Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Oil pulling" - what in the world?!

When I was in middle school Dr. Micky Webb's Orthodontic office was my second home. I had some sort of device in my mouth to try to widen my palate, correct my bite, and straighten my teeth for YEARS. They tried the horrible "cranker" palate expander on my three times, torture. Anyways, all of that moving and shifting caused my gums to recede because they were moved from their natural position. Receding gums are very common in the over 40 crowd (not there yet!) and the exposed roots can cause a lot of sensitivity. My dentist would always point them out, but they haven't bothered me until recently. Eating anything remotely cold is very uncomfortable and after I have a dental cleaning they are ultra sensitive - even cold air gets me. I really really really don't want to have the corrective surgery where they graft healthy tissue onto the receded area - painful and expensive. When I started researching alternative treatments "oil pulling" was always mentioned.

"Oil pulling" seems to be the latest granola fad and I see an article touting its benefits almost daily. Sounds very weird, but you swish oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes. This Indian folk remedy (Ayurveda) has been used for thousands of years and many people swear that it helps with the following dental woes:
  • heals tooth decay
  • prevents bad breath
  • stops bleeding gums
  • improve receding gums even helps regrow tissue
  • whitens teeth
  • soothe throat dryness
  • heal cracked lips
It works by detoxifying the oral cavity which is a focal point for bacteria and microorganisms that mix with our saliva. These toxins eventually end up in our blood stream. The oil acts just like soap cleaning up dirty dishes - literally sucks the toxins out of your mouth creating a clean, antiseptic environment which leads to a happy healthy mouth. 

According to Dr. Marc Lowenberg, a NYC cosmetic dentist, its not just crazy talk "It's probably the most harmless natural remedy. There's no downside. The toxins in your body are fat-soluble so they join with the oil and are removed when you spit it out." he says. "Since the mouth is loaded with plaque, it makes sense there would be a reduction." Suffer from bad breath? Oil pulling may be the perfect remedy! According to Lowenberg "A lot of bad breath comes from bad bacteria. Whereas mouthwash makes your breath better for around 10 minutes, if this really takes the toxins out of your mouth, your breath should stay fresher longer."

As bizarre as oil pulling sounds there are so many people that swear by it (Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley included) that I had to give it a try. I have oil pulled about six days now and afterward your teeth feel awesome! So far it hasn't made a noticeable difference in my gum sensitivity but I'm going to give it a little more time. Here is what you do:

  1. Chose a high quality vegetable oil - most people use cold-pressed sunflower or sesame oils. I use raw coconut oil because I like the taste (not love, but like) and you can buy a huge 54 oz tub of it at Costco for $15.79. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature but instantly melts in you mouth - it's really not that bad, I promise!
  2. You can oil pull any time, but the best time is right after you wake up on an empty stomach. Drink a glass of water to get your saliva flowing and then take about 1 tablespoon of oil into your mouth. While I have the coconut oil out I like to rub some onto my arms and legs - such an awesome moisturizer. 
  3. Swish it around for as long as you can "pulling" it between your teeth. Be relaxed with it or your jaw will get tired. Start out with about 5 minutes and work your way up to 15-20. 
  4. Spit it out in the trash can or toilet - DO NOT SWALLOW!! You don't want to spit it in the sink to prevent clogs. Don't be concerned if your oil and spit mixture is milky white or yellow, totally normal.
  5. Rinse your mouth out with warm water and use salt water for added antimicrobial properties.
  6. Go brush your teeth and enjoy how clean and smooth they feel! Another new routine you could add if you want is to use a tongue scraper to remove any oil left on your tongue - simply scrape from back to front. I recently bought this stainless steel "Dr Tung" one off Amazon for $7.60 (couldn't resist the name).
I agree that this all sounds really weird - REALLY weird, but I also thought that washing my face with honey was weird and I love it. I've opened myself up to trying different natural remedies - so much better than a surgical alternative and you just never know until you try it!!

