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Sunshine, Chocolate, and Skin

Updated: Jul 16


Photo credit Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash

Happy World Chocolate Day!

For real?

Ever since 2009. In the middle of summer for many of us—dya think maybe it was initiated by the chocolate industry? Makes sense, right?

That same industry which is funding literally hundreds of studies to convince us that chocolate is a health food—kinda telling us we should feel guilty about not indulging.


“Eat your chocolate, Jenny, then you can go out and play.”

“But, Mom...”

As if.

I’ve found recipes for chocolate facials. I’ve found articles touting the benefits of chocolate for skin.

What?!

I thought it gave us acne.

What gives?

“The devil is in the details” and “follow the money.”

Who funded the studies? The Mars candy company. Fer real. Hundreds of studies.


Is it clear cut? No, of course not.

There is a healthful component to chocolate. Yes, there is. The most helpful ingredient in chocolate for skin, or heart, or cognitive function—or whatever is being promoted—is the cocoa powder itself. The other ingredients get a solid buzzer sound in terms of health.

Boom.

Cocoa does pack a punch full of antioxidants which are protective against inflammation in the body. Reducing inflammation results in less chance of cancers, diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular diseases—all the chronic conditions we know and, if not love, have come to expect in our population.

So happy World Chocolate Day—let’s add cocoa powder to our smoothie or shake!

Let’s have a square or two of super dark chocolate.


But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Snickers bar or hot fudge sundae is doing us any favours.


The internet is even stocked with stories of the protective qualities of chocolate against sunburn.

Who funded the studies for that?

I’ll let you follow that money, too.

The question does go to the point of this article: what can we do to protect our skin from sunburn, wrinkles, ageing?

As I teach my clients and students: Awareness is power. Awareness leads us to use knowledge to transform:

Having antioxidants flowing into the body is fantastic for creating resilient skin. Think veggies. Think eating the rainbow. Not a rainbow of chocolate candies. Ha. Think eating a rainbow of earth foods.

Think Michael Pollan’s sage advice: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Having an abundance of essential fatty acids (EFAs) onboard changes our skin’s response to the UV radiation coming from the sun. Our skin resists burning, wrinkling, ageing when we are plumped up with omega-3 oils.

So eat the rainbow and the fish in the pot at the base of it. Or if fish are a struggle for you, the golden pills of omega-3 fatty acid supplements are always an option.

I actually do both: eat salmon and sardines regularly—anchovies too, for a flavour boost—in addition to a supplement I take. My body wants it, so I give it.

And don’t forget, when we choose grass-fed, grass-finished, beef we are also getting essential fatty acids that are incredibly powerful for all the bits of our bodies. Skin included.

The bottom line is that sun defence begins at home—at home in our bodies. And, at the same time, we need the sun in order for those bodies to thrive.

We make vitamin D with the sun and the cholesterol which is in our skin cells (yes, cholesterol is essential for life). We use the sun to turn off our melatonin in the mornings and turn it back on at night. And, further, the sun supports our production of serotonin.

Serotonin?

Yes. It seems the sunlight works in a couple of ways:

  1. It tells serotonin, through our eyes, where to bond in the body.

  2. It actually triggers the skin to produce some.

How cool is that? This helps explain why we experience better mood and less anxiety during times of more exposure to sunlight—as in the summer.

We clearly need the sun and, even so, we can get too much, as evidenced by the burning, wrinkling, and ageing of our skin.


So what to do?


  1. Based on my research, I aim for 20-30 minutes daily.

  2. If I am out longer I take precautions.

  3. I swipe coconut oil on my face before going out walking. It benefits the skin as a moisturiser as well as providing a teeny tiny amount of sun protection.

  4. I find shade as often As I can and as much as possible. Sunscreens can lull us into exposing our skin for much longer than is healthy—regardless if we burn or not.

  5. If I’m heading out in serious sun then I use a non-nano-particle mineral-based product.

I choose mineral because I do not like the idea of a chemical barrier interacting, fighting if you will, between my skin and the sunlight. There are a slew of concerns about the ingredients in the chemical sunscreens even as the research presented to the public may be contradictory. The main concern is that some of these have been found to penetrate our skin barriers and get into the body—having been found in breast milk and umbilical cord blood. Follow the money is one possible explanation for the contradictions we read in mainstream publications.

Mineral-based protection is a physical barrier and does not get into the living cells of the body. It has come a long way from when I first started using it on my children. It doesn’t have to make us chalky—whatever our original skin color. We do need to be aware of avoiding nano-particles though. The research is unfolding about how far and deeply these are absorbed by the skin.

Yipes.

Speaking of skin colours. We each have a different relationship with tanning and burning. Tanning is the skin’s response to sun exposure—the skin trying to protect itself. And long term it does damage even if we don’t actually burn. And this is just as true for people with dark skin as light.

We all need to be aware—even as I probably have a natural SPF of 3 (ha) and someone with dark skin can come in at 13—we all damage our skin’s under layers with prolonged sun exposure.

What does this mean on the ground—under the sun?

Take what you need of sunlight and leave the rest. We need light in our eyes for 20-30 minutes daily to set our internal clocks. Because of the latitude many of us live at we likely don’t get enough skin exposure to make the vitamin D our bones and immune systems need, so we can add a D3 supplement (please reach out if you want support with this as it’s another rabbit hole).

When we know we’ll be in the sun longer than an hour (or our own known limit) we can choose protective clothing or we can slather on the goop.


Specifics on da goop--including ones made specifically for Black people? How do we know which brands are helpful, which are harmful?


I might begin with Environmental Working Group but I dig deeper now because it’s becoming clear that that organisation is also being tainted by money.

Iyiyi.

I’m not throwing them out with the bath water, it’s just time to cross-reference with other sources when it comes to specific products. Here is another source to check.

So be smart, play smart—don’t be lulled into potentially damaging your skin-suit by the promises of a bottle of sunscreen—and, on the other hand, don’t be afraid to expose your body to the benefits of the sun.

Humans need sun. And we need to respect it to thrive.

Other sources:


https://chriskresser.com/are-your-skincare-products-toxic-sunscreen/

https://inchemistry.acs.org/atomic-news/suncreen-science.html

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/radiation-ultraviolet-(uv)

I am all in for supporting your optimal health. Reach out for a free consult if you'd like to hear about what I can do for you.



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