As we get into the heat of the summer, most of us start spending more time
outdoors whether it’s at the beach, in the garden, or on the water. Many of us look forward to the extra hours of sunlight and higher temperatures, but we easily forget to protect our skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are many ways to protect yourself from the harmful radiation of the sun and prevent and reduce your risk for sun damage and skin cancer.
One of the best ways to help our bodies from the inside out is with Antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect our cells from injury and are necessary to prevent skin damage that contributes to age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and skin cancer. They are found in high amounts in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as in nuts and seeds. Having a varied diet containing these foods and taking additional antioxidant support is the first step to protecting yourself when your level of sun exposure rises.
Astaxanthin and other Carotenoids
Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that is in the carotenoid family along with betacarotene and lutein. It is the compound that gives flamingos and salmon their pink colour and has the ability to scavenge free radicals more than most other antioxidants. When supplementing, look for a natural source and a dose of at least 4mg-8mg. Beta-carotene is found in foods such as carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and dark leafy green vegetables, while Lutein is also found in dark leafy vegetables as well as carrots and eggs. Both beta-carotene and lutein have been shown to be important in eye health. Unlike other parts of your body, your eye’s lens cannot repair itself when damaged and serious eye diseases can result. So along with your sunglasses that protect against UV rays, a diet high in carotenoids and extra supplementation is a must during the summer months to prevent degenerative diseases, eye problems, and skin damage.
Vitamin E has the ability to protect cell membranes making it valuable for people exposed to the sun as well as to air pollution and other toxins. When taking a Vitamin E supplement, it is crucial to take a complex of mixed Vitamin E, to ensure you are not missing out any of the Vitamin E members nor creating an imbalance of the different compounds. As a fat-soluble antioxidant, Vitamin E is a primary defense against lipid peroxidation particularly in the tissues of the brain and central nervous system. Vitamin E can also be used topically on the skin to help eliminate scarring after burns and other skin injuries making it useful from the inside out!
If you want to go for one of the best antioxidants, Alpha-lipoic acid is one to
consider! Not only does it work together with vitamin E and vitamin C (another
powerful antioxidant) to protect the entire cell from oxidative stress, it also helps to recycle both these vitamins as well as glutathione. Alpha-lipoic acid is both fat- and water-soluble, so it can quench free radicals both inside and outside the cell and due to its small size, it is readily absorbed across cell membranes.
Sunscreen and Topical Skin Care
With the sun out in full force we need to ensure our first line of defense is not
ignored. When choosing a sunscreen, choose one that is broad spectrum. In other words, one that states that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA is ultraviolet radiation that penetrates deep into the skin and causes damage resulting in age spots and wrinkles. UVB makes skin red and contributes to burning. BOTH can lead to skin cancers so always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is at least an SPF of 15. Be sure to look for an all-natural sunscreen from The Vitamin Shop so you aren’t adding unnecessary damage to your skin from chemicals while you are trying to prevent it.
If you do get exposed to more sun than your skin is happy with, always keep an
after-sun product containing vitamin E oil and soothing herbs such as aloe on hand. Aloe vera will accelerate wound healing and is protective against UV radiation by acting as an antioxidant, reducing inflammatory molecules, and improving skin integrity.
Don’t ignore the health of your skin! Always have your skin examined by your health care provider on a yearly basis and avoid sun exposure as best you can between the peak hours of 11am and 4pm. Use clothing to shade your body, and when lathering on the sunscreen, be sure to consider supplementing with extra Vitamin D to provide your body with adequate amounts. With common sense and protecting yourself from the inside out, you can safely enjoy the gorgeous sunny days ahead!
Dr. Jennifer Dyck, ND works with people of all ages and health concerns and follows the 6 Naturopathic Principles to assess, educate, treat, and support her patients in health and wellness. She has a special interest in digestive health, hormone balancing, and brain support, and uses Class IV laser therapy to safely and effectively reduce pain and inflammation. More information about Dr. Jen can be found at http://www.DrJenniferND.com.