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Does the sun really harm my skin?

Posted on 6 June, 2015

Well if you don’t already know the answer to this then we have big problems! There is no question or doubt that sun exposure will prematurely age your skin.   The harmful rays of the sun include UVA & UVB light. UVB rays penetrate the skins’ superficial layers, contributing significantly to the development of cancer cells and also to pigment changes and ageing.   UVA rays affect the deeper layers of the skin and the cells that are responsible for the production of elastin and collagen. However UVA rays also contribute to the development of skin cancer.   We know that skin damage caused by the sun can result in cancer. Getting young people to take preventative action is difficult as health problems such as cancer and even heart disease can seem irrelevant at this point in life. It is generally during midlife that we begin to acknowledge that our bodies are not infallible.   In view of what we know about sun exposure it is ironic that those of us who are fair wish to be dark and those of us who are dark wish to be fair. The risks involved in attempting to lighten or darken skin are considerable but are not always acknowledged. In view of the overwhelming evidence it seems hard to believe that sunbed shops still exist and indeed are still in demand.   For those wishing for darker skin - my advice is simple - tan in a can! For those who wish to lighten their skin always seek professional medical advice before trying a treatment or product.   So despite my professional health background and the fact that I am a passionate believer in healthy living, I find that, in a society where we often feel the pressure to look our best, discussing the risks of sun damage from an aesthetic or ageing perspective can reach people more effectively.   What can we do about the risks of sun exposure?   It is not sensible to completely eliminate sun exposure from our daily lives as there are also desirable benefits from the sun - which are notably the absorption of vitamin d and the release of serotonin.   However, as I say to my clients, if you want to start spending money on your skin then get the basics right. One of the basics has to include the avoidance of sun exposure through using SPF. What does SPF mean? Sun Protection Factor - most people are already aware of SPF but what does that number on the front of the bottle really mean in relative terms? It may help to think of it like this. Your skin will still experience damage from the UVA and UVB rays but it will take longer for the results to show. Think of the number shown as the number of minutes it will take for your skin to react to the sunlight (if you were not wearing any protection). It is, therefore, not a perfect solution but it does help     Antioxidants   Antioxidants are molecules that stop the oxidation of other molecules resulting in the production of free radicals. Free radicals are mostly harmful: they cause damage by destroying the chemical makeup of other atoms and create a chain reaction sequence of events in the body resulting in the formation of wrinkles on the skin and more dangerously, plaque in arteries and cancer.   Antioxidants can be found in many natural food sources like fruit and vegetables, fish, seafood and red meat. Vitamin supplements are available to buy over the counter to increase our chances of achieving maximum dosages. Products like Collagen shots contain ingredients especially aimed at improving the texture and tone of the skin. Vitamin infusions are also now available. Following huge celebrity endorsement, this treatment aims to deliver a cocktail of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants directly to the blood stream bypassing the digestive system to increase absorption.   As I have mentioned in my previous article, 'Do Cosmetic Creams Work?' (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-cosmetic-creams-work-elizabeth-rimmer…)   The skin is the last part of the body to benefit from ingested nutrients and so the market for topical antioxidants grows. The trick with these products is to have the correct ingredient at the correct strength in the correct packaging so that the product remains active at the point of delivery.   Many skin products will boast the content of such ingredients but will be in too small a dose or contained in packaging that deems it inactive as soon as it has been opened.   The use of antioxidant supplements is a minefield. If you would like some guidance with this or sun protection advice get in touch with me and I can help make things a little clearer for you.