By Natasha Turner, ND
The summer sunshine and heat is welcoming, and with that comes the elusive question – can I tan or not? So many of us love the look of a sun-kissed glow, though there is no doubt excessive sun exposure can cause skin damage and accelerated aging. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your skin and even repair the damage from your bad sun habits of the past.
Safe Sun Guidelines for Your Skin
In reasonable doses, sunlight enables natural immunity, promotes skin growth and healing, stimulates our “happy” hormone (serotonin), and contributes to an overall sense of well-being. Getting some sunlight for 15 or 20 minutes a day enables the body to manufacture vitamin D and is responsible for the synthesis of the pigment melanin, the skin’s natural sunscreen. The key is to be cautious while out in the sun and not block it out completely unless you have a history of skin cancer or have another condition which requires that you not be exposed to the sun, like an allergy. Gradually working up to an hour per day of exposure to the sun, outside of the prime hours between 10 AM and 3 PM, and wearing a hat to protect your face, should be relatively safe precautions for most adults. Always use caution in the sun during peak hours of exposure by covering up with light clothing and if you do choose to use a sunscreen, select one that is broad-spectrum with a minimum SPF of 30. I prefer sunscreens that are mineral based and free of harmful chemicals like parabens. Look for Color Science or the most recent newly released product from Skinceuticals, their SPF 50 product, which you can view here.
Nutrition to Protect Your Skin
Certain dietary habits can improve the appearance of your skin. Reducing saturated fat found in meats and dairy products, increasing essential fatty acids through regular consumption of fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil, as well as topping up your intake of red or orange vegetables and fruits rich in antioxidants (called flavonoids) may reduce skin cancer risk and improve the look of your skin. Aim to have a cup of berries once per day.
Research has also found a link between skin aging and excess sugar and simple carbohydrates. These foods cause an elevation of blood sugar and insulin levels that cause inflammation and contribute to wrinkles and aging. Stable insulin levels can be maintained by eating a balance of healthy fats, lean protein and low glycemic carbohydrates (oats, beans, sweet potato, green vegetables, or rye) with each meal and snack. A perfect lunch and dinner plate should have one-third salad with olive oil dressing; one-third grilled, steamed, baked or stir-fried vegetables; and one-third lean protein (or a serving about the size and width of your palm).
Supplements for Healthy Skin
There are nutrient supplements that you can take to help keep your skin looking healthy and which also reduce the risk of skin cancer:
1) Marine Collagen with Vitamin C – One of the most well-known benefits of collagen is its ability to promote glowing, vibrant skin. This essential protein provides elasticity to the skin, helping it to appear more youthful and healthy. But as you get older and collagen production declines, fine lines, loose skin, and dryness can occur. So what happens if you increase your collagen intake with supplements?
A study published in 2014 randomly chose 46 of 69 women, ages 35-55 years old, to take a collagen hydrolysate supplement. The rest of the group took a placebo. The women who took the collagen showed an improvement in skin elasticity within four weeks.
The same manufacturer also conducted another study in 2014 with the same supplement, which significantly reduced wrinkles after just eight weeks.
ha Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and a component of collagen. Essential for tissue repair, healing and a healthy immune response, a typical dose is 500 – 3000mg per day, and our clear marine collagen +C contains 500mg per dose.
2) Zinc – Like vitamin C, zinc is an antioxidant, essential for tissue repair and healing and is a component of collagen. Aim for 15 – 50 mg per day, but definitely not more than 100mg.
3) Vitamin E – Vitamin E, another antioxidant, has been found to be effective in reducing the risk of skin cancers. A mixed vitamin E, one that contains all eight types of tocopherols, rather than just d-alpha-tocopherol, is the most beneficial. Avoid all synthetic sources of vitamin E as they can do more harm than good.
4) Vitamin A – Another powerful antioxidant that has been proven effective in reducing the risk of skin cancer. A typical dose is 10,000IU per day. If you are pregnant, do not take supplements containing vitamin A beyond the amount found in your prenatal vitamin.
5) Plant Based Omega 3s – Want to give your skin the most hydrating benefit ever from the inside out, Pure From Omega 3s are naturally anti-inflammatory and are highly moisturizing to the skin, let alone beneficial for the heart, brain and eyes too! The perfect amount is about 2 to 3 capsules twice daily. You can learn more about your skin and Pure Form Omega from my friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Matheson in this article.
6) Selenium – Selenium is yet another antioxidant that has great promise in reducing the incidence of skin and other types of cancer. Take 150 to 300 mcg per day.
7.) For topical treatment – don’t forget about copper extract – and use our professional skin care line containing all natural ingredients and potent nutriceuticals, Biophora. Contact the office to gain exclusive access to this skin care line.
Topical Treatments to Reverse Sun Damage
A report in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology showed that CoQ10 may reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and an earlier study in Germany in 1999 found that it CoQ10 improved the skin’s resistance to the oxidative stress of UV radiation and when applied long-term, could reduce the appearance of crow’s feet.
One of my must-have skincare products is a topical vitamin C serum. This increases the production of collagen in the skin, produces skin cell growth and aids in regeneration. The results? Younger looking skin and improved firmness.
Topical products containing natural forms of vitamin A (retinol, retinaldehyde) or vitamin A derivatives (called retinoids) are beneficial for sun-damaged skin. These products also slow down the signs of aging. The journal Dermatology Surgery reported reported that vitamin A was an effective and well-tolerated treatment for photodamaged facial skin, and reduced fine and large wrinkles, acne, liver spots, and surface roughness. To avoid over-exfoliating the skin, I recommend using a vitamin A cream only one to two times per week and it should not be applied before periods of sun exposure.
Don’t forget to drink water!
Last but certainly not least, the most important component in your summer skin arsenal is reverse osmosis water – and lots of it. We can get dehydrated very quickly in the sun, which can cause us to look older, fast. Drink at least 2 litres of water each day, and even more if you are exercising.
(image courtesy of Unsplash)