Summer is here and with it the intense summer heat and sun in Texas. As we spend time in community and enjoy get-togethers, it is important that we remember to take the time to care for and protect ourselves from the sun’s rays.Talking about sun skin health can be tricky, especially for people for color. Contrary to assumptions otherwise, black and brown people do get sunburn and skin cancer, and it’s important that we take the time to protect and care for our skin.
Here are some things you can do to protect and care for your skin without having to worry about all the toxic chemicals or high prices of more commercial items.
Know what you are putting on your skin
It’s important that we protect our skin when we are going to be out outdoors But equally important is protecting ourselves from the potentially harmful chemicals found in many popular products. Recent studies are showing that common sunscreen and cosmetic ingredients such as oxybenzone, triclosan, parabens, phthalates, and others can disrupt the hormones in our bodies. And other studies are showing that certain forms of vitamin A common in sunscreen products may actually increase the speed that skin tumors grow. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out an annual guide to sunscreens so that consumers may know which products might be made with harmful chemicals, and which ones meet the promises the sunscreen companies make. (On a side note: EWG has a few guides and ranging from makeup, food, pesticides, seafood and more that might be worth taking the time to look at.)
Look at your body
The sun changes our bodies, and sometimes these changes go unnoticed by us and by our doctors. While people of color have lower rates of skin cancer, we have a higher mortality rate with studies showing that we are often diagnosed in late stages. It’s important that we take the time to look at our bodies, note the changes that are happening, and ensure that our doctors provide the appropriate care. Signs to look for and talk to your healthcare provider about are:
- Spots on your hands, soles of your feet or under your nails
- The shape, size, or color of existing spots on your body change
- If the area around an existing spot begins to change color
- If you notice or have anal or genital warts (HPV)
This is not a comprehensive list, and any changes should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Try to avoid getting sunburned, but take care of your skin if you do burn
As I said earlier, it’s important that we protect our skin when we are going to be out in the sun so that we can avoid sunburns. If we do get a sunburn, though, there are some things we can do to minimize discomfort and help our skin heal. The first thing you can do when you have a sunburn is to, if possible, limit the amount of time you spend in the sun until your skin is healed. You can usually tell when your skin has begun to heal when it begins to peel. If you are going to be getting additional sun, it is important that you apply and reapply sunscreen often. The second thing you can do after spending time in the sun it to moisturize. This is important whether or not you have sunburned and will significantly help soothe the skin and assist in healing. Some people like to use lotion, while others use products like coconut oil. Below is my favorite recipe to help soothe sunburns.
Coconut Milk and Aloe Vera
Simply combine 1 part coconut milk with 1 part aloe vera, and you’re done. You can keep in the fridge for up to a week at a time. This mixture works great for pretty much all things skin related. Growing up my mother used to keep a sávila (aloe vera) plant outside of every door to our house. She used to say that you could tell the energy in your life by the health of the sávila. If it was healthy and happy that meant you were fine. But it it was wilting and sad looking that meant that someone was sending you ojo and you should do something to right the energy in your life. It was common practice to take one of the smaller plants that was growing and gift it to people when they moved into a new house. Those plants were a staple in my life, and we used them for everything. Got a burn? Put some sávila on it. Sunburn? Where’s the sávila? Pimples? Sávila, duh. Bite your tongue or cheek? Rub some sávila on it, Constipated? Just blend up some sávila and add it to peppermint tea. I have been putting it on my sunburns for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I met my partner that I learned that some people have had pretty much the same experience as me, except with coconut milk. First brought up as an alternative to store bought hair conditioners, I quickly realized the potential for sunburn relief. It’s inexpensive, chemical-free, and best of all easy to make.
What about you? How do you protect yourself while enjoying time out in the sun? What are your favorite ways to care for your skin? Let us know in the comments below or continue the conversation with us on on Facebook and Twitter .