Here are a couple scientific studies showing oil pulling efficacy study #1 and study #2.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The ultimate guide to natural skin protection

I think it's a huge shame that so many people covet tanned skin. Baking in the sun might temporarily make you feel pretty but long term it can be a harmful, possibly even deadly choice. Goodness knows I am completely guilty of major overexposure during my ignorant younger years when I would spend hours on end working on my tan in the summer. I'm also ashamed to say I visited a tanning booth or two back in the day and still remember the rancid smell of fried flesh. Listen up young ladies: the tan you think looks so good today will down the road turn into ugly sun and age spots all over your d├ęcolletage - I promise you'll regret it (wrinkles aren't pretty either). Wish I would have watched and listened to this video, "Dear 16-year-old me".
Sorry Snooki...
Overexposure to the sun can have far worse consequences than wrinkles and sun spots. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and more than ONE MILLION Americans develop it every year. Both my sister and father have had to have the Moh's procedure done more than once where they remove your skin one layer at a time until all skin cancer is completely removed - leaves horrible scars and is very painful. My childhood friend Jessica Hodgkins Dovi died of melanoma at the age of 30. She was pregnant and was diagnosed with melanoma after doctors discovered a suspicious spot on her scalp. Her baby was delivered very early at 26 weeks so she could start aggressive treatment and improve their chances of survival. Her son was born weighing only 1 lb 12 oz and Jessica tragically died a couple months later after the cancer spread to her liver. Her family started a non-profit called Purple Promise Foundation to End Melanoma with the goal of raising awareness and fund top researcher working on a cure. Their website is is full of valuable information and I hope you'll pay it a visit. Bottom line, SKIN CANCER IS NO JOKE and you're literally playing with fire when you spend too much time in the sun.

Prevention is key and you can lower your skin cancer risk by staying out of the sun between 10:00 and 4:00. The amount of sunshine required for maximum Vitamin D exposure is only 15 minutes on your forearms only (elbow to wrist) 3 times a week - anything beyond this requires sunscreen application. This is especially critical if you have a family history of melanoma, more than 25 moles, fair skin or light eyes. Lucky me, I have ALL of these risk factors... I visit my dermatologist annually for my skin check and track all of my moles to make sure nothing looks suspicious. Sunscreen is just part of the equation for protecting yourself and you cannot rely on it as your only defense - it just isn't enough. There are many protective clothing options with tight weaved fabrics that give more protection from the sun. Cover up and a hat is a must!

Nicole Kidman protecting her porcelain skin at a beach in Sydney
Choosing an effective and safe broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) product is key to protecting your skin. Conventional sunscreens (Neutrogena, Coppertone, Banana Boat, Aveeno, typical drug store brands) are LOADED with dangerous chemicals - serious carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that you want to stay far, far away from. 80% of chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone (a type of benzophenone), which is a photocarcinogen and has shown an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells. Because of this profile it has been linked to the increase in melanoma in sunscreen users - sunscreen causing melanoma?! Oxybenzone is also a hormone disruptor and can mimic estrogen in the body, which is linked to breast cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group nearly half of the 500 most popular sunscreens contain Vitamin A and its derivatives retinol and retinyl palmitate. Vitamin A sounds like it would be good for you, but it's not and may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread cancer. Sunscreen isn't regulated by the FDA, so any ingredients are free game (not that it really matters since the FDA approves thousands of dangerous chemicals and consistently falls in line with protecting big business at the expense of public safety - rant over, I feel better). Read this study that shows that many sunscreens are accelerating and not preventing cancer. This letter to the New York Times from Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, stresses the dangers of conventional sunscreen and its cancer risks.

So that's just GREAT. The sunscreens that I have been using to try to prevent cancer could have been giving it to me instead. In the past Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch was my go-to favorite and I loved how it felt just like my regular lotion. I threw it away when I referenced the EWG site - HORRIBLE safety profile and it is jam packed with some of the worst ingredients out there. The spray version that we that thought was so convenient is even worse because you directly inhale the toxins. I was just at the grocery store and saw that Neutrogena has a "Pure and Free" mineral based sunscreen for $11.99/ 3 ounces - look at the ingredients before you fall for this greenwashing marketing gimmick. Retinyl palmitate, BHT, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl Alcohol are hardly pure and free.

