Summer smells like waffle cones and charcoal barbecue.
That’s my take on it anyway. Nothing jogs the memory quite like your sense of smell, and to this day, a whiff of waffle cones brings back memories of Wild Waves water park in the Seattle area. And charcoal takes me back to my father’s hibachi, which he’d use in our back yard every summer.
No doubt you’ve got your own memories of the warmest of seasons. And summer is fun, with long days and hot weather intertwined with barbecues and scantily clad folks that strut down the beach.
But there are health risks and beauty concerns with those sexy summer days. Sun exposure ages the body, with wrinkles and risk of skin cancer. You’re more likely to suffer heat stroke in summer. Add burns and mosquito bites to the equation and you can safely conclude there’s more to summer than beer and skittles.
Does this concern you? Not to worry. Summer isn’t without risks, but they’re more than manageable with a little planning and TLC. So embrace your inner girl scout and be prepared this summer, with health and beauty tips we’ll review in this article.
General Health Tips
School’s out in summer. That applies as much to adults as it does to the kids. The sky is blue, the weather’s warm, you’ve put your job stress in a drawer til September, and life is grand.
Live well this summer. Embrace the season with these general health tips. Do them for your health and your well-being. There’s nary a better time of year to live well and prosper.
Eat Berries – Make this the summer you embrace fruits and vegetables. Start with berries, with a daily cup of blackberries, blue berries and strawberries. The reasoning? Berries are unusually high in beauty-boosting antioxidants. They’re also high in fiber, which lowers cholesterol, and there’s evidence that blue berries may protect against Alzheimer’s.
No wonder Dr. Daniel Amen calls them “brain berries”!
Grow a Plant – There’s a play on words going on here. You’re working with the Earth when you’re gardening and this keeps you “grounded” during times of stress. So plant a flower or something edible, be it in an indoor pot or out in the garden. Or grow some herbs and put them in your summer cooking.
Floss Daily – Flossing reduces oral bacteria. In turn, this frees up your body to fight bacteria in other places and improves your overall health. Easy to do and with surprising health benefits, few habits will make such a difference.
Exercise in the Great Outdoors – Slather on the sunscreen and get your tail outside in summer. Choose an activity, be it cycling or swimming or playing tag in the backyard. Just cover up, do it often and do it with others.
Protect Your Eyes – Sunscreen helps. Now add sun glasses to your summer tote bag. Shades guard against cataracts and reduce squinting on your part, which in turn means fewer wrinkles around your eyes. Look for sunglasses guaranteed to protect against 99% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. And cover up with protective eye wear when working outside or playing sports.
Take a Vacation – In the unlikely event you needed convincing to skip town for a little R & R this summer, consider this: vacation time can lower your blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. In other words, take a vacation for better health and to lose weight.
Hawaii’s never looked more tempting…
Lite Alcohol – Alcohol walks a fine line between health benefits and detriments. Add weight gain to that list. And in that light, swap beer and heavy alcohol beverages for light, chilled beverages. Try a wine spritzer, a sangria (wine mixed with juice) or, if you’re like me and believe the words “light” and “beer” don’t belong in the same paragraph, cap it at one beer per day.
Sleep In – The days are longer, the nights are shorter, but it’s nonetheless important to practice good sleep hygiene. Be sure to go to bed and rise at the same time every day, even on weekends and vacation time. Avoid napping and alcohol three hours before bed.
Honey, does this make me look that word that rhymes with “cat”?
Winter might be the most common time for weight gain, but the foods we scarf down in summer aren’t exactly conducive to weight loss either. Hot dogs and fried chicken and the county fair? You’d do well not to head to the beach shortly thereafter…
Having said that, summer food and healthy aren’t mutually exclusive. There are plenty of delicious and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables at this time of year. Wanna stay thin for the passion of summer? Start by avoiding these calorie trap fattening foods and opt for slimming foods instead.
High-Fat Meats – That sizzling T-Bone on the barby sure smells good, but before you bite into it, chew on this: one 20 ounce steak packs a bathing suit-unfriendly 1540 calories, of which 124 grams are fat. As well, new studies link regular consumption of red meat to increased risk of colon cancer.
You don’t wanna go there.
Switch fat cuts of meat, including steak, ribs and ground beef for pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast and lean ground beef for less of a hit to your hips. And just maybe, your health.
Mayonnaise-Based Salads – You’d never think that innocent-looking coleslaw or potato salad would stack on the pounds would you? But they’re both bathed in mayonnaise – an often unconsidered culprit in the weight gain department.
As an alternative, mix coleslaw and related salads with light mayo, low-fat yogurt or light sour cream. Or try a German salad that’s more vinegar than oil. Add some veggies to the mix and you’re in much better shape.
