How can I protect my skin in the sun?

Naturopathic doctor, Isabel Sharkar, from Sönd Skincare, gives us her expert solar-savvy advice for a safe summer


How can I protect my skin in the sun?

When deciding what is right for your skin, it’s crucial to know the sun-protection options available. For cream protection, there is physical ‘sunblock’ or chemical ‘sunscreen’. Sunblocks shield against UVB rays, while sunscreens protect against UVA.

Physical sun blockers contain active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect damaging rays. Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, which create a chemical reaction, and work by changing UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. It’s best to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen for protection against both rays.

Avoid the ingredients retinyl palmitate, retinol and vitamin A, as these may increase your risk of skin cancer. Oxybenzone is worth avoiding, too, as it may disrupt the hormone system. The Environmental Working Group in the US says zinc oxide should be your first choice for sun protection.

An anti-inflammatory diet, with good saturated fats and omega-3, increases defences. Eat foods rich in antioxidants, such as lycopene (cooked tomatoes and watermelon), beta-carotene (sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables) and vitamin E. Avoid processed food and sugar.

Having said all that, vitamin D from the sun is beneficial, and most people are deficient in it. Vitamin D protects us from many chronic illnesses, including cancer.

Eat well, stay hydrated, cover up, and avoid prolonged exposure. If you insist on an SPF topical physical blocker, check every ingredient on the EWG website before purchasing.

For more information about Sönd Skincare visit

Photograph: iStock