Healthy Sunshine Protection

Living on a sailboat and serving as First Mate of Seas Life means this redhead is out in the sun. A lot. That can be a wonderful thing, but it comes with a lot of risk. 

Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Redheads have a mutation to the MC1R gene causing red hair and light skin (also a stronger immune system). But "pheomelanin, the pigment found in the skin of red- and blond-haired individuals, provides less protection against sun damage than eumelanin, the predominant pigment in people with dark hair and dark skin" according to research by the National Institute of Health (Yikes!)

Needless to say, sun protection becomes critically important for this full-time, sailboat-living redhead. I need sunscreen on from the moment I pour my morning coffee to the moment I'm slipping into bed. That is a lot of sunscreen! That is a lot for my skin! When the amount of sunscreen increased, and the amount of time I was wearing sunscreen increased, I started to worry about what I was putting on my skin. I dove into extensive research to find the right products that would protect my skin but also not pollute my skin with chemicals. 

Here's what I've learned. Here's what to pay attention to. Here's what to know. 

Understanding Sunshine: 

When you feel the sun warming your skin, you're experiencing two different waves: UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B). UVA is the long wave, and UVB is the short wave on the light spectrum. What does this mean? 

UVA waves are 320-400 nanometers (nm, or billionths of a meter). UVB waves are 290 to 320 nm. UVA rays are more prevalent and because they're longer waves, they penetrate the skin deeper. 

UVB waves are what cause redness and burning in our skin. They're in full force 10AM - 4PM. 

So we need protection against UVA and UVB rays to stay safe from the sun! Enter Sunscreen! 

Broad-spectrum sunscreen prevents UVA and UVB rays from harming your skin. But what chemicals are placed in our sunscreen to achieve this magic? (Read below). And are these chemicals the only way to prevent sun damage? (No). 

Sunscreen Chemicals: 

When we're thinking of sunscreen chemicals, you want to understand how and why they are used and why they exist. The most popular sunscreens on the market contain chemicals because they make sunscreen convenient and also they look better. But that does not make them safe. What exactly are we talking about here? 

The Federal Drug Administration has approved 17 active ingredients that reflect the sun rays back at the sun instead of allowing the rays into your skin (these ingredients are like reflective mirrors). These ingredients are split into two descriptions: chemical absorbers or physical filters. You get to choose which ones you'd like to put on your body. 

Chemical Absorbers: 

Oxybenzone: Check the ingredients of your sunscreen for oxybenzone (or benzonephenone-3). This chemical is used because it goes on your skin colorless or clear; it rubs in conveniently fast and provides UV coverage. Sounds perfect, right? That's why this chemical is found in every commercial sunscreen (looking at you Aveeno, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, NO-AD). But oxybenzone's easy-absorb and clear convenience comes with a high price: It easily absorbs into your skin cells and hormones. This chemical disrupts your endocrine system, the system that pushes products and hormones directly into your blood. This chemical when placed on your skin (which, by the way, is rated 8 on the Environmental Working Group toxicity scale) is easily absorbed into your blood. (Note: EWG is an organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.) Oxybenzone is linked to early puberty in girls, male infertility and skin cancer. It is also found in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and cosmetics as a photostabilizer.

Octinoxate: This chemical usually goes hand-in-hand with oxybenzone. It's added for extra UVB protection and it does protect your skin from burning. But it's a man-made chemical and when it's absorbed by the body it travels to your urine, blood and breast milk. Also, when you jump in the water with these sunscreen, it doesn't go away. The chemicals fall into the water and drop to the bottom of the water, destroying the life beneath the water's surface. 

Take-away here: I realized I didn't want to exchange my health just because I want clear sunscreen that rubs in quickly. I threw away all of my sunscreen that contained this chemical. 

After researching chemical options, I noticed they were placed in our sunscreen because we like convenience and we're a vain population, we want to look good. These chemicals made sunscreen convenient, fast-absorbing and clear. But what we didn't know is that it causes early puberty, problems with having children, and major environmental damage. 

I decided to research physical filters. 

Physical Filters: 

Remember the iconic lifeguard image? A cute guy with a bright white stripe of lotion across his nose? Those are physical filters. Where chemical absorbers take the sun and absorb the rays (soak it up like a sponge), physical filters reflect, scatter and block the sun rays. 

But they do this by being white, which may not be attractive because you see it sitting on your skin. 

The FDA has approved two physical filters: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These are naturally-occurring minerals in our world. 

Titanium Dioxide: This has the distinct, white pigment. It reflects sun rays back up, and it doesn't degrade when exposed to the sun. 

Zinc Oxide: Protects against UVA and UVB sun rays. 

While you may not enjoy the white hue these minerals leave on your skin, they are natural minerals! And they do exactly the job you need them to do! 

