Summer is typically a season we find ourselves outside more with longer days, summer activities, vacations, yard work, and such. It also means our skin is extra exposed to harmful UV rays from the sun and drying from the weather conditions. If you think your skincare is all about how you look, think again. Our skin is the largest organ in the body and a part of the immune system. Besides sun exposure and weather conditions that can dry skin out, free radicals can also threaten skin health. Not only can they destroy skin cells, but these weakened molecules known as free radicals can also contribute to inflammation. Free radicals result from too much exposure to UV rays from the sun, toxins in the body, chlorinated water, pollution, and eating foods that are over-cooked, fried and/or processed. They can cause skin to look older with wrinkles, age spots, drying, and even contribute to skin cancer. Luckily there are natural ways to take care of your skin and still enjoy your outside summer fun in the sun. Here are a few tips that you can employ to keep your skin healthy this summer and all year round.
Sunscreen – You probably know you should be wearing sunscreen when spending lots of time outdoors, but take a good look at the sunscreen you are using and see if it measures up. It needs to have a SPF of at least 30 and make sure it protects not only against UVA, but also UVB light. Wearing lightweight long sleeves, a hat with a brim, and long pants can also help protect you from the damage of sun exposure. If you end up with a sunburn, you are already experiencing inflammation in which free radicals have begun the oxidation process that can destroy collagen and elastin producing cells. Plan ahead to avoid this with the proper protection when you know you will be outside for prolonged periods.Antioxidants – Adding antioxidant foods to your diet can help you fight off free radicals and repair any damage they may have already done to cells. Here is a list of some especially good antioxidants to get in helping protect your skin.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA): does something most other antioxidants can’t – penetrate oil and water which means it can work on skin cells inside and outside of the body. We produce some ALA naturally, but you can get extra from a supplement form, some skin creams, and from foods including broccoli, spinach, brewer’s yeast, and meats.
- Lycopene: found in tomatoes and watermelon. Research indicates that tomatoes cooked in olive oil are even better that eating raw tomatoes and that watermelon is even higher in lycopene that raw tomatoes.
- Catechins: such as found in green tea have been reported to aid in the reduction of inflammation and cancer risks. In a 2007 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry it was reported that drinking between 2 and 6 cups daily can reduce skin cancer risk and aid in the reversing of skin damage caused by the sun.
- Flavonols: such as found in dark chocolate have been found to provide protection from damaging UV rays from the sun.
- Vitamins C, E, A, and B: Vitamin C is necessary in producing collagen and can help fight off free radicals. Good food sources for vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, berries, and Bell peppers. Vitamin E also helps in the fight against free radicals offering extra protection for skin. Good vitamin E food sources include nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, asparagus, and vegetable oils. Vitamin A can help in repairing damaged skin tissue and comes from foods containing beta carotene such as dark green leafy veggies, liver, sweet potatoes, carrots and eggs. Biotin, a B vitamin, is also important for healthy skin. Our bodies produce B vitamins in the intestines with the help of friendly bacteria that live there called probiotics. Giving support to these friendly bacteria colonies by including probiotic foods and/or supplements in your diet can help keep these important skin protectors working for you. Good food sources for biotin include brown rice, bananas, oatmeal, AFA bluegreen algae, mushrooms, eggs and liver.
- Melatonin: helps protect skin from UV rays and helps produce new skin cells. Cherries are an especially good choice for this antioxidant.
Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-3 and omega-6 help in keeping skin cells flexible and in preventing dry, flaky and itchy skin. Make sure you get more omega-3’s than omega-6’s for good general overall health. Most of us in this country get plenty of omega-6 already, but if you need additional, safflower oil is a good source and has been found to be helpful with skin conditions such as eczema. Omega-3 helps in balancing skin oils, keeping skin hydrated, and reducing age spots and wrinkle lines. Good food sources for omega-3 EFA’s include fatty coldwater fish like salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocados, olive oil and AFA bluegreen algae. Salmon not only has omega-3 for your skin, but also has the antioxidant astaxanthin that can help repair sun damaged skin and reduce signs of aging on skin.
Minerals – Copper, zinc, and selenium are all good for keeping skin healthy. Selenium has been found to help protect against sunburn, copper used in skin creams helps prevent wrinkling and helps keep skin firm and elastic, and zinc helps control oil production. You can find selenium in seafood, garlic, eggs, and whole grain cereals and zinc in sesame seeds, milk, yogurt, miso, lean meats, and fortified cereals. It can be dangerous to take copper supplements since too much can be damaging so check with your healthcare provider before taking any oral supplements with copper.
Nutritional Supplements – In addition to AFA bluegreen algae and probiotics already mentioned, this stem cell support supplement gives you the wholefood antioxidant nutrition found to support the renewal of your own natural adult stem cells that can help in repairing damaged cells. You can also use this antioxidant supplement to help you get extra antioxidants working for you especially if you don’t always have the time to eat enough fruits and veggies to get your antioxidants.
I hope you have lots of fun this summer and enjoy being out in the sun. After all that’s how we get most of the vitamin D we need. Just be sure to plan ahead and take some precautions to protect your skin from the damage it can be exposed to. Your skin is more important than just how it contributes to your looks. Good skincare is a part of overall good healthcare.