Protecting Skin Health – from the Inside Out

After a long winter, it feels good to shed the layers and enjoy a little bit of warmth and sunshine. However, increasing awareness of the dangers of UVA and UVB radiation, including skin cancer, can be enough to keep you covered up. With proper precautions, however, you can enjoy the sun – and reap the health benefits.

Balancing the benefits vs. risks

The human body is designed to use sunlight. Our sleep patterns are based on the rising and setting of the sun. Our skin uses the sun to make Vitamin D which our bodies need for bone function. Even our moods can be affected by sunlight. Yet the sun’s ultraviolet rays are so powerful, that just 15 minutes of exposure is enough to damage your skin. So how do you balance the risks of sun exposure with the health benefits? Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is the key:

  1. Sunscreen. Always use sunscreen and reapply often – especially after swimming or sweating. Look for sunscreen protection in your cosmetics as well, including lip balm. 
  2. Cover up. Keep skin covered with lightweight clothing, protect your face, neck and ears with a wide-brimmed hat, and look for sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. 
  3. Seek shade. When the sun is highest in the sky, take a break from the sun and head for cover.

Not all sunscreens are created equally

When you walk into the pharmacy, you’ll be greeted by an array of sunscreens. How do you know which one to choose to get maximum protection? Consider these three factors:

  1. Broad spectrum. If the label doesn’t say “broad spectrum,” it is not giving you complete protection. Broad spectrum blocks both UVA and UVB rays. 
  2. SPF 30. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher. SPF – or sun protection factor – indicates how long protection against UVB rays will last. No sunscreen blocks 100% of UVB rays, and higher SPFs are not much more protective than SPFs of 30 or 50.
  3. Water resistant. Water resistant does not mean waterproof, and you will still need to reapply, but water resistance should last 40-80 minutes.

Make sure you apply sunscreen liberally (about 1 oz. for the average adult) to all exposed skin before heading out and then reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget your lips – use a lip balm with at least SPF 15.

Increasing your natural protection

In addition to taking external precautions, there are things that you can do to keep your skin healthy from the inside out and increase its resistance to the sun’s harmful effects. Topping the list: antioxidants.

Antioxidants prevent DNA damage, decreasing mutations and reducing skin cancer risk and their anti-inflammatory properties guard against sunburn. So, can a salad really help prevent a sunburn? Short answer – yes. Carotenoids, which give pigment to orange and red vegetables and fruits, can help offer natural sun protection. Carotenoids, which include lycopene, lutein and beta carotene, accumulate in your skin to absorb sunlight and can help against skin damage and prevent premature aging. 

So next time you’re at the grocery store, load up on tomatoes (lycopene), sweet potato (beta carotene), spinach (beta carotene), berries (polyphenols), grapes (polyphenols), pomegranates (polyphenols), oranges (Vitamin C), fatty fish (omega-3s), and walnuts (omega-3s). Your skin will thank you!

We’re here to help

If you need advice selecting a sunscreen product or are looking for relief from a sunburn, talk to our pharmacist – we are always happy to help!

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