Understanding Nanoparticles: 

When you're using minerals, they have to be milled from solid particles to small, fine particles. This brings up nanoparticles. 

A nanoparticles "is a small object that behaves as a whole unit in terms of its transport and properties" (Ananya Mandal, MD). Imagine finding a mineral in nature. You have to crush it down in order to use it. But these fine particles of mineral still behave like the giant chunk you originally found. 

You will find when using natural sunscreen there is NANO or NON-NANO Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide: they are talking about how fine they ground the mineral down. Some people worry that the finer the particle, the more likely it will be absorbed by the skin because finer particles can penetrate the skin's surface. Then you're right back to the concern of chemical absorbers. 

But according to the EWG, these concerns are nothing to worry about. They're all ground into fine particles to work, but preliminary scientific research has shown no evidence that zinc or titanium can soak in below the dermal layer.

Your Power Here: 

The power to decide what you buy and what you put on your skin is yours!

You can choose: Chemical absorbers (man-made, environmentally harmful, and slightly less effective) or physical filters (naturally-occurring, but come with the white hue). 

You can choose: Nano or Non-nano particles (how fine the minerals are ground). 

Where that leaves me: 

After extensive research, I threw all of my sunscreen away and started again. Here's what I choose for my body: I choose physical filters because I want naturally-occurring minerals. I use dark-colored clothing, sunglasses and hats to also block sun rays. 

Product Options: (My unsponsored, honest opinion of what I personally use for my FACE & for my BODY)

I use Mad Hippie products. They're all about chemical-free physical filters! And they throw in naturally photoprotective oils like red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil & carrot seed oil, plus vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic acid which protects, naturally, against photoaging. Their sunscreen is free of nanoparticles, Parabens, PABA, Petroleum, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone & UV Chemical Absorbers. (Count me in!)

They also have a fantastic serum that protects pre-sun exposure and heals post-sun exposure.

For my body, I use Kabana.  Chemical-free, Non-nano, Broad-spectrum. (Count me in!)

It is important to me to know what I'm putting on my body for hours and hours of days and months. I want my body to thrive, naturally! 

Overnight Journeys

As a sailing couple, we learn more about patience and communication each and every day! Photo by: Stellar Exposures

As a sailing couple, we learn more about patience and communication each and every day! Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Traveling From: Norfolk, VA

Bound for: Cape Charles, VA

Nautical Miles:

Work can get frustrating, life can get hard. And we had fallen into a bit of a routine rut. So, we wanted to venture out: have some talks, meet some people, drink some fancy mixed drinks! 

Saturday morning, we poured our coffee and prepared the boat for an overnight stay in Cape Charles, Virginia. We knew they were having the Experimental Film Festival and this was a great opportunity to sail to a great party! 

We left the dock around 9:30 AM, set the sails and experienced a beautiful sail across the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore: we saw dolphins, and fish jump clear out of the water. I found a shaded nook and dove into my book, while Ryan steered singing to Jimmy Buffett. 

We arrived in Cape Charles around 2:30 PM. After securing the boat and taking some refreshing boat showers, we slipped on our evening clothes, poured ourselves a few drinks and sat outside on the trampoline talking with guests walking down the pier. 

The evening was full of friendship (new and old), laughter, fun, adventure, lobster rolls and oysters, and dancing to a live band by the edge of the water. 

Overnight journeys bring you these 5 very special things: 

  • Time away. Re-charging our batteries is underrated in this world. A quick getaway can reboot a tired spirit in no time. You don't have to travel far to capture the feeling of relaxation and rest. Sometimes, a simple journey across the bay is all you need to shed the irritations and responsibilities and feel free! 
  • Connection. When you have a collection of untouched, unspoken-for hours with your friends or family, your ability to be present for them and for yourself expands and increases. You'll notice yourself listening better, understanding more, and stressing less. You feel yourself lean into and relax into your friendships and family relationships in a supported, cocooned way: there is no one yanking at your time and energy. 
  • Revitalization. The definition of revitalization is "to give new life to." A short adventure away refills what your job, or your schedule, or your responsibilities have started to drain. Every now and then, we need a new life and we need someone or something to "give it." Investing in a short getaway will give you just that: a new energy, a new focus, a new drive, a new approach. 
  • Quiet. In a noisy world - when our phones ding constantly and notifications pile up - it's nice to feel quiet. It's nice to have a moment to lie down on the trampoline over the water and see the stars, hear the water running beneath you, and feel quiet
  • Newness. A short adventure can open your world up in many different ways, even if you're traveling to a familiar city or town. But there are always unexpected, pleasant surprises along a sail! A dolphin pod swimming along, a fish jumping, a live musician playing, a refreshing jump into the Chesapeake Bay for a swim in 30+ feet deep of water! 