Neutrogena's "Pure and Free" Sunscreen ingredients - greenwashing at its worst!
Last year I spent several of Olivia's nap-times researching sunscreens and I discovered a safe solution that works - ZINC OXIDE!!! Zinc oxide based sunscreens offer a healthier alternative and block both UVA and UVB radiation. It is known as "physical sunscreens" by skincare professionals because they are not absorbed into your skin, but simply sit on top and act as a barrier, reflecting the sun's rays away from the skin. It also doesn't irritate skin like oxybenzone tend to do. Just a little heads up…sunscreens powered by this mineral have the tendency to make you look like a washed out geisha. Remember Zinka colored sunscreen back in the 80's that was really thick and impossible to rub in completely? Same thing. At first this really annoyed me but now I appreciate it because you know for sure where you've applied so you don't miss any spots. I'm cool with it now because I know it's safe and not exposing me to dangerous chemicals.

These products work great on the majority of the population, but unfortunately people that suffer from photosensitivity (abnormally sensitive to light, like lupus) require a chemical sunscreen because mineral blockers are not as photostable, especially with UVA protection. It is also very important to stay on top of reapplications.

also available in a sport stick and unscented…
At the end of the summer after trying out several different natural sunscreens, I found a product that offers the best of both worlds - Babo Botanicals! It is zinc oxide based and goes on white but rubs in clear - no more geisha! Strong enough for adults but formulated to be gentle enough for children. Waterproof and sweat resistant. It rubs in easily, isn't greasy and it even worked great on my face since it won't clog pores. This Parent's Magazine "Top Safest Sunscreen" is also non-nano, which is important because a "nano" particle will enter your bloodstream but "non-nano" will not. It smells just like green apple Jolly Ranchers (naturally scented), which many people in online reviews love but is a bit too much for me. When I went to order some a few days ago I was thrilled that they came out with a unscented version - it's my perfect product now! The price is very reasonable at $11.19 on Amazon for 3 ounces - that's less than the Neutrogena!! Plus I love that is it made on a certified organic farm in upstate New York with the highest quality botanical ingredients available and started by a mom turned entrepreneur (she taught bee-keeping while in the Peace Corps which is why she's passionate about sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture = AWESOMENESS)! Side note: Babo also has a great lice repelling hair treatment - haven't had to use it yet, but I know the day is coming…

I haven't tried these products, but they are recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and all have high ratings on Amazon - sunscreen for different occasions and ages:

Best All-Purpose Sunscreen: Jersey Kid's Organic Sunscreen, SPF 30. $14.99/ 2 oz
Best Sport Sunscreen: Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+. $15.99/ 3 oz.
Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen: Sunology Natural Sunscreen Lotion for Body, SPF 50. $14.99/3 oz
Best Kid's Sunscreen:Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30. $15.99/ 2.9 oz
Best Kid's Sport Sunscreen: BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30. $17.99/ 3.4 oz
Best Baby Sunscreen: ECO logical all natural baby sunscreen, SPF 30+. $24.99/ 5.3 oz
Best Sunscreen Deal: Butterbean Sunscreen, SPF 20, $16/ 7 oz

A few sunscreen rules you don't wanna forget:
  • All SPFs have to be reapplied RELIGIOUSLY every 2 hours as they lose effectiveness after that.
  • For an adult you should be able to fill a shot glass full of sunscreen and lather yourself. For your little one filling the palm of your hand should be sufficient.
  • Apply 15 minutes before entering water so it attaches to the epidermis. Reapply after drying off with a towel.
  • If you have "Irish" skin (red/blonde hair, freckles, burn and not tan, blue/green eyes), you must reapply more often because the chances of skin cancer are highest in this skin type.
  • Keep babies under six months old out of the sun completely as their skin is especially sensitive.
  • Try to avoid sun completely between 11-2 when the sun is harshest. It only takes one childhood sunburn to double your melanoma risk later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
I hope this year you'll earn the rights to wear this t-shirt :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Choosing joy

This post is going to stray from the usual message of which natural deodorant to buy or the benefits of a plant-based diet. It totally relates, though just in a different way. For the past year I've followed Glennon Melton's blog "Momastery" and couldn't put down her book "Carry on, Warrior." She exudes truth, honesty and compassion all with humor and a full heart - I just adore her messages! I am participating in her "Messy, Beautiful Warriors" project and as Glennon says, I'm going to get "brutifully" honest and share my story. So here it goes…

