Summer Skin 101

By Dr. Natasha Turner, ND

The springtime sunshine is a welcome sight after the long, cold winter, and a wonderful reminder summer is just around the corner. And with that comes the elusive question — can I tan or not? So many of us love the look of a sun-kissed glow, though there is no doubt excessive sun exposure can cause skin damage and accelerated aging. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your skin and even repair the damage from your bad sun habits of the past.

Safe sun guidelines for your skin
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, such as an allergy, that requires you not be exposed to the sun. Gradually working up to an hour per day of exposure to the sun, outside of the prime hours between 10am and 3pm, 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 30. I prefer sunscreens that are free of harmful chemicals like parabens. 

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, may help 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 could have a role 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, as well as beneficial for the heart, brain and eyes! The perfect amount is about 2-4 grams per day.

6. Selenium: Selenium is yet another antioxidant that could have promise in reducing the incidence of skin and other types of cancer.

Topical treatments to reverse sun damage                                                                                              1. Coenzyme Q10: A report in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology showed that CoQ10 may reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and an earlier study in Germany found that CoQ10 improved the skin’s resistance to the oxidative stress of UV radiation and, when applied long-term, could reduce the appearance of crow’s feet.

2. Vitamin C: One of my must-have skincare products is a topical vitamin C serum. This can increase the production of collagen in the skin, produce skin cell growth, and aid in regeneration. The results? Younger looking skin and improved firmness.

3. Vitamin A: Topical products containing natural forms of vitamin A (retinol, retinaldehyde) or vitamin A derivatives (called retinoids) are beneficial for sun-damaged skin. These products also slow down the signs of aging. The journal Dermatology Surgery reported that vitamin A was an effective and well-tolerated treatment for photo-damaged facial skin, and reduced fine and large wrinkles, acne, liver spots and surface roughness. To avoid over-exfoliating the skin, I recommend using a vitamin A cream only one to two times per week, and it should not be applied before periods of sun exposure.

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 two litres of water each day, and even more if you are exercising.

Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner, ND, is a regular guest expert on The Dr. Oz Show, the founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique, and the author of three internationally bestselling books: The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program.


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