1. Sunburn damage reversed with vitamin D

    Beat sunburn... with the sunshine vitamin!

    It can happen in a matter of minutes.

    If you're outside just a little bit longer than you intended, you can start to bake... and even burn right up.

    Next thing you know, you're battling the agony of sunburn -- and the days of pain, itching, and peeling skin that follow.

    Now, the latest research reveals a promising natural treatment that can help cool the burn, ease the pain, and bring real relief.

    It's not some chemical spray or medicated ointment.

    It's plain old vitamin D!

    How's that for irony? The sunshine vitamin -- made by exposing your skin to the very same sun that CAUSED the burn -- just might actually help to reverse it!

    Obviously, you don't want to run back outside to get more D. It could turn your skin even crispier.

    But ordinary D supplements taken within an hour of your sunburn can help stimulate healing and undo the damage of sunburn.

    In the new study, folks had their arms placed under a UV lamp and deliberately burned.

    Sixty minutes later, they were given either high-dose D supplements or a placebo.

    Two days later, the folks who had the supplements had less inflammation and redness -- and skin biopsies revealed less structural damage in the skin itself, including lower levels of two key markers of damaging inflammation.

    That's all good news, since vitamin D is perfectly safe and completely natural... but there are a couple of catches here.

    First, the doses in the study were very high. The best results came at a dose of 200,000 IU in a single day.

    That's not a dangerous dose when taken only rarely, but since it's much higher than normal -- by a factor of as much as 100 -- you'll definitely want to talk to your doc before trying this at home.

    And second, the study only had 20 people in it.

    So, while it's certainly interesting, I'd need to see more human studies before I'd consider recommending high-dose D for sunburns (but do be sure to get your normal doses of the sunshine vitamin each day, even if you haven't gotten sunburned).

    Meanwhile, you've got other options for easing the agony of sunburn, including natural aloe. Just be careful with the store-bought gels -- because tests earlier this year found that many contain little to no aloe.

    Buy an aloe plant instead.

    They're low-maintenance and pleasant to look at -- and when you need some aloe, you can get it right from the source by breaking off a branch and squeezing out the gel that's inside.

  2. How to choose the right sunscreen

    Summer arrives this week, which means it's time to pick a sunscreen. Just don't pick the ones recommended by Consumer Reports.

    The magazine recently reviewed sunscreens, and named two in particular as top values. And yes, you'll get a lot for your money with these two -- if you're looking to buy hormone-disrupting chemicals and known carcinogens that is.

    If you're looking to stay healthy, on the other hand, then stay far, far away from the magazine's recommendations.

    Before I get into picking a sunscreen, though, let me tell you a little about why you don't want to cover up at all times the way so many people do these days.

    You actually need your sunlight.

    Sure, too much sun can increase your risk of burns and skin cancers -- but too little can increase your risk of any number of other cancers.

    A new analysis of data from more than 450,000 participants in a major diet and nutrition study found a direct relationship between sunlight and many cancers.

    It just wasn't the relationship you hear about in the media much -- because in this case, researchers found that people with the lowest levels of sun exposure had the highest risks of certain cancers, including Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cancers of the colon, lung, prostate, kidney, and bladder.

    It might be shocking if this was the first or only study of its kind -- but it's not.

    Another study earlier this year looked at data from 100 countries, and found strong evidence that the vitamin D your body makes from the UVB rays of the sun can help prevent 15 types of cancer -- including cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, lung, and pancreas.

    And along with protecting you from cancer, the sunshine vitamin can help strengthen your bones, protect your heart and brain, and even boost your immune system.

    So get some sunlight each day (and it won't hurt to take a quality D supplement while you're at it). And then, if you're going to be outside for a longer period of time -- or if you're planning to spend a day at the beach -- cover up with a good sunscreen.

    And by "good," I don't mean the brands recommended by Consumer Reports. The magazine actually acknowledged some of the problem ingredients in sunscreens… and then recommended the brands that contain those ingredients anyway.

    The big one to watch out for here is oxybenzone, an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity and more -- and it's in both of the magazine's value picks.

    Many sunscreens contain other endocrine disruptors as well, and more than a few are loaded with known carcinogens.

    I recommend using sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide -- and as few other ingredients as possible.

    For more help picking your sunscreen, visit the Web site of the Environmental Working Group. You'll find a breakdown of the ingredients in each major and many minor brands, as well as a details on the risks of each.

    Along with sunscreens, the group also rates and ranks other common skin creams and cosmetics.

    If you have any in your home right now, look them up in the online database. You might be surprised by what you've been putting on your skin all these years.

  3. Kids skip sunscreen

    It's hard to think of sunburn when you're battling sub-zero February temperatures every day -- but summer will be here soon enough. And when it arrives, you can bet that two things will happen: You'll hear a lot of mainstream noise about the supposed importance of wearing sunblock... and kids will get sunburned anyway.

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