There’s no better time than summertime to enjoy being outside in nature and outside in the sunshine. However, when it comes to health of your skin, remember that sun exposure is one of the primary causes of skin damage and aging.
The sun’s rays create free radicals that can damage just about all the structures of the skin, accelerating the aging process, causing fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and dehydration.
It’s a fact that sunlight is needed for healthy vitamin D and for the production of several “feel good” brain chemicals. So how do you protect your skin from the sun while still reaping its benefits? The key is balance. Try reducing sun exposure, avoiding long hours in direct sunlight and limiting exposure to the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense.
If you plan on being in the sun for an extended period of time, wear protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat or lightweight scarf to protect your neck, and apply a natural broad-spectrum sunscreen made with chemical-free, nanoparticle-free zinc oxide.
Zinc oxide acts as a physical sunscreen – it sits on top of the skin, instantly reflecting and scattering light so there is no wait time for sun protection. Zinc oxide outperforms all other sunscreen agents in its ability to block the UVA and UVB spectrum.
Even with its positive benefits, zinc oxide has been hindered by its whitish look and heavy feel on skin. To address these issues, some manufacturers have created sheerer, lighter versions by grinding zinc oxide down to microscopic, nano-sized particles. Unfortunately, nanoparticles have raised serious concerns, potentially harming our bodies, our eco-systems, and animal and plant species. My recommendation is that if you can avoid using products with nanoparticles, then you should.
Today, there are newer, micronized versions of zinc oxide available. Micronization means that the zinc oxide is ground to a very fine degree, but not to the level of becoming nanoparticle sized. As a result, nanoparticle-free zinc oxide diminishes the risk to the body and the environment.
So when you’re looking for a healthy sunscreen, look for one with chemical-free, nanoparticle-free zinc oxide. For additional benefits, look for sunscreens that also contain healthy antioxidants like green tea and vitamin C. Green tea has also been shown to protect skin from UVA/UVB damage and reduce the number of sunburned cells. Vitamin C has been shown to protect against and improve UV-induced damage including signs of uneven pigmentation, roughness and wrinkles.
Aside from protecting yourself from UV damage on the outside, you can also fortify your defenses on the inside through a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Fruits and vegetables that contain high levels of vitamins and antioxidants can boost your body’s ability to reduce the inflammation and damage caused by free radical attack. Look for foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits as well as foods high in polyphenol antioxidants such as blueberries, grapes and green tea. Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries that can help boost your body’s natural defenses and overall good health.
Remember to rehydrate yourself before, during and after sun exposure. Drink plenty of water, and apply an antioxidant-rich moisturizer to help your skin recover. Even better, use a daily moisturizer rich in antioxidants like astaxanthin, Pycnogenol®, green tea or vitamin E for added protection.
Remember, sun damage is not always visible instantly. Sun damage today will cause next year’s dark spots, discoloration and other visible signs of aging. Protecting, treating and hydrating your skin right will help keep it healthy, youthful and radiant now and for years to come.
Dr. Linda Miles, D.O.M., is the cofounder and chief formulator at derma e.