Summer is just around the corner with temperatures rising and the sun shining. With more time spent outdoors, We are at risk of skin damage from prolonged UV exposure. The sun can be aesthetically damaging causing premature wrinkles, or worse, increasing our risk of skin cancer. Damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes without proper protection. There are several types of UV radiation that can be broken down by wavelength. The three main types are UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA accounts for 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. It penetrates clouds and glass windows and is largely responsible for premature ageing of the skin. UVB may be considered the most dangerous as it affects the top layer of the skin and is strongly linked to skin cancer by damaging the DNA in our skin. Its effects can damage the skin in a very short amount of time. UVC does not significantly reach the earth’s surface and is not a major health risk. So what can we do to protect ourselves while still having fun in the sun?
- Cover Up
Throw on a hat and appropriate clothing while outside. Your eyes are also sensitive to the sun’s UV so sunglasses are essential! Finding shade when the sun is at its peak intensity can offer protection as well.
- Consider Timing of Sun Exposure
The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm so take extra caution during that period. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days – UV rays can still penetrate and damage the skin.
- Apply Safe Sunscreen
Not all sunscreen is created equal! Check your sunscreen label to avoid toxins that can be absorbed by the skin. Oxybenzone and vitamin A based ingredients such as retinyl palmitate, acetate, or linoleate are carcinogenic, meaning they are believed to contribute to cancer. Avoid spray-on sunscreens as they can be damaging to your lungs. Sunscreens with zinc oxide are considered a safe alternative, however, they often leave a white residue on the skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG provides an annual list of the best and worst Sunscreens based on their ingredients (see https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/executive-summary/). Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30-60 – there is no additional protection beyond SPF 60. It is key to reapply every 30-60 minutes for maximum protection and even more frequently if you are swimming or sweating excessively.
- Eat Plenty of Skin Protecting Foods
Include lots of foods that are rich in antioxidants, which help to protect our skin from the inside but. Lycopene specifically is notorious for offering skin protection against DNA damage from sunburn and is preventative in cancer. Pomegranate, grapes and all berries contain anthocyanins that protect the melanocytes in the skin. Coloured vegetables and fruits contain carotenoids which act to repair the skin. Quercetin from apples and onions blocks proteins involved in malignant melanoma development. Curcumin from turmeric spice is also anti-carcinogenic and a powerful antioxidant.
Best Skin Foods:
- Berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries)
- Green tea
- Almonds & walnuts
- Apples, garlic, olive oil
- Dark chocolate
- Spices (turmeric, pepper, cumin, clove)
- Wild salmon
- Apply Natural Skin Nourishment
Natural ingredients can be applied topically for both the prevention of ageing due to sun damage and as a relief to skin that has suffered a burn from UV exposure. Chamomile, aloe vera gel, and calendula are an excellent anti-inflammatory, analgesic botanicals that soothe and repair damaged, irritated skin. Caffeine and coffee berry have both demonstrates anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant effects when used topically to skin that has endured excessive sun exposure. Coffee berry, in particular, is a rich source of polyphenols that assist in skin rejuvenation. Other natural ingredients for skin repair include rosehip oil, vitamin C & E, MSM, grapeseed extract, vitamin D3, betulinic acid, green tea extract and pomegranate extract.
Schedule an appointment with a naturopathic doctor today to learn more about natural internal and external options for skin protection and repair this summer so that you will be glowing from both the inside and out for years to come!