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Your Summer Survival Kit

It’s summer time! And for those of you who don't live in the lower mainland (otherwise known as "Rain-couver"), you should know that our summer just began about a week ago. Needless to say, I am finally in my "flowy" summer clothes and loving it.

Ah, the sun, the warmth, laughter, fun, scent of bbq’s and sunscreen is abundant. It’s time for celebrations, get togethers, late night outings, and fun-filled days with friends and family. It's basically the best time of year, lets face it. :) As some of you may already know, I love summer (I’m sure you do too). The warmth and sunshine is an energizing force that gives us opportunities to stay out later, have BBQ parties, go camping, spend time outside, at parks, beaches, and maybe even give us the courage to roam unfamiliar streets. Suddenly spaces we don’t often think about become inviting. It’s a time of year where everyone truly enjoys life; I love the energy of this season, and I love all that comes with it. Happiness.

When I was younger, my best friend and I would spend our summer days in the sun, and I mean hours and hours without even a thought that it may be harmful. We were sun-lovers and even now we still have this love for feeling the sunrays on our skin for hours. I remember our summers would be full of laughter, sunshine, and burnt shoulders that would peel off in sheets (now, at the time we thought this was pretty neat). If I could go back in time to see my younger self, one of the first things I would give her would be some well deserved advice, then some basic summer survival tips. Let’s face it, the sun does’t shine all year in the rainy city, and if we are living life fully and taking advantage of these summer sun-filled days like most West-Coasters, at some point we may forget to re-apply our sunscreen (or forget it all together), forget to re-hydrate our bodies and our skin, and perhaps even lose focus of our health. This summer, I am giving you survival tools that I wish I had when I was younger, and tips that you can really use to keep you healthy and informed. You will be sure to make right decisions that will take care of you all throughout those summer days, nights, and beyond.

Summer survival tip number one, you must hydrate. By hydrating you are supporting the detoxification process of your body, supporting your immune system, keeping your digestive system working properly, allowing your enzymes to do what they are supposed to do, and keeping your skin from drying. When we are dehydrated, we are putting so much stress on our organs and making it very difficult for our body to do what it is supposed to. One of the best ways to stay healthy (internally and externally) especially in the summer is to hydrate, so, repeat after me, I. MUST. HYDRATE. Got it? Good.There are so many ways to do this, here are a couple of my favourite ways:

Body Hydration

* Home-made vitamin water. Fill up a large jar or jug with filtered water, add 1 cup (or more) of lightly crushed berries, and a few sprigs of fresh bruised mint leaves (and/or rosemary), a pinch of sea salt or himalayan salt, and a squeeze of lemon/lime (or slices). Put in fridge or leave in room temperature, and make sure to drink throughout the day. I like using high antioxidant fruits like blueberries for its high nutrient content. The higher nutrient content of the fruit and herb, the more vitamins for your body! There are so many more combinations.

* Coconut Water. This has become quite popular over the years, and understandably so. Did you know that real coconut water contains five essential electrolytes that are present in the human body? Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and sodium. It’s fat and cholesterol free, and has more potassium than 4 bananas. It also has less sugar, less sodium, and less calories than sports drinks. Coconut water is better at replacing lost fluids and has a naturally sweet and nutty flavour. I love the flavour of coconut water, but keep in mind each brand has it's own subtle differences. Some brands I find a little acidic but the below brands are my favourite. If you don't like the taste, don't force yourself to drink it. Instead, squeeze half a lemon in water (you can also add half an orange), add a tea spoon of real maple syrup, and a pinch of sea salt to achieve the same effect.

Skin Hydration

* Aloe Vera. Some times I want to call this plant the miracle plant because, well, is there anything this plant can’t do? It’s amazing, and I’ve been using this plant in my hair (and on my skin) for years, I love it! One of the many things it can do is help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause infections. Due to it’s high content of powerful antioxidants (polyphenols) along with several other compounds, it accelerates the healing process of burn wounds, and increases collagen production improving skin elasticity. If you ever have any type of burn either from the sun or other heat sources, right away apply aloe vera, and keep reapplying. You can also fill an ice cube tray (fresh or gel), and freeze. Pop them out when needed on those hot days where you get too crispy. You can also mix it with a little bit of coconut oil and use it as an everyday moisturizer or after-sun cream for skin repair.

* Rose Hip Oil (cold pressed). A natural source of essential fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9), which help repair and regenerate damaged skin tissue. It helps protect skin cells from sun damage and is so high in vitamin C and A that it is used as one of the best ways to nourish, heal, brighten, and improve pigmentation and skin tone. It is a natural anti-aging antioxidant and instantly hydrates skin without clogging pores. A word of caution, however, use this like an “after-sun” product. I personally find that it performs much better when used away from sun exposure.

Along with all the fun sunny days, also comes the annoying insects, mosquito bites, and our increased exposure to chemicals like Mosquito & Insect Repellents. Always take extra precautions to avoid insect bites if you are in a high-risk area for lyme disease, west nile virus or other mosquito and tick borne illnesses. According to Environmental Working Group, no repellent will work everywhere against every insect. Ideally you should research the diseases carried by mosquitoes, other insects, and ticks where you plan to spend time outside and consider what would be the best option for you and your family. Remember, the repellent you choose for a camping trip in the back country will be different from an afternoon picnic at the park. Your first line of defence should be your clothes. Cover up with pants and long sleeve shirts. Use nets and fans over outdoor eating areas and nets over stollers and baby carriers. If you feel you need insect repellent, choose it based on the amount of time you will be spending outside. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, the extra effort is worth the reward.

