Summer Sun, Vitamin D and Sunscreen

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Summer Sun, Vitamin D and Sunscreen little girl with sunscreen

Much has been said about summer sun, Vitamin D absorption, and sunscreen use

Vitamin D performs many important functions in the body, from helping keep our bones strong to enhancing immune function and reducing inflammation. For many of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere or who spend much of our time indoors, we may suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be responsible for everything from depression to asthma to osteoporosis. Luckily, our doctor can order a simple blood test to check our Vitamin D levels.

If we’re found to be deficient in Vitamin D, we can increase our exposure to the sun by about 20 minutes/day. We can also take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Of course, it’s best to get one’s Vitamin D from whole foods. Some foods rich in Vitamin D include Shitake mushrooms, oily fish, eggs and fortified milks and grains.

But shouldn’t we wear a sunscreen when we’re out in the sun? We’ve been told to always use a sunscreen if we’re spending significant time outdoors. Using sunscreen can help lower the risk of skin cancer, and that’s a good thing. A recent study has also demonstrated that, depending upon the application, the body can still enough sun to produce Vitamin D, which is also a good thing.

This is particularly significant when we consider that children who get sunburned are at higher risk for developing skin cancer later in life. The type of sunscreen one uses is also important. There are two types of sunscreen – chemical and physical. An example of a chemical sunscreen is one that contains Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, or Helioplex. An example of a physical sunscreen is one containing Zinc and/or Titanium Oxide.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens have been known to cause allergic reactions and other adverse affects in and on the skin. They can be less stable than physical sunscreens, as well. Zinc oxide is a safe and effective physical sunscreen that works by blocking the sun’s rays from reacting with skin. It sits on the skin and is not absorbed, unlike chemical sunscreen ingredients, which are. Talk to a Dermatologist about the best sunscreen and SPF level for your skin type based on your health history and personal preferences.

So do use a sunscreen if you are going to be exposed to the sun. You can also wear hats and protective clothing if your skin is sensitive to a sunscreen’s ingredients. Finally, eating a well-rounded diet and taking a Vitamin D3 supplement will help you to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, regardless of your sunning habits.

References:
ACJN information about Vitamin D
Women’s Health article on sunscreen and Vitamin D production
Skinacea.com’s comparison chart on physical vs chemical sunscreen

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Diet and Your Skin

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Our diet has a huge impact on our skin.

We’ve often heard that “you are what you eat.” When it comes to your skin, the same is true. While many “fad” diets were developed to help people lose weight, little consideration is given to the impact that they have on the skin. The best diet consists of health-promoting foods that keep our skin healthy, too.

Our bodies function optimally at a very narrow pH – 7.3-7.5, which is slightly alkaline. Our diets can often create an acidic environment which can contribute to disease states in the body. The same can be said for our skin. Normal skin has an “acid mantle” somewhere near a pH of 5. Our skin produces sebum which creates a barrier. This prevents drying and protects the skin from harmful bacteria, while supporting beneficial bacteria. When this natural barrier is stripped away by harsh products, it creates an imbalance that can contribute to skin problems.

Our diets may also contribute to skin imbalance by creating an imbalance in the body. Our modern diets are often low in fiber and fresh vegetables, which can make our bodies work harder to digest food and can lead to kidney and gallstones. We often don’t drink enough water, which is needed for proper muscle, kidney and skin function. It also allows the body to flush out toxins and prevent dehydration. Fresh fruits and vegetables also have a high water content. The following foods can contribute to a healthy body and glowing skin:

1) Foods high in antioxidants like berries, spices, dark leafy greens, and green tea, help reduce free-radical damage on the skin as well as in the body.
2) Foods rich in Vitamins C (orange, pineapple, papaya) help to maintain skin integrity and promote healing.
3) Foods high in beta-carotene (squash, sweet potato, kale) can help protect against sun damage.
4) Foods irhc in Vitamine E (nuts, wheat germ, leafy greens, cold-pressed oils, fish oil) can help protect the body’s lipid-bearing membranes (including skin).
5) Drinking adequate fluids (purified water or herb tea) help prevent dehydration, which can cause skin drying and helps maintain the body’s normal functioning.
6) Foods high in fiber (wheat germ, beans, dark leafy greens) can help the body remove toxins from the body, while supporting beneficial gut bacteria.

By taking the time to find the right diet and skincare regimen, we can go a long way towards maintaining optimal health, inside and out.

References:
http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/anatomy/sebum.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18489300
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6243/How-to-Balance-Your-pH-to-Heal-Your-Body.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_antioxidants_in_food

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Acne Causes and Remedies

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What causes acne?

Acne is brought on by a number of causes. These can include an excess of dead skin thata clogs pores, excessive oil production, and trapped bacteria, which leads to infection and inflammation. Genetics may also contribute to the risk for developing acne.

Other factors have been found to make acne worse. An in crease in hormones in the bloodstream tends to create an excess in sebum production. Certain medications such as corticosteroids and lithium have been known to affect acne development. Diet has long been suspected of making acne worse; chocolate, refined carbohydrates and in some cases dairy, have been implicated. Excessive amounts of sugar create system-wide inflammation. Excess sun exposure can make acne worse by increasing the amount of sweat on the skin. Finally, stress can trigger an acne flare-up.

Acne Remedies

Gentle cleansing is effective in removing excess oil and sweat from the skin. You can use cleansing oils, if they are formulated to be light and mildly astrigent, as well.

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are well-known treatments for acne flareups. Oil-free moisturizers and toners that restore the skin’s acid mantle can help to prevent further breakouts.

Never squeeze blemishes. This can cause any underlying infection to spread, and it can lead to scarring.

Natural Acne Remedies

If you are searching for natural acne remedies, tea tree gels consisting of a 5% concentration of tea tree oil can be as effective as a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution. Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is distilled from a tree native to Australia. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties and it is astrigent, which can help dry up blemishes. In fact, it should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet. If the essential oil is too drying when applied directly to skin, it can be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba or grapeseed oil.

Lotions and creams containing alpha hydroxy acids can help the skin shed dead cells, thereby minimizing clogged pores. Azelaic acid, found in whole grain cereals, contains anti-bacterial properties. A 20% solution has been found to be effective. An example is Aziderm cream, available online. Creams containing zinc can help to reduce breakouts, and aloe vera gels (50%) can help soothe inflammation. An example is Ole Henriksen’s Vitamin Plus Mattifying Cream, available at Sephora and online.

Eating more omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, purslane, and fish oil supplements) can contribute to lower levels of inflammation throughout the body. Maintaining recommended levels of Vitamins A and E, as well as eating antioxidant-rich foods like colorful (organic) vegetables and berries, help the skin to heal and reduces oxidative stress to the skin. Vitamin E capsules can be opened and applied directly to skin, as well.

What’s important to remember is that acne is a common ailment, even in adulthood, but there are many things that you can do to help minimize its effects. You may wish to experiment until you find the remedies that work best for you.

References:

  • http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/acne#1
  • http://www.naturalnews.com/027237_acne_dairy.html
  • https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/Acne/
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