his diet to hope to have a beautiful tanned skin.
  • Special case of Urucum: this fruit of the roucouyer, native to South America, contains small red seeds extremely rich in beta-carotene: about 1305 mg per 100 g. Less than a gram of Urucum powder covers the daily requirement of beta-carotene.

To learn more, feel free to check out our article dedicated to tan boosting foods.

Exfoliate the skin with scrubs

The skin's preparation for tanning also involves the outside. The skin cells renew themselves according to a 28-day cycle. Dead, whitish cells appear on the surface of a drier-looking skin. Eliminating these cells by exfoliating the skin is important to promote cellular renewal, slow down skin aging and facilitate the penetration of moisturizing, protective skin care, among other things. Depending on your skin type and body part, it is useful to adapt the scrub employed.

Clays can be used. The White Kaolin Clay ultra-ventilated will be particularly suitable for the most sensitive skin. For other skins and the body, for example, the Rhassoul Clay, the Green Clay and the Blue Clay Illite and/or Montmorillonite are more appropriate. Clays in powder form are best mixed with water or a hydrosol and a vegetable oil to gently exfoliate in the shower, for example.

Other exfoliations are possible with natural extracts or even gloves, you can find them in more detail in this guide on skin exfoliation.

Moisturize, nourish the skin and promote tanning

Care products based on vegetable oils and oily macerates promote tanning while nourishing the skin. The fatty acids contained in these oils and oily macerates participate in the synthesis of phospholipids. These structure the skin's cell membranes, and the fatty acids provide suppleness and protection to all the layers of the skin (epidermis, dermis and hypodermis). In addition, the following natural extracts are known to be rich in beta-carotene capable of activating the synthesis of melanin, the natural, dark pigments of the skin responsible for its coloration.

  • The oily macerate of Carrot : it is yellow to orange in color which allows in first intention to give a tanned complexion. In preparation for exposure to the sun, it is advisable to use the oily macerate of Carrot in skin application, 3 weeks before exposure.
  • Buriti Plant Oil: it also has an atypical orange to red color for a healthy glow after application. It can also color your usual day cream or be diluted in another vegetable oil for skin care.
  • Vegetable oil or Tucuma butter: it is also rich in beta-carotene and omega-3. To make matters worse, this oil is rich in vitamin E. Its use in skin application prepares the skin for the sun and like the vegetable oils mentioned above, allows you to fill up on carotenoids.

Protect your skin from the sun with vegetable oils

Although it has many benefits that are essential to the proper functioning of the body (source of vitamin D, increased morale with higher levels of dopamine and serotonin, healthy glow, etc.), the sun also requires special warning. To limit sunburn, in addition to limiting exposure, it is important to filter UV rays.

The vegetable oils confer a particular interest to those who want to limit their use of various cosmetic products, long-winded formulations. Here, the interest of vegetable oils lies in a single ingredient: the oil extracted from their seeds or fruits. Some oils are rich in protective and antioxidant unsaponifiable matter, in addition to providing emollient care via their fatty acid composition. Some even have a natural sun protection factor called SPF. The vegetable oils tested seem to absorb mainly in the UVB absorption spectrum (290-320 nm). Nevertheless, the studies also testify to the use of vegetable oils in a cosmetic formulation (+ UVA filter) in this case and/or as acomplement to sun protection.

  • Raspberry vegetable oil is not well known, yet it has a sun protection factor between 28 and 50. It can therefore be used to absorb some UVA and especially UVB. In addition to these protective properties, Raspberry seed vegetable oil is antioxidant. It is particularly rich in vitamin E, gallic acid and carotenoids that help prevent fine lines and other signs of skin aging. It is also composed of a significant amount of omega-3, anti-inflammatory, with soothing properties for the skin.
  • Karanja vegetable oil is rich in pongamol and karanjin, two compounds known for their anti UVA and anti UVB properties. They would indeed have, according to laboratory tests, the ability to absorb and filter part of the UV rays and an IP (or SPF) around 30.
  • It seems that Pomegranate seed oil and Wheat germ also benefit from interesting skin-protective and antioxidant properties for sun protection. These oils are particularly recognized for their richness in vitamin E, provitamin A (beta-carotene) and phytosterols. Wheat germ oil can also be ingested, in a 3-week cure, at a rate of one teaspoon per day to protect the skin before but also after sun exposure.
  • The Shea Butter is rich in repairing and protective unsaponifiables, including vitamin A, but also karitene and cinnamic acid. Shea complements the action of sunscreens in protective products. Indeed, it serves as a screen to UV, but is not considered as a total screen. So be careful, it is not a sunscreen. Like Shea butter, Avocado oil has a similar action and is also rich in interesting unsaponifiables.