Here are the DO’s and DON’Ts of the repellent world:


* More than 30 percent DEET on anyone, ever.

* Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD on children younger than 3 years old

* Any bug repellents (including botanical) on children under 6 months

* Outdoor “fogger” insecticides. Contains more toxic ingredients than repellents applied to skin

* Candles. They may not be effective and they emit fumes that could trigger respiratory problems

* Aerosol sprays in pressurized containers. You’ll inhale chemicals, and you could get sprayed in the eyes and face

* Repellent mixed with sunscreen. When reapplying sunscreen every two hours (as advised), you are actually overexposing yourself to repellent

* Bug zappers and treated wristbands. They’re ineffective. Save your money!


* Use products in lotion, pump or towelette form

* Wash your hands after applying, every time

* Try repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before slathering all over

* Consult a physician if you are traveling or need to use bug repellent daily for prolonged periods

* Check for ticks thoroughly after returning indoors and remove ticks properly

* Wash clothing and repellent-coated skin thoroughly when you come indoors

For more information and to choose the top insect repellents approved by the Environmental Working Group, visit their website


And finally, when we talk about summer, we have to talk about the sun. As amazing as this wondrous force of light and heat is to us and our planet, too much of it is harmful to our health. If you are getting red, are in pain, and peeling due to sun exposure, you are putting yourself at high risk of free-radical damage, skin diseases and cancers. Unfortunately scientists don’t know conclusively whether sunscreen can help prevent melanoma (a form of skin cancer) just yet, but there are many studies that show sunscreens can be helpful in preventing skin cancer, and some that show sunscreens can be harmful to our health. So what do we do? In the past ten years, dermatologists and skin cancer researchers have concluded that good sunscreens should not only guard against sunburn primarily caused by UVB rays, but also protect from lower-energy UVA rays. Ultraviolet A rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are harder to block, UVA suppresses the immune system and causes harmful free radicals to form in the skin which is associated with higher risk of developing melanoma. A good sunscreen should protect you both from UVA and UVB (also known as full spectrum). There are many toxic and horrible sunscreens on the market, they are easy to spot on the aisles of your supermarket, but a good sunscreen is not so too easy to find (however it’s getting better). Because of this I have broken down some useful info that will help you find the right sunscreen that will not cause you harm, and actually protect you from the sun’s harmful rays, when used properly.

Sunscreens should not contain:

* Harmful toxic chemicals that are linked to diseases. For example a form of Vitamin A called Retinyl Palmitate/Acetate/Linoleate, or Retinol trigger skin tumors and legions when used in sunlight. Oxybenzone is used in a lot of sunscreens but it is a hormone disruptor and allergen.

* High SPF numbers (50 - 100). High SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals compared to low SPF sunscreens. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin, where they have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption, and some may trigger allergic skin reactions. If studies showed that high SPF products were better at reducing skin damage and skin cancer risk, that extra chemical exposure might be justified, but they don’t, so choosing sunscreens with lower concentrations of active ingredients SPF 30 instead of SPF 70, is wise.

* Nano-particles. Inhalation of nanoparticles is dangerous. EWG strongly discourages the use of loose powder makeup or spray sunscreens using minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide of any particle size. Active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters. Each uses a different mechanism for protecting skin and maintaining stability in sunlight. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the quality of the particles used in their sunscreens (or cosmetics in U.S.A), so as of now, we do not know everything about the performance of the particles. The U.S. government has not enacted regulations, guidelines or recommendations on particle characteristics that would maximize sun protection and minimize health risks. Unfortunately, as a consumer we are unlikely to find detailed information about the nanoparticles on product labels or from companies who make these products. Our best bet is to put our trust in companies like EWG who do the research and provide unbiased science-based information and a low-risk to high-risk rating so we can make the best decision for ourselves.

Sunscreen sprays. This is a huge concern. A lot of people use sprays, and I get it, it’s convenient, faster, and you don’t get your hands covered in a gooey cream, but there is a serious concern and inhalation risk for these products, they also may not provide a thick and even coating on the skin for full protection. According to EWG, In 2011, FDA raised similar concerns and were looking into banning sprays unless sunscreen companies submitted more data to prove that spray sunscreens protect skin and pose no safety hazards. However, until companies can provide the data to negate these concerns, EWG cautions people to avoid sunscreen sprays, and so do I.

Here are EWG’s top sunscreen brands with low toxicity and highest performance:

  • Badger Sunscreen products

  • Caribbean Solutions SolGuard

  • Loving Naturals Sunscreen Clear Body

  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion

  • Zebs Organics Sunscreen

  • Bare Belly Organics

  • Tropical Sands

  • Sunumbra Family Natural Sunscreen

  • ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance Free

  • Substance Unscented Natural Sun Care Creme

  • Kabana Organic Skincare Bali Bloc Surfscreen

  • True Natural

  • Green Beaver

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