During the summer of 2011 I went thru a REAL rough patch (I can't emphasize those capital letters enough). Everyone experiences messy spots during their lives and the majority of mine all occurred at once. Back to back to back I had one major traumatic event after another all in a short two month time span. Stress is one of the worst toxins out there and I've unfortunately witnessed its destruction first hand. The release of the health damaging hormone cortisol increases risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also leads to development of gastrointestinal disorders and can trigger skin problems like acne, eczema, hives and psoriasis (I can vouch for this one - my skin was a mess and it was anything but beautiful). As hard as it was at the time, I carried on and feel like a stronger, more confident person for what I experienced.
Rewind to June, 2011 when it all the messiness began. One of my oldest and dearest friends died very unexpectedly. She acquired some crazy, unknown virus after a trip to Africa and her flu-like symptoms quickly turned into liver failure. Three years later her death still doesn't seem real to me, probably because I was rushed through my grief. I spoke at her funeral and then headed straight to the airport for my destination wedding in Jackson Hole. It was extremely hard and confusing trading my tears for a smile on the happiest day of my life. I was both heartbroken and full of love all at the same time. While I cherish every single second of our wedding, preparing for our big day was very stressful. It was a year of big decisions, desire for perfection, and ironing out all the little special details - I'm only going to do it once.

The week after we got home from our honeymoon the very ugly legal battle that I filed and had been enduring for two years finally had its day in court. Because of a confidentiality agreement I am unable to share any details (nor do I really want to), but I can say it was traumatic, devastating and humiliating. Seeing your dirty laundry on the front page of the paper and being the subject of the evening news is a total nightmare. Talk about stress… 

A couple weeks after the trial in early August, my husband started having severe pain in his side. We had just eaten a heavy Southern meal, so we figured something he ate didn't agree with him. The pain got worse and he called his doctor, who is a good friend and was luckily able to see him the next morning - he thought it might be kidney stones. A quick examination quickly revealed a severely enlarged spleen and he sent him straight to the hospital for x-rays. Based on the blood work, the doctor suspected Acute leukemia and waiting on the diagnosis was the worst day of my life. Impossible not to think the worst - my brand new husband and happily ever after crushed. I had to send a text to my family and inner most circle of friends because I couldn't say the words out loud. He has Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), which is extremely serious but treatable. After a few hiccups in his medication he is on a great path, which is a huge answered prayer. 

Ugly, ugly summer that had me in pieces. It took me a while to get to this point, but I almost appreciate the hardships because of the lessons I learned about myself. I survived with more character, strength and self-worth than I had before. This certainly didn't come easy and the drawn out legal mess really did a number on me. I was consumed with anger, barely slept for a couple years and so anxious I could barely function. Not sure how it would have turned out without the love of my amazing supportive husband, family and friends, key advice from my wise father and a really gifted therapist whose couch I practically wore a hole in. The greatest pearl came from my father who shared the story of two of his friends that both faced adversity but chose different paths. One went thru an ugly divorce and it changed her into an angry bitter person - twenty years and she hasn't carried on. The other friend went thru a very humiliating divorce but instead took the high road and chose happiness. He saw me turning down the wrong path and I'm so glad he set me straight. It would have been so easy to fall into the devil's trap and I'm so glad I finally decided to listen to my dad. I chose joy.

