Beautiful Glowing Skin All Summer Long
As the days get longer and warmer people feel like spending time outside and start thinking of summer vacations.
The beginning of the summer is often accompanied by the media scare about the “dangers of sun exposure”.
Before we jump into our discussion, I would like to share some data.
According to a survey by Statistics Canada, 32% of Canadians have insufficient vitamin D levels (under 50 nmol/L) and 10% are deficient (under 30 nmol/L). The national average is 64 nmol/L, well below the recently proposed optimum range of 75-80 nmol/L.
The skin produces vitamin D in response to UVB rays, hence the importance of adequate sun exposure.
“Skin-prep” - Sun Ready Skin
Proper exfoliation before sun exposure will ensure that old skin layers are shed off, exposing the new fresh skin underneath. This will allow for a tan that lasts a few days to a few weeks longer!
My favourite way to exfoliate the body is using the method called “dry brushing”. This is done on dry skin using a brush in gentle, circular motions towards the heart. This procedure is great to remove dead skin cells and to detoxify the body supporting the lymphatic system. Incidentally, this massage helps reducing cellulitis!
I usually recommend fruit acid peel for face exfoliation; they are less likely to cause irritations than products containing abrasive granules, and tend to promote deeper skin regeneration, especially when containing glycolic acid.
Remember never to exfoliate during the days immediately before and after sun exposure, as this may increase the risk of sunburns and irritations!
Another point to keep in mind is hydration. Healthy skin contains 10-20% water. The sun absorbs water from you skin; when your skin becomes dehydrated it is less effective as a protective barrier and therefore it tends to react easily and present symptoms of prematurely aged skin.
During hot summer, days remember to drink plenty of water and increase your intake of water-rich foods.
The latest novelty to ensure beautiful complexion and no burns comes from a pigment called astaxanthin, the most potent antioxidant nature has to offer.
The microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis protects itself from UV radiation by producing astaxanthin as a natural sunscreen. When you consume this pigment, you are creating your own internal sunscreen, protecting your cells, organs and tissues from oxidative damage.
A study by Cyanotech Corporation showed that in two weeks of taking 4mg of astaxanthin per day, subjects showed a significant increase (20%) in the amount of UV radiation necessary to redden their skin.
Other benefits of astaxanthin for skincare include fewer fine lines, better moisture, increased tone and elasticity, fewer freckles, less puffiness and a more attractive look!
The last topic of our skin-prep section regards increased sun sensitivity caused by certain substances.
Chemicals contained in plants and pharmaceuticals including citrus fruit essential oils, remedies containing St. John's Wort, antibiotics, birth control pill, antihistamines, and many more can make you more vulnerable to sun burns. Always check with a pharmacist or doctor if your medication causes photosensitivity.
Also remember that pregnant women and children tend to be more sensitive to UV rays.
The Way Out of the Sunscreen Maze
There is a lot of confusion out there regarding how to pick the healthiest sunscreen. Let's see if we can shed some light on this topic.
Sunscreens are divided into two categories: physical and chemical shields.
Chemical shields reach high levels of SPF but present issues including stability, environmental toxicity, bioaccumulation and hormonal disrupting activity.
Due to the above-mentioned concerns physical shields are preferable, these are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Because of their potential reactivity, some cosmetic preparations contain zinc and titanium particles “coated” with other substances, including silicone. In this case the sunscreens are not considered environmentally friendly.
Zinc oxide appears to be the safest. It is more effective against UVA rays, but some cosmetic formulations allow for UVB protection as well. Due to the lack of long term evidence regarding the safety of nano materials, non-nano zinc oxide is to be preferred.
Titanium Dioxide is effective against UVB rays, but there are concerns regarding the release of free radicals, especially when it is found in micronized form (nano), which is the most common.
Here are some practical guidelines to keep in mind when using a sunscreen.
- Prefer preparations containing non-nano, non-coated zinc oxide.
- Always shower after sun exposure.
- If the sunscreen contains titanium, make sure that antioxidants are present as well, examples include: grape seed extract, carrot oil, green tea extract, resveratrol, and vitamin C.
- If using chemical shields make sure the products contain Tinosorb S (Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenyl Triazine) and M (Methyilene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbuthylphenol) or Mexoryl XL (Drometrizole Trisiloxane) and SX (Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Ac); these ensure chemical stability and less toxicity.
- Declared SPFs are based on the assumption that sunscreens are re-applied every 2 to 3 hours and at least 2mg per 1/2 square inch of skin (about 2.5ml for face and neck); that is a lot of cream. Inferior quantities will lower the SPF!
- Where UV intensity is high sunscreens are not enough; limit overall sun exposure with large hats, shirts and umbrellas.
Tomato-red skin, no thanks! - After-sun Skin Rescue
Do we really need an after-sun product? When sun exposure is prolonged, if there is any sign of redness, or if you want a long lasting tan and luminous skin, you do! After a shower with a mild body wash, the best after-sun treatment is a simple combination of aloe vera gel and shea butter; it hydrates and nourishes the skin, while calming irritations. This is my recipe for a refreshing after-sun lotion:
- 1 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gel;
- 1 Tsp Shea Butter;
- 1 Drop Peppermint Oil;
- 1 Drop Lavender Oil;
- 1 Drop Geranium Oil.
Allow the shea butter to soften in your hand then mix all ingredients and apply liberally on face and body, avoid eyes and lips.<