Skin Health and Sun Exposure

Have Healthy Skin This Summer (or During That Vacation)!

I am a huge proponent of real sun, but in moderation.  And we must take into account sunscreen when talking about sun exposure, but this can be laden with hormone altering chemicals, while still putting you at risk for cancer.  So what kind of sunscreen and where?  Using the most minimal amount, along with some extra nutritional influences can give you both the sun exposure and protection you need, ensuring that your skin will look its best and be at less risk for cancer.

I personally am not a fan of chemical sunscreens.  (I use a mineral one on my face and neck mainly- more about that later).   The SPF numbers are based on the UVB rays that give you sunburn, but not the UVA rays that penetrate deeper than the UVB and can do a lot of damage to your DNA.  I do recommend using a mineral sunscreen on the face, neck and the upper chest.  But there is something about slathering a chemical on my skin, knowing it is absorbing into the fat cells beneath (and, uh, hello thyroid gland…) with ultraviolet radiation thrown into the mix. Things like Avobenzone, Octyl-dimenthyl-PABA, Octinoxate, Benzophenone-3, Butyl-methoxydibenzoylmethane, and Octyl-methoxycinnamate are some of the many chemical sunscreens out there. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors that do affect our hormonal systems in various ways that no one knows for sure, and who knows what else. (and we are looking for a cure for cancer?!)

I have been known to say and I will say it again here:  don’t put anything on your skin that you would not put in your mouth.

Your fix:   Prepare for sun exposure externally and internally!

Externally:

Get small amounts of sun exposure gradually.  Try to get as close to full-body exposure as you can for 5-10 minutes a day for at least a few days a week.  This will not only supply you with a nice dose of vitamin D, but will also build the melanin in your skin.  Melanin is produced in response to UV rays, and when produced, offers excellent protection against UV damage. So when you build up to that moderate tan you will actually need less sunscreen to protect against sun damage.  Also, the darker the skin, the more melanin it has, and the less vitamin D it will convert from sun exposure. Melanin is made up of the amino acid tyrosine (which happens to be my favorite amino acid for reasons I will get into in another post).

Do use sunscreen on your face and neck; this is the most important for aging gracefully and looking your best.  But use a mineral sunscreen!  I am not talking about the old-school zinc oxide that turns your nose white, there are transparent micronized zinc oxide and titanium products out there that are invisible and block both UVA and UVB rays physically, not chemically.  I always get asked if I do not say, so I will here: My favorite is by DeVita <click here for info>.  But there are many available.

Internally:

This is a crucial compliment to your skin health if you have skin that has not seen any sun, and soon will see more than it needs to.  When I lived in Seattle, before sending my pearlescent skin south for spring break, I would take vitamin A and vitamin E as taught to me in school.  It always worked like a charm to help me not get burned.

Specifically, for a few days before leaving on that vacation, you would take 50,000 iu of Vitamin A (the palmitate form, not beta carotene which is not actually vitamin A), along with one cap of a gamma form of Vit E.*  You can continue it for the time you are in the sun.

This is not to be done during pregnancy of course because of the vitamin A, and is safe for a short amount of time.  If you have daily sun exposure, say with an outside occupation, then more individualized advice would be needed.

(*We have moved forward, far forward from the old school vitamin E known as ‘alpha tocopherol’.  If alpha E is still in your cabinet, throw it out and click here!)

 

I hope this has helped shed some healthier photons on your skin so you can have a wonderful summer or mid-winter vacation, with a lot less risk!