As I mentioned earlier, I learned many priceless life lessons from that summer - I'm going to save you thousands of dollars in therapy sessions…Hopefully you won't need them, but life gets messy for everyone at some point!
  • Your problems don't define who you are. It took many sessions with my therapist to have this "aha" moment and realize I was still a good person.Yes, I had made some poor choices, but I faced them and I had to move forward and forgive myself. It is SO easy to dwell on mistakes and beat yourself up, which only tears you down even more.
  • SLOW DOWN and listen to your body. If you can't handle stress, make changes to minimize your exposure. Yes life is stressful, but control what you can. Being super busy all the time and overbooked seems to be the new norm and it's not healthy. SLOW DOWN!!! I quit my high pressure, high paying job and am now a stay at home mom. This came with obvious financial consequences, but we wouldn't change it for anything. We purposefully don't sign up for every activity out there for our daughter and we prefer our calendar empty. Our little family has time for each other and we thrive this way. Now I'm certainly not saying that being a stay-at-home mom isn't stressful because it ABSOLUTELY is - for me it is a good satisfying stress that makes me happy and fulfilled. After years of insomnia I am finally sleeping and my old frazzled personality is now relaxed.
  • Don't allow the mess to consume you! Allow yourself time to get over whatever happened, but at a certain point the horse is dead and it's time to move on. Quit talking about it. If you continue to focus on the problem, it will never go away. (This applies to my legal mess - grief is completely different and requires time to heal). 
  • Find a happy place - for me it was the yoga studio and in the garden. I have practiced yoga for over fifteen years and it is a wonderful way to turn off my mind and escape thinking for a little while. When my mind would race, yoga would always help slow me down. It clears your head, lifts your spirit and helps you relax - everything a stressed out body needs! I also started gardening and there is something extremely therapeutic about getting dirt under your nails. All bets are off when little critters start nibbling at your roses or eating your lettuce though…Find a healthy outlet that works for you!
  • Focus on your faith. Soon after my lawsuit began I searched in my study bible for quotes relating to stress and anxiety. Philippians 4:6-8 was EXACTLY what I needed to hear and I wrote it down everywhere. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
    So I did just that - I prayed and I focused on all the beautiful, lovely things around me and my abundance of blessings. God sent me a couple signs to remind me of this verse and I consider them little miracles - he's so good like that with timing. The Sunday before a key date in my lawsuit the lesson at church just happened to be my Philippians mantra. Coincidence? I don't think so. At our YMCA they have folded up bible verses in a basket that you can take on your way out. The day of our settlement attempt mine was my verse. I kept it in my pocket as a constant reminder until it completely disintegrated from being handled so many times. God was with me then and he still is today.
  • Think positive. There is scientific proof that negative beliefs harm your health - this interesting article that talks about the placebo effect and how you can think yourself sick with negative thoughts. The cognitive therapy techniques of refocusing your thoughts work great when negative beliefs bombard your mind. My therapist told me to "acknowledge the thought and then let it go." Have plenty of cute kitty YouTube videos downloaded and ready to go when you need to put a positive spin to your thinking - works every time for me.
  • Embrace the serenity prayer - it always seems to be the just the right message for whatever problem I'm facing. I try hard not to dwell on things I have no control over, what's the point? Write it in you daytimer, put a laminated copy on the dash of your car, maybe a tattoo?
    This isn't my back, but if I were to ever get a tattoo the Serenity Prayer would be a top contender
  • Get help. Eastern and Western medicine both played a big part in my healing. Acupuncture is a life saver and would take the edge off when my anxiety got unbearable. I have no idea how it works, but I'm a firm believer and if I could go back and do it all over again I would be an Acupuncturist. This will probably sound unbelievable, but I would rather have an acupuncture session than a massage - nothing beats a chi buzz! While I try to avoid pills, I do believe there is a time and a place for anxiety medicine. They were a blessing and necessity for me during crisis mode and I safely weaned off them as soon as I was able. 
  • Clean eating = Clean mind. Cleaning up our diet after Ed's diagnosis not only improved my health, but helped clear my mind. Eating healthy, nutritious meals gives you the energy you need to live a balanced, happy life. Researchers have shown that there is a link between diet and mood suggesting that diets higher in nutritional value can protect against the negative effects of stress, depression and anxiety. This improvement made a huge difference in how I felt and thought - I can vouch for this 100%!
  • Choose joy! Just like my Dad said, life is about choices and you can either take the high road or live a miserable life. It's certainly easier said than done, but definitely worth the effort!!

Whew, I did it :) Glennon Melton's Carry On, Warrior is a New York Times Bestseller and was just named the best relationship book of 2013 by "Books for a Better Life." Her memoir of embracing your messy, beautiful life is a must read for everyone and it is now available in paperback - trust me, you'll laugh, cry and be inspired!! #lovewins

Thursday, April 3, 2014

All about Vitamin D - hello sunshine!

