In reasonable doses, sunlight enables natural immunity, promotes skin growth and healing, stimulates our “happy” hormone (serotonin), and contributes to an overall sense of well-being. Getting some sunlight for 15 or 20 minutes a day enables the body to manufacture vitamin D and is responsible for the synthesis of the pigment melanin, the skin’s natural sunscreen. The key is to be cautious while out in the sun and not block it out completely unless you have a history of skin cancer or have another condition which requires that you not be exposed to the sun, like an allergy. Gradually working up to an hour per day of exposure to the sun, outside of the prime hours between 10 AM and 3 PM, and wearing a hat to protect your face, should be relatively safe precautions for most adults. Always use caution in the sun during peak hours of exposure by covering up with light clothing and if you do choose to use a sunscreen, select one that is broad-spectrum with a minimum SPF of 15 that is natural and “non-nano”.
Nutrition to Protect Your Skin
Certain dietary habits can improve the appearance of your skin. Reducing saturated fat found in meats and dairy products, increasing essential fatty acids through regular consumption of fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil, as well as topping up your intake of red or orange vegetables and fruits rich in antioxidants (called flavonoids) may reduce skin cancer risk and improve the look of your skin. Aim to have a cup of berries once per day.
Research has also found a link between skin aging and excess sugar and simple carbohydrates. These foods cause an elevation of blood sugar and insulin levels that cause inflammation and contribute to wrinkles and aging. Stable insulin levels can be maintained by eating a balance of healthy fats, lean protein and low glycemic carbohydrates (oats, beans, sweet potato, green vegetables, or rye) with each meal and snack. A perfect lunch and dinner plate should have one-third salad with olive oil dressing; one-third grilled, steamed, baked or stir-fried vegetables; and one-third lean protein (or a serving about the size and width of your palm).
Supplements for Healthy Skin
There are nutrient supplements that you can take to help keep your skin looking healthy and which also reduce the risk of skin cancer:
1) Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and a component of collagen. Essential for tissue repair, healing and a healthy immune response, a typical dose is 500 – 3000mg per day.
2) Zinc – Like vitamin C, zinc is an antioxidant, essential for tissue repair and healing and is a component of collagen. Aim for 15 – 50 mg per day, but definitely not more than 100mg.
3) Vitamin E – Vitamin E, another antioxidant, has been found to be effective in reducing the risk of skin cancers. A mixed vitamin E, one that contains all eight types of tocopherols, rather than just d-alpha-tocopherol, is the most beneficial. Avoid all synthetic sources of vitamin E as they can do more harm than good.
4) Vitamin A – Another powerful antioxidant that has been proven effective in reducing the risk of skin cancer. A typical dose is 10,000IU per day. If you are pregnant, do not take supplements containing vitamin A beyond the amount found in your prenatal vitamin.
5) Omega 3s – Omega 3s are naturally anti-inflammatory and are highly moisturizing to the skin, let alone beneficial for the heart, brain and eyes too! The perfect amount is about 2 to 4 grams per day.
6) Selenium – Selenium is yet another antioxidant that has great promise in reducing the incidence of skin and other types of cancer.
Don’t forget to drink water!
Last but certainly not least, the most important component in your summer skin arsenal is reverse osmosis water – and lots of it. We can get dehydrated very quickly in the sun, which can cause us to look older, fast. Drink at least 2 litres of water each day, and even more if you are exercising.