- Preventing Sunburn The Natural Way: Astaxanthin
- Treating Sunburn The Natural Way
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the sun this summer because of a club my kids and I helped start. It’s kept us going on walking tours of museums and gardens outside, taken us strawberry picking, and we’ve taken part in a water balloon fight. And I’ve joined the ranks of parents who have a kid in football. All this means a lot more sun exposure than we’ve had in years!
I’m lucky, though. We’ve had no sunburn among us. We would have normally gone through either a lot of sunscreen or a lot of aloe gel by now in previous years.
I’ve been reading a lot about the dangers of the ingredients in sunscreens. Take a look at the toxic brew: oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, methyl paraben (and other parabens), nano-scale zinc oxide: endocrine disrupter, a chemical linked to skin cancer, another whole family of endocrine disrupters (that means it messes with your hormones, mimicking female hormones), an inhalable form of a metal that can cause lung damage. And there are many more, with many other problems.
All this, and sunscreen inhibits your body’s ability to make vitamin D, too. Vitamin D is a key component for your immune system, and is a crucial anti-cancer nutrient. So wearing sunscreen to prevent cancer, when what’s in the sunscreen actually causes cancer and prevents your body from producing an anti-cancer nutrient…doesn’t that sound like a plan out of Alice’s Wonderland?
Fortunately, there are better ways.
One of the most dramatically effective ways is astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, like beta carotene. It is one of the most potent anti-oxidants and free-radical scavengers ever discovered. It’s much more potent than vitamin E, vitamin C, or other carotenoids, sometimes by a factor of hundreds. And unlike the rest of them, it crosses both the blood/brain barrier and the blood/retina barrier, becoming part of the cell walls in that organ so that it continues to scavenge for the free radicals that cause cancer and other conditions.
Astaxanthin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and has a strong effect on radiation damage, including that from sun exposure. In one study, mice exposed to radiation that were given astaxanthin were observed to have almost no visible radiation effects just a couple of weeks after the damage occurred. In another, human women were found to have also reversed damage that had resulted in a variety of skin damage, from wrinkles to age spots to under-eye bags. That reversal also occurred in two weeks.
So I thought it was worth a shot. Three weeks ago, I bought a bottle of the right kind of astaxanthin. Normally, it occurs in the Haematococcus pluvialis sea algae. When this algae encounters low nutrient conditions, it responds by producing astaxanthin to protect itself. It’s then eaten by krill and shrimp, who are then eaten by salmon, various shellfish like lobsters, and of course whales. Even flamingos! Astaxanthin is a very intense red, and it’s what lends all these sea creatures their colors. Fish farmers now turn their salmon and shrimp pink using what’s essentially chemical sludge, so I looked for astaxanthin sourced from Haematococcus pluvialis.
So I bought my bottle, and I started taking it, 4 mg. daily. Three days later, I spent several hours in the sun. My skin turned a little red, but it wasn’t sore at all. Then I found out it was safe for kids and had them start on it, too. The oldest, 14, takes 4 mg. every 36 hours. The 12-year-old takes it every 48 and the youngest takes it every 2.5 days. This is on the advice of a doctor familiar with it.
After two more days, I spent all day in the sun giving some friends from out of town a tour of our city. My skin had a sort of hint of pink. My kids were a tad pink (they had a foundation tan and I didn’t). But it didn’t hurt and couldn’t be called a burn.
After a week, we again spent all day in the sun. I got no burn at all. And after the second week, I only tan, and tan like I did as a teenager: very dark. My kids have spent loads of time in the sun, and after the first week, there has been no pink to their skin, other than rosy cheeks from playing. This is what I was hoping for, but I’m still pinching myself. Which doesn’t hurt very much, because I’m not sunburned. Heh.
Savoure, N., Briand, G., Amory-Touz, M., Combre, A., Maudet, M. (1995). “Vitamin A status and metabolism of cutaneous polyamines in the hairless mouse after UV irradiation: action of beta-carotene and astaxanthin.” International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 65(2):79-86.
Yamashita, E. (2002). “Cosmetic Benefit of Dietary Supplements Containing Astaxanthin and Tocotrienol on Human Skin.” Food Style. 21 6(6):112-17
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