KEEP IT COOL: THE EASTERN MEDICINE BEACH DAY GUIDE
Soak Up The Sun–But First, Read This
It’s summer, and for those of us with access to a beach or lake that means it’s time to hit the sand and soak up the sun. But if you’re not careful, all that salt, sun, and sand can turn you into a crispy lobster by the end of your fun day out! You can stay safe, cool, and protected by following these simple Eastern medicine tips for your next beach day.
Proactive Protection: What To Know Before You Go
In TCM, prevention is key! So it’s important to plan ahead for your beach day. That way, you’ll have everything you need to keep cool while you have fun in the sun.
Slather on SPF
When you’re going to be outside all day on the beach, the most important thing to remember is to protect yourself from the sun. The sun’s UV rays can cause skin cancer, so you need to be smart about SPF. Slathering on sunscreen throughout the day is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the most common kinds of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. And don’t forget to pack enough to reapply every two hours (or more, if you’ve been in the water and toweled off!).
But when it comes to SPF, not all sunscreen is created equally. It’s important to choose the right kind of sunscreen for your needs and protection level. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends looking for a sunscreen that:
- Is 30 SPF or above
- Is water resistant
- Protects against both UVA and UVB rays, also known as broad spectrum sunscreen.
It’s also a good idea to check the ingredients list of your sunscreen. More and more SPF is made with herbs that TCM practitioners have been using for years to protect their patients from the sun and help the skin heal. These are just a few helpful ingredients that you might find in your sunscreen:
- Calendula: Oil from the Calendula flower, known as jin zhan ju, has been used as a TCM skin-care ingredient for hundreds of years. And researchers have found that it is a natural source of SPF, so it makes a great addition to sunscreen.
- Peppermint: plants like Peppermint that contain a chemical known as Apegenin can prevent skin cancer, so keep an eye out for this refreshing ingredient in your pre- and post-sun skincare.
- Golden serpent fern: Also known as Calaguala, this fern is unusual because it provides sun protection when ingested. In one study, people who consumed the fern before being exposed to UV rays were less sunburned and had less skin damage than those who hadn’t. And according to another experiment, those who consumed Calaguala could be exposed to three times the amount of UV rays before burning, compared to people who hadn’t taken it.
Be A Picky Packer
In TCM, food is categorized by its nature or temperature. Foods with more Yang energy are characterized as “hot” or “warming” while foods that are Yin-heavy are known as “cool” or “cooling.”
In TCM, keeping your body in balance is the key to health. So when you’re packing for a long hot day at the beach, it’s important to think ahead and pack foods that are cooling and hydrating. That will help your body balance out the heat from the sun so you stay comfortable and healthy.
The snack-shack at the beach might be tempting you with french fries, fried clams, and a cold beer, but don’t be fooled. Fried foods and alcohol are “hot” according to TCM, so it’s best to stay away from them if you’ll be in the sun all day.
It’s also a good idea to avoid these warm or hot foods:
- Cooked or Dried Fruits
- Most meat
- Cayenne pepper
Instead, load up the cooler with one of these delicious cooling recipes.
While You’re There
Prevention is key, but we all make mistakes. So even if you slathered on the SPF and packed your cooler full of fresh, hydrating snacks and bevvies, it’s still possible that you might feel yourself getting burned while at the beach.
When that happens, it’s time to restore the balance that TCM is all about. So when your skin is getting too hot and starts to burn, it’s time to hop in the water. Because sunburns are basically inflammation, cooling down the skin helps to keep the burn under control. Chlorinated water might irritate burned skin, so avoid jumping in the pool. But the pond, lake, or ocean will help you stay cool as a cucumber until you can get out of the sun.
How To Heal A Sunburn With TCM
It’s a tale as old as time–you get home from the beach thinking you’ll look like a bronze goddess but you look more like a lobster because no matter how much SPF you slathered on, you still got burnt.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, sunburns happen when damp heat gets trapped under the skin. So to release that heat, you need to balance it with coolness.
One way to add some coolness back to your body is by eating and drinking foods that are categorized as cold or cooling in TCM. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or green tea and eating fresh fruit and veggies like watermelon, cucumber, and apples.
For an easy post-beach dinner, try whipping up one of these delish summer soups that are made with cooling ingredients.
When it comes to topical treatments for sunburns, there’s one MVP: Aloe Vera. Known as Lu Hui, the gel of the Aloe plant helps your skin heal first and second degree burns–which is exactly what most sunburns are. These healing effects are thanks to Aloe’s anti-inflammatory compound known as aloin. Aloe gel also helps to hydrate your skin, which can help prevent itching and peeling as the sunburn heals.
But Aloe isn’t the only skin treatment for a post-beach burn. Just run a bath and add some green or black tea before you get in. Let the water cool down quite a bit (hot water definitely won’t feel good) before you get in to soak. The polyphenols in the tea help to rebalance your skin’s pH and soothe your burn. If you don’t want to run a whole bath, just use a washcloth to apply the tea to your skin.
There’s nothing like a good beach day. But if you’re not careful, fun in the sun can turn into a hot mess. So before your next party at the playa, make sure to keep cool with these tips!