Age-related changes in skin are caused by a variety of factors, including hormones, sun exposure, toxins, inflammation/free radical formation, along with diet and lifestyle choices. These factors all contribute to significant alterations in skin health.
Dermatologists estimate that approximately 90% of skin aging is due to sun damage (photoaging). That means about 10% of skin aging is from inevitable and gradual collagen and elastin loss, and the rest of skin aging is, at least in part, preventable by avoiding overexposure to damaging UVA/B sun tanning rays.
Skin damage from the sun causes:
- Hypo- or hyper-pigmentation
- Loss of skin elasticity (sagging skin)
- Precancerous skin lesions (seborrheic and actinic keratosis)
- Skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma
It may seem like wrinkles and other signs of photoaging suddenly appear overnight, but the cellular damage takes place for years beneath the surface of the skin. However, don’t wait until outer signs of photoaging appear. Many nutritional options are available to protect from the damages of UV radiation.
UV radiation affects the skin antioxidants and in response to the attack of free radicals the skin has developed a complex defence system including a network of protective antioxidants including vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q10. Studies have shown that these antioxidants are decreased by as much as 26–93% in all layers of UV-exposed skin. Many studies have also shown that the skin damage from UV radiation could be prevented by prior antioxidant treatment.
About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. Over 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, more than 5,000 of which are melanoma, the mostly deadly form of skin cancer. Convincing evidence links indoor tanning booths, excessive UV exposure, and sunburns in early life to skin cancer.
Even though some people are at greater danger for developing skin cancer, there is risk for everyone, so it is wise to follow all the preventive measures to protect your skin.
For those who don’t seem concerned about developing skin cancer, perhaps the message about skin aging and appearance will get their attention. If you don’t protect your skin from the sun, your skin ages much faster, with more wrinkled skin and dryer skin, and you will look older than your years.
Skin Protection for the Summer and All-Year-Round
Antioxidants and other nutritional supplements are essential to help counteract degenerative skin changes. Antioxidants stop free radicals in their tracks, thereby preventing damage from UV rays, and reducing the risk of skin cancer,
Grapeseed extract contains several plant compounds, which are powerful antioxidants. It has been shown to protect the skin from sun damage, bond with collagen, and promote youthful skin, cell health, elasticity, and flexibility.
Green tea studies suggest that both topical and oral consumption of green tea antioxidants (polyphenols) are photo-protective and help prevent skin disorders including photoaging, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
Coenzyme Q10 studies have demonstrated that stressed skin benefits from the topical Q10 treatment by reducing free radicals and increasing antioxidant capacity of the skin.
Vitamin C supports collagen and elastin production, and provides antioxidant protection against UV damage and skin aging. The normal skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C. Studies show that excessive exposure to environmental pollutants depletes vitamin C in the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Vitamin C is also a co-factor with lysine to promote collagen synthesis,
Astaxanthin (ASX) is a part of the carotenoid family, but unlike other carotenoids it does not convert to vitamin A. ASX has been reported to protect collagen from the ravages of free radicals and inflammation, help preserve skin health, and reduce hyperpigmentation, photoaging, and wrinkle formation.
Vitamin A supplements and vitamin A-rich foods are necessary for skin health. Increase your intake of orange- and yellow-coloured vegetables, which are high in vitamin A.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and has been in use for more than 50 years in dermatology. It protects the skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation by acting as a free-radical scavenger. Open a vitamin E capsule and squirt some into your skin cream and/or sunscreen for added protection.
Water – Don’t forget the importance of drinking water! The skin and the entire body need at least 1.5 L of water daily to prevent dehydration, and more sometimes when working outside or exercising extensively.
Sun protection technology used to prevent damage to skin is more effective than ever before, giving us great advantage in the aging game. Beauty products for skin are being “cleaned up” with removal of toxins that are prematurely aging our skin.
Refer to ewg.org/sunscreen for safe brands of sunscreen.
Remember loading up on antioxidants when you are going to be in the sun can add further protection in addition to a safe sunscreen.
Mature Skin Aging Is Inevitable – Premature Skin Aging Is Preventable – Start NOW
Dunaway S, Odin R, Zhou L, Ji L, Zhang Y, Kadekaro AL. Natural Antioxidants: Multiple Mechanisms to Protect Skin From Solar Radiation. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:392. Published 2018 Apr 24.
Knott A, Achterberg V, Smuda C, et al. Topical treatment with coenzyme Q10-containing formulas improves skin’s Q10 level and provides antioxidative effects. Biofactors. 2015;41(6):383-390.
Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by green tea: antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects. Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2003 Sep;3(3):234-42.
Karen Jensen was in clinical practice for 25 years and although she is retired, she continues to write books and educate on the naturopathic approach to wellness. She is author or co-author of seven books, her most recent is Women’s Health Matters: The Influence of Gender on Disease.