As the long awaited first rays of summer sun begin to awaken us out of hibernation, the natural urge to escape outdoors can bring unique hazards to our skin. This vital layer that covers our body is our primary protector from external dangers. It not only prevents injury and infection, but also helps regulate our body temperature and excrete wastes. When compromised, either externally or from within, we are left susceptible to excessively dry skin, wrinkles, skin cancer, and various other diseases.
Beware the Sun
Ultra-violet rays pose the most serious threat to the health of our skin. While we need the sun to help with the production of vitamin D, over exposure leads to the breakdown of the genetic material in skin cells. It’s this damage that can promote wrinkles, dryness, and eventually cancer. Using a quality sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 is a good start in prevention. Don’t let cloudy skies be deceptive. UV rays are able to easily penetrate the clouds so wearing protective clothing at all times is important.
Hot summer days challenge the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Through the cooling action of perspiration we lose a great deal of water that needs to be replaced regularly. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day helps to moisturize our skin from the inside out.
A good quality moisturizing lotion is important year-round. In summer, the drying effects of the elements coupled with hazards such as swimming pool chlorine and increased air pollution call for special attention to the type of lotion you use. Choose a non-greasy moisturizer that is as natural as possible. Look for soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, and calendula. Using antioxidants such as vitamins E and A topically (internal use covered later) can also help prevent, and perhaps reverse, some of the damage caused by the sun.
Diet is Important
Many topical treatments reduce the symptoms of skin problems without addressing the underlying causes. Skin quality is often affected by dietary deficiencies. Numerous skin conditions can be prevented or treated with proper diet and supplementation. A wholesome, balanced diet that consists of ample fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is important. Plenty of fibre will also contribute to good skin, as it is essential to the detoxification process. Especially important is the avoidance of processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. These non-foods can be quite punishing to the skin.
Essential fatty acids, such as those found in flax seeds and evening primrose oil, help the skin maintain its suppleness and elasticity. Deficiencies of EFAs are hard to detect because they frequently encompass a wide variety of symptoms. Dry skin and hair, however, often respond to supplementation.
When the oxygen that our molecules are normally exposed to reacts with substances such as environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, or UV rays, it produces highly reactive material. This process, called oxidation, leads to the formation of free-radicals. Free radicals are high energy chemical substances. When produced in large quantities they are believed to be the basis for many disease processes like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. A diet and supplementation plan containing ample quantities of antioxidants can protect us from this process.
Antioxidents are nutrients that protect the cells in our bodies by neutralizing free-radicals. Vitamins A, E, and C, selenium, and ginkgo are powerful examples. These nutrients reduce the oxidation process and may help prevent, or even treat, many diseases. Because our skin is regularly exposed to both toxic substances and oxygen, it is particularly at risk.
Read some tips for Summer Skin Survival!