In life, we need time away, connection, revitalization, quiet and newness. But we forget to make time for these precious commodities. Seas Life reminds us to remember these things. It reminds us to invest in these things so that we may be better human beings, and the best versions of ourselves. 

Journey onward! 

Ahoy, from Seas Life!

Seas Life, 2017

Seas Life, 2017

How we ended up in our boat packed with everything we own, including a dehydrated and stressed out tomato plant named Herbenito, is a story of trust, transition, and trying. 

In the summer of 2016, Ryan purchased a 1999 Catana Catamaran and announced he wanted to live aboard. This thrust us into a year of complicated boat repairs, selling a home, renting out a condo, registering for sailing lessons, ridding ourselves of everything we had been hoarding, and moving onto a boat that we now call home. 

How do you do that? How do you uproot your entire life to build a new one? How do you wave adieu to land dwelling habits, mentalities and philosophies and embrace nautical history, trends and proverbs? 

1. Embrace - and remember - who you are. We all have different backgrounds and experiences which imprinted within us different skillsets, likes and dislikes. When you're making a big transition, it can feel like you're losing yourself but remembering who you are and what you bring to the table is critical to the success of any transition. When Ryan and I decided to take on this journey, he came to the table with: sailing experience, skills as a DIY handyman, boat knowledge, water knowledge, optimism. I came to the table with: classical dance experience, a yoga and life-coaching certification, journalism degree, social media savvy, realism. Together, this gave us options and challenges. Some days our passions and our skillsets aligned nicely and played well together. What he lacked in disorganization, I made up for with my OCD. What he dreamed about, I brought to it realistic groundwork. And some days, our differences worked against each other; his optimism would sometimes crash headfirst with my realism. His confidence in this dream would sometimes lose patience with my overwhelming worries about it. But embracing and remembering who we both are (both for ourselves and for each other) pulled us through the transition. 

2. Decide what your goals are and decide on a plan to make them happen. In order to make a big move in Chess, you have to move the right pieces. This is how we approached our transition. We sat down and listed all of the variables and all details associated with those variables. He owned a home. I own a beach condo. Finances had to be shifted in order to secure the boat and pay off the boat. One of us had to focus solely on working on the boat while the other maintained a full-time job. He set a maintenance/re-fitting schedule for the boat while I brought extra hands and woman-power to the track progress, clean up, assess goals. Big moves were made when he sold his home, moved into my condo, then, with thoughtful planning, rented out my condo in order to carefully move all pieces to their places: finances, property, paperwork. All pieces were approached strategically. 

3. Communicate every step of the way. A sailing-couple, once strangers, now dear friends, told us a story about their adventures to Key West. She said she was captured by a piece of art she stumbled across there of two waves. The artist said, “We call this two waves because it represents two different forces, like two different people, traveling their own unique paths but headed in the same direction.” We remind each other of this story often. As individuals, we both experience life at different paces, at different comfort levels, with different anxieties. While we may not always be perfectly in sync, we are traveling in the same direction. Communication is what helps us know where we each are currently and where we’re headed.

4. Be prepared for the naysayers. Choosing to live a different way than the default way of life is shocking to both the people planning the change but also to friends and family. It isn't easy. Well-established systems aren't set up to empower you to make unique changes, so there is fear associated with alternate living. People told us we were “walking away from everything” (instead of being curious of what we were walking toward). People assumed I was “giving up dancing. And how could I do such a thing?” I was even asked, “Why did I even go to graduate school?” Naysayers are powerful and can be extremely influential, especially those naysayers inside of your own head telling you things like: “You aren’t capable of doing this,” “What if this is a huge mistake?” “You don’t know what you’re doing.” If you let the naysayers, both external and internal, get to you, you will definitely fold, walk away, quit. But if you’re prepared for them and understand their agenda (which isn’t always bad; sometimes, they’re trying to protect you), then you can move forward with the naysayings

5. Be kind to yourself, to others, to ideas. My mantras for meditations lately have been three simple words that I repeat over and over again: open, love, acceptance. When you're going through huge transitions such as giving up your home, your possessions, your comforts like reliable wifi and being able to flush toilet paper in the actual toilet, you start to feel it in your body. The stress levels rise, the anxieties spread throughout your mind and body, and your communication blurs, emotions flare, and now you’re a tight knot of unhappiness and queasiness. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to adjust. Be kind to your friends and families. Give them time to adjust to your new way of living. Be kind to yourself and each other when introducing new ideas or processes. Everything takes an adjustment period and that is OK. 

So, here we are. The beginning of a life-changing adventure and living on Seas Life full time: a sailing realtor & an in-training sailing ballerina. Our stories here won’t always be pretty or calming, but we love to share our growth as sailors, as a couple, as human beings. Thank you for being here with us! 


Sheena & Ryan, 2017. Photo by: Stellar Exposures

Sheena & Ryan, 2017. Photo by: Stellar Exposures