Spring is finally here! Mother Nature has shown some very bipolar tendencies this turnover of seasons and I'm hoping warmer weather is here to stay. I'm looking forward to soaking up a little sunshine (little being the key buzz word here)! My goal is to find a healthy balance between getting enough natural sunlight to maximize my vitamin D production, while at the same time protecting myself from the damage that occurs from overexposure to the sun.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in your overall health, and 3 out of 4 Americans aren't getting enough of it. The greatest source is through sun exposure, although it is present in some random foods including shiitake and button mushrooms, several fish (mackerel, wild sockeye salmon, herring, sardines, catfish, tuna), eggs (one egg provides only 10% of your daily need), and it is added to milk. Vitamin D is responsible for the following: 
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Enhance your muscle strength
  • Helps produce optimal blood pressure levels
  • Support healthy kidney function
  • Promotes healthy teeth and bones
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Protects against radiation exposure
  • Fights depression
If you don't follow Dr. Mercola already, sign up for his emails - he's amazing and I've learned so much from him! He wrote an article detailing how safe sun exposure helps protect against as many as 16 different types of cancer including breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, ovarian, bladder, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, prostate, rectal and renal cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He goes on to say that optimizing your Vitamin D levels can cut your risks of several cancers by 50%. However, overzealous sunscreen use has resulted in widespread Vitamin D deficiencies which are linked to cancer, depression, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and obesity. Vitamin D deficiencies are WAY too common because people spend so much time indoors and are afraid to get a little sun. Not good! 

Sun exposure is also linked to skin cancer and melanoma, so what's the right balance? One of my very best friends is a dermatologist and I am constantly picking her brain about skin concerns - I was THRILLED when she chose this speciality! She said that 15 minutes of sun on your forearms three times a week is the right amount of exposure needed to maximize the benefits of Vitamin D. Your body can produce only a limited amount of Vitamin D every day. Pale skinned people will hit an "equilibrium point" after about 20 minutes of exposure to UVB light at which point no more Vitamin D will be produced. After that you're only increasing your chances of getting burned, which is something you absolutely want to avoid - time to go inside or apply sunscreen! If you have darker skin, reaching this equilibrium point can take two to six times longer depending on your pigmentation.

Three times a week for 15 minutes is VERY doable. If you work in an office all day long try to spend part of your lunch break outside. Maybe take a phone call sitting in the sun. Better yet, go for a walk outside!!

I have a very low tolerance for hot weather and quickly start falling apart. During peak hours of heat I'm inside or in the shade - if not I can guarantee I'm whining and miserable. This is what I'm going to do to find my Vitamin D balance:

  • Olivia and I like to take a bike ride together before her lunch and this will be the perfect time for us to get our 15 minutes of sunshine on our arms and legs. If we go to the park or spend more time outside during peak hours I will bring sunscreen. I will also spend a few peak hour minutes unprotected outside during Olivia's nap watering my flowers and working in the garden - wearing my sun hat, of course.
  • During the winter months when the sun doesn't come out much or it is too cold to spend time outside, I take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Olivia takes a liquid version from Child Life (I buy it at Whole Foods) every day and she loves the natural berry flavor. Supplements do not work as well as natural sun exposure, but I figure it's better than nothing when soaking up rays isn't an option
  • We do make a few trips to the beach during the Spring and summer and I will be diligent about protecting our skin with safe, natural sunscreen (read my next blog post for sunscreen suggestions).  We'll also be sporting our sun hats and I'm going to buy one of these adorable Urban Baby Bonnets for Olivia - love these!
  • Shea butter and coconut oil provide natural SPF protection from the sun. I have never tried this as a barrier and am very carefully going to test it out one day - will let you know… Several people on blogs I follow swear by it and it sure would be a nice option for shorter term exposure! The body butter from Ana's Corner was specially formulated with ingredients that naturally protect your skin from the sun but still allow the UVB waves (good, Vitamin D waves). I apply this after every shower or bath and it lasts all day, LOVE it. The natural facial moisturizer I use daily also has an SPF of 15.