Chilled Drinks With Umbrellas – If you like Pina Colada…then close your eyes for this next part. Just one of these sexy cocktails can clock in shy of 500 calories. A daiquiri can hit 800. Long Island Iced Tea? 520.
Try a wine spritzer instead. You might also mix your drink with seltzer or a splash of real fruit. A toned down beverage with fewer pounds to show for it.
Frozen Treats – The ice cream man is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have your hips in mind as he doles out the portions of your favorite flavors. Or a milk shake for that matter – a chocolate dough milk shake tips the scale at 720 calories. Solutions? Switch ice cream for sherbet or frozen yogurt and look for low calorie frozen alternatives under 150 calories per serving. Yes, they’re out there.
Fair Foods – What’s the single most unhealthy food you can eat? My money’s on the deep-fried Mars bar proffered as pub fare in Scotland. But American fair food isn’t a huge leap forward, with fried food fare like fried macaroni and cheese and huge turkey legs bathed in batter. Total calorie count: 610 and 1,136 respectively.
Snack Food – The leading cause of weight gain in the United States, potato chips, nachos and stuff you generally eat in front of the boob tube pack a mean wallop on the thighs. One ounce of chips has a cost factor of 160 calories. Nachos with cheese flirt with the 700 mark.
The key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. That means snacking on healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. Or if you’re really into potato chips, opt for the baked variety, which have half the calories of their fried brethren.
Speaking of healthy foods, they’re abundant in summer. This is an excellent time to load up on nature’s bounty, with fruits and vegetables available at your local farmer’s market. Fish are in season. The Earth is happy and offers its goodness.
Some ideas to consider before we get into recipes that can keep you slim. When shopping, stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store, as that’s where you’ll find the healthiest foods.
As mean as it sounds, the harder the check-out clerk works ring in your purchase, the healthier the food. Processed food has a bar code for scanning, but fruits and veggies have to be entered manually. The clerk doesn’t know the code? It’s produce and it’s exotic. Bingo!
For maximum health benefits and nutrients for beauty, try to eat produce that constitute all the colors of the rainbow. And don’t worry about portion size with fruits and vegetables either – you’d have to really go overboard before they’ll hit your waistline.
Specific ideas for slimming foods this summer include:
Chilled Soups – Cold soups like gazpacho and cucumber-dill soup have plenty of chunky, filling vegetables. Studies show that a broth-based soup at the start of a meal can fill you up quicker, so you’ll consume fewer calories in the following courses.
Watermelon – Personally, I can’t think of a better way to beat the hot weather and satiate hunger with such a low number of calories. As a bonus, watermelon may elevate levels of an amino acid, l-arginine, which the body coverts to nitric oxide, for more blood flow to the genitalia and a boost to your sex drive.
Grilled Vegetables – Swap that calorie-dense ribeye on your grill for some veggies this summer. Grill-friendly vegetables, including bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, eggplant and garlic, are great team players you can use a number of ways. Among other things, put them in salads, pitas and pasta.
The harder the check-out clerk works to ring in your purchase, the healthier the food. Processed food has a bar code for scanning, but fruits and veggies have to be entered manually.
Salads – Quick, easy and full of beauty-friendly nutrients, salads are an excellent weight-loss food. Add fruits, vegetables and low-fat cheese with a light raspberry or vinaigrette dressing. Avoid nutritionally void iceberg lettuce. Use romaine instead or other healthy greens, including arugula, collard greens, Swiss chard and kale.
Cioppino – A fish stew and one of my personal favorite summer recipes, cioppino is a concoction of various seafood, including cod, crab, mussels and halibut with spices and tomato sauce.
There’s no single way to make cioppino, and purists argue you should never make it the same way twice. And while the emphasis on seafood makes it more expensive than other healthy summer dishes, it’s an excellent healthy party food. Worth doing at least once each summer, and if you love cooking, have fun with it.
Before we review how to treat sun-damaged hair, let me introduce argan oil.
You may have heard about argan before, as it’s caught on in natural skin care circles for its high levels of vitamin E and antioxidants.
But in addition to being an excellent natural moisturizer, there’s another reason to use argan this summer – it’s a great way to condition your hair.
How to Treat Damaged Hair
Summer can be hard on your hair. The combination of sun damage and chlorine from frequent dips in the pool can make your hair brittle and more likely to break off.
You can prevent much of this damage with a basic habit: cover up. Wear a swimmer’s cap if you spend much time in a pool. And don a wide-brimmed hat when you’re out on the sun. Hats not your thing? Try a bandana. Just wear something to protect your hair from the elements.
When you come in from the sun, and your hair clings together and feels thick to the touch, use conditioner. Do this at least once a week with a product from your local drug store. Some conditioners have built-in SPF protection, in which case, apply and leave it in before you go outside.
