With Fall here and winter approaching your first impulse might be to ease up on your sun protection. Don’t. Sun safety and protecting your skin against UV damage is a year-round commitment. According to Bruce E. Katz, the director of JUVA Skin & Laser Center in New York, “The sun’s harmful rays are just as strong and damaging despite what your thermometer says— particularly the UVA rays which are responsible for aging skin. UVA radiation reaches deeper into the skin and contributes to wrinkles and skin cancer risk. Nearly all (95 percent) of the UV radiation that we are exposed to is UVA.”
What is UVA?
To break it down, Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. UV radiation has wavelengths shorter than visible light which make it invisible to the naked eye. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer wave of the two and the UV ray that causes lasting skin damage, skin aging, and can cause skin cancer. The shorter UV wave is Ultraviolet B (UVB). Ultraviolet B rays are what cause sunburns, skin damage, and possible skin cancer. By damaging the skin’s cellular DNA, excessive UV radiation produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have identified UV as a proven human carcinogen.
UVA and Skin Cancer
The rise in the incidence of skin cancers over the past decades is strongly related to increasingly popular outdoor activities and recreational exposure. According to Alex A. Khadavi, the founder of Advanced Skin & Hair, “Reflection of radiation from snow requires aggressive sunscreen protection, maybe even more than summertime as individuals participate in snow activities like skiing and snowboarding. Almost 80 percent of UV radiation is reflected from snow while only 25 percent from sand.”
About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system. Because UV damage is mostly avoidable, experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer are preventable. Because sun damage builds up over time sunscreen should be applied liberally and evenly to any exposed skin. Sunscreen should be used everyday, even if it’s cloudy and sun does not appear to be present or in the forecast. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF), up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds. The SCF also reports that this is the reason people often end up with serious sunburns on overcast days if they’ve spent time outside with no sun protection.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Other types of sunscreen may help prevent sunburn, but they will not protect against skin cancer. Repeated sun exposure is the leading cause of premature skin aging. This is known as photoaging. It occurs because the sun’s ultraviolet rays alter the normal structure of the skin, causing the appearance of wrinkles and brown spots.
For more information on Vitamin D and what types of sunscreens to use, click here.
Many consumers, both men and women, have probably asked themselves “why exfoliate?” After all, it’s an additional step in one’s skincare routine, so it’s important to know why it can be beneficial for the skin (when done properly).
What does “exfoliate” mean? Broadly stated, it involves rubbing a granular substance on the skin to help remove dead cells from the skin. There are many ways to do this: 1) using a loofah or washcloth; 2) using an exfoliating soap or scrub; 3) using a brush; 4) using a chemical (AHA or BHA) peel or other treatment. Exfoliation can be useful as we get older, when our body’s ability to slough off dead skin diminishes. In order to prevent buildup that can lead to skin dullness and clogged pores, exfoliating is a useful addition to a skincare regimen. It need not be done every day to be effective.
There are pluses and minuses to using the above-mentioned methods to remove dead skin cells. Loofahs are difficult to keep clean, for example, and must be disinfected regularly. They should not be shared. Washcloths should be tossed in the washer regularly, as well, but they are easier to keep clean. Exfoliating soaps are easy to use and often contain natural exfoliants like sea salt, sand, clay, oatmeal, etc. Fortunately, the US banned the use of plastic beads in skincare products recently. There are many more earth-friendly alternatives that one can look for in their products, like jojoba beads, walnut shells, or the items mentioned previously.
Sugar scrubs (like our Body Smoother sold here) are gentler than salt scrubs and help to draw moisture into the skin. Body brushes can also be used for “dry brushing” which can improve circulation overall. Choose the product that best suits your type of skin and your lifestyle.
Perhaps the harshest products for sensitive skin are the chemical peels and other Alpha hydroxy or Beta hydroxy acid treatments on the market. Designed to speed cell turnover, they are often administered in a dermatologist’s office. However, many milder DIY treatments are available. It’s important to follow instructions and not over-indulge in these treatments, as they can still cause irritation. They also make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so a good sunscreen is a must. Treatments containing salicylic acid (a Beta hydroxy acid) can also penetrate skin and help with conditions ranging from acne to keratosis pilaris (those annoying bumps on the backs of the arms, etc.)
If you decide to exfoliate regularly, it’s a good idea to start slowly – say, two to three times a week before bedtime. If you notice any sign of irritation, cut back or try a gentler exfoliating product. Moisturize immediately following exfoliation to soothe and lock in moisture. Use a barrier sunscreen when going outdoors to prevent sun damage. And if you notice any unusual changes in your skin that don’t disappear, see a doctor. If you follow these steps, chances are you will be rewarded with smoother, clearer, and younger-looking skin.
References:3 Ways Sugar is Good for Your Skin by the Huffington Post
What’s really lurking on your loofah article
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.
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