Obviously, these protections cannot replace sunscreens that offer greater protection, for prolonged exposure. In any case, it is important to note that Warning is required for sun exposure: too much sun can be harmful to the health of the skin.

After-sun : take care of your skin and prolong your tan

Soothing and repairing vegetable oils

After exposure to the sun, it is important to nourish the skin, soothe it and give it a special anti-oxidant care to limit the damage of the sun and the inconveniences for the skin (signs of premature aging). For this we can rely on active ingredients such as vitamin E, vitamin C, phytosterols and many others.

Among plant oils and oily macerates, the Calendula Oily Macerate is the must-have for soothing the skin. Naturally containing faradiol, it will relieve redness and inflammation. Its fatty acids act as a moisturizer and softener.

At the same time, the Rose Hip Vegetable Oil helps repair cell membranes damaged by the sun, it is skin regenerating.

The Vegetable Coconut Oil and the Oily Monoi Macerate, delicately scented, provide an interesting and pleasant moisturizer.

To the vegetable oils can be added aromatherapy care. The essential oil of Lavender Aspic is composed of linalool and camphor, it is a skin analgesic and notably helps soothe the skin in case of sunburn. It is generally diluted to 20% in a vegetable oil and is substituted by diluted Fine or True Lavender for younger children. Essential oils of Celery or Carrot are useful in case of pigmentary tasks, from 6 years old by cutaneous way diluted in 5 %. In case of acne, appearing in some cases post-exposure, it is possible to turn to the essential oil of Tea Tree, major anti-infectious. Finally, to soothe the skin and moisturize it, combining aloe vera gel with a vegetable oil is often beneficial.

Scrubbing and exfoliation of the skin

This exfoliation and scrubbing step not only prepares the skin for the sun but also prolongs the tan: cell renewal is continuous! You can refer to the advice given above.

Beware of photosensitizing products!

Photosensitization (or phototoxicity) refers to an excessive reaction of the skin and immune system to UV radiation. This reaction occurs following the encounter of UV rays and a substance known as a photosensitizer. It results in redness (sunburn), abnormal skin coloring, sometimes pimples and itching similar to a sun allergy. Certain medications, essential oils and also certain medicinal plants are involved.

Phototoxic essential oils

Essential oils containing bicyclic aromatic molecules such as coumarins are said to be photosensitizing, or phototoxic. These molecules are often found in trace form in essential oils obtained by expression such as citrus essences, but not only. We can cite the essential oil of Lemon, the essential oil of Bergamot, the essential oils of Mandarin, those of Orange, but also the essential oil of Angelica, Fennel or Khella. This list is not exhaustive. For these oils, it will thus be necessary to take care not to expose the skin to the sun in the 8 to 12 hours after application or ingestion. It is for this reason that there are citrus essential oils without coumarins.

Special case of St. John's wort

St. John's wort is composed of hypericin which seems to be the incriminated molecule. It is a plant that is generally used in the form of an oily macerate. Whether or not you know the exact concentration of hypericin in your St. John's Wort extract, it is best to avoid its application if you expect to be exposed to the sun within 8 to 12 hours. However, St. John's Wort Oily Macerate is useful for relieving burns, redness and sunburns precisely. It is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and promotes skin regeneration. Applying it following a sunburn is not inconsistent since you will not expose yourself to the sun for a few days if you suffer from your burns.

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