Of course, if you know much about hair care and cosmetics in general, you know that many products ooze with synthetics and harmful ingredients…
If that concerns you, and it should, use argan oil to treat your hair. With your hair damp, work argan into your mane, starting at the ends, and gradually work into and gently massage it into your scalp. Cover up with a towel and leave it on for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
You’ll encounter argan again before we finish this article. Consider argan oil one of the best beauty tips going. And it’s as good for the planet as it is for your body.
Summer Skin Care
We just talked about the importance of covering your scalp during those warm summer months.
Do the same for your skin.
The logic? Summer hazards like burns, mosquito bites and nasty insects, wasps, spider bites, poison ivy, cuts and bruises. And lest we forget that other danger of too much sun exposure called skin cancer.
A tan indicates your skin has been damaged. If that’s not enough to get your attention, consider also that sun damage is the leading cause of wrinkles.
Cover up! Better yet, cover up and don’t tan. That can be difficult in a society that equates tanned skin with sex appeal. But a tan indicates your skin has been damaged. If that’s not enough to get your attention, consider also that sun damage is the leading cause of wrinkles. Imagine what the cast of Jersey Shore will look like in ten years and you get the idea.
If you insist on a dark complexion, swap sun (and tanning bed) exposure for skin that glows. Eat carrots and vegetables that are high in beta-carotene, which studies show can produce an orange hue to the complexion that’s surprisingly radiant, and a whole lot healthier, than tanning.
Of course, some of us work outside, and sometimes it’s just not possible to avoid the sun completely. If that’s the case, do the following:
Try to Avoid the Sun Between 10AM and 4PM – As this is when the sun’s rays are hottest.
Wear Long-Sleeved Clothing – Loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothes offer some protection to your skin.
Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen – Believe it or not, the sun’s rays can penetrate through fabric, and for this reason, always slather on a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30…
And Use it Often – Apply liberally, 20 minutes before sun exposure, and again after two hours, time in water or profuse sweating.
Wear a Hat – Preferably of the wide-brimmed variety, but a bandana works fine as well.
How to Treat a Sun Burn
Did you burn? Sigh. Well, it happens to the best of us. Most of us burn at least once every summer.
Grab some aloe vera gel – fast. Or you can use the juice from the aloe vera plant if you’ve got one handy. Either way, apply the gel or the juice directly to the burn. This soothes your skin and should prevent the burn from deepening further.
The aloe vera gel should be at least 90% purity, by the way. No aloe vera handy? Use an alcohol-free lotion in its absence.
Blisters indicate a second-degree burn and pave the way for skin problems down the road. Time to see a doctor.
The Best Skin Care Products For Summer
Grab your summer tote bag. Then make sure these products are in it. The following skin care products will guard your skin as the mercury rises. We’ve covered the first two. Don’t neglect the third!
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen – You know what sunscreen does. But did you know that it’s not required to reduce both UVB and the more abundant UVA? Well it’s not…unless it’s a broad spectrum sunscreen.
As of December 2012, all sunscreens with the ‘broad spectrum’ label must pass certification to prove they block UVA. There’s a bit of a learning curve here as sunscreen makers tinker with their formulations so they’d meet European criteria, where regulations are stronger. But for now, look for a broad spectrum sunscreen between 30 and 50.
Argan Oil – Call it liquid gold. Call it natural skin care’s very best. Call it what ever you want, just make sure you use it this summer. Argan oil can treat damaged hair, moisturize your skin, treat wrinkles, reduce stretch marks and clean your dishes after dinner. Buy it and use it!
Having said this, avoid the more common ‘Moroccan Oil’, which is little more than argan diluted with preservatives that degrade the product. As well, Moroccan Oil is usually mass-produced in a factory.
Buy pure argan oil, from a smaller label, that extracts the product manually and in a fair trade cooperative by the Berber women of Morocco. A suggestion – try Skinception Cold Pressed Cosmetic Argan Oil.
Toner – No, not the ink cartridge in your printer. Skin toner is a skin care product that cleanses the face and shrinks pores. Traditionally it’s used to remove dirt and residue that doesn’t get picked up by your daily cleanser.
In summer, when you’re outside, and you’re slathering on the sunscreen (right?), you’re exposed to dirt and environmental toxins that penetrate through large pores and can prematurely age your skin. Use a toner to shrink your pores, protect your complexion and enhance the use of the other skin care products in your daily regimen.
As well, a toner doubles as a cleanser. Take it with you on your next camping trick. Apply liberally to your face and even if you’re without access to water, your complexion remains vibrant.
That’s a lot of use out of a single beauty product that most women neglect – and their skin shows it.
Avoid most alcohol-laden toners at your local drug store. Try Skinception’s A.H.A. Toner For Cell Renewal and you’re in good shape to look great whether it’s December or the Fourth of July.