The spring and warm weather is now upon us. With it comes longer days, and time spent in the sun doing our favorite activities.
Spending time in the sun, and exposing our skin to sunlight can be very beneficial to our health. For example, the most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight. Large amounts of Vitamin D3 are made in the skin when our bodies are exposed to the sun (1). The process can happen in as quick as 15 minutes depending on the individuals skin tone. Vitamin D has many benefits including healthy bones, reduced risk of diabetes, healthy pregnancy, cancer prevention in addition to other important functions in the body. In addition to the positive effects of Vitamin D from the sun, our favorite times may be when we are able to enjoy the fresh air, and company of those around us.
While being outside and exposing our skin to the sun can be very enjoyable and beneficial, we do have to be careful with too much exposure. Without protection, the sun’s ultraviolet light CAN damage the fibers in the skin called elastin. When the fibers break down, skin begins to sag and lose its resilience (ability to go back in to place after stretching). In addition to skin elasticity being reduced by UV rays: rashes, damage to the eyes and major inflammation may occur without proper protection.
When we normally think of skin protection, the first thing that comes to mind is store bought sun screen. While sunscreen can be an important way to protect our skin from the damaging effects of UV rays, many traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that are toxic to the body. Unfortunately many of these chemicals can be more hazardous to the body than the UV rays themselves. For example: parabens are chemicals that have been measured in high concentrations in breast cancer tumors and disrupt the body’s hormone system. Cornell University has reported that a high lifelong exposure to estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. For a list of chemicals to avoid when choosing sunscreen and personal care products click Dirty Dozen. When choosing a sunscreen product look for one that is mineral based as they contain zinc oxide and has excellent UVA protection and no evidence of hormone disruption (6). The inside and outside of your body will thank you by choosing a safe sunscreen.
In addition to using mineral based skin protection, micronutrient supplementation can help in the bodies defense against oxidative stress that may occur with exposure to ultra violet rays. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University UV light exposure depletes antioxidant levels in the skin, therefore increasing antioxidant defenses in skin cells and nutritional support of cellular repair enzymes are important in limiting photo damage (7). Nutrients like grape seed extract and vitamin C are great for supporting the collagen in the skin. Studies have shown the power of grape seed extract to reinforce the strength of collagen (8). Vitamin also C plays an important role as well in keeping the fibers in collagen strong. Together Vitamin C+ Grape Seed Extract are are two powerful micro nutrients that help keep our skin healthy and strong. Because of the positive effects that these micro nutrients have, world renowned holistic nutrition specialist Dr Libby Weaver refers to Grape Seed Extract and Vitamin C as a “facelift in a bottle”.
In addition to Grape Seed Extract and Vitamin C being beneficial in skin health, essential fatty acids such as those found in fish oil can help as well. In a 2008 study done in The Journal of Clinical and Aestethic Dermatology, Omega-3s were found to reduce symptoms of rosacea. Similarly, researches at the photobiology unit at the University of Manchester discovered that omega-3 acicds in fish oil affected the body’s ability to fight skin cancer and infection. The research team also claimed that the oils reduced the suns impact on the immune system by half (9).
As always, when choosing a nutritional product it is important to choose one that is pharmaceutical grade, and formulated to be safe and effective for the body. Pharmaceutical grade products are designed to be potent, pure, and absorb-able. Micro nutrients in the right form, can play a large role in keeping our body healthy and fighting against oxidation from sun exposure and being outside.