The sun and I have a complicated relationship. For instance, I can picture no better afternoon than laying out in the grass and reading a book on a sunny, summer day. Yet, within 10 minutes of stepping outside, I can practically feel my skin tighten and start burning to a crisp. This is the struggle for everyone who – like myself – has the skin tone of Dracula’s anemic daughter. Not to mention my mild-case of hypochondria; which causes me to immediately run back indoors, fling-shut the drapes, and then spend the next three hours reading WebMD articles about skin cancer.
Medical paranoia aside, many of us battle similar issues: Am I getting too much sun? Am I damaging my skin? How do I prevent more damage, and fix what that malicious glowing cosmic orb has done to me?? For years, I thought that a generous application of SPF 300 sunscreen would save my brittle flesh from the onslaught of solar radiation. But now, it seems that even that might not really help.
In an article recently posted by Time Magazine, it was revealed that in 2015 The Environmental Working Group (EWG) – an agency that specializes in the research of toxic chemicals and corporate accountability – found that almost 80% of sun-blocking products on the market are completely ineffective, and many even contain chemicals that are harmful to skin.
So, if my astronaut-tested, lead-laced, sunscreen SPF 2,000 doesn’t work … What am I supposed to do? I mean c’mon, it’s almost June and I have plans to pass out at the pool by 3pm clutching a half-full, shatter-proof wine glass. Get it together, science!
(BTW, did you notice how I said “half-full” wine glass right there? Optimism is a choice, folks. Someone tell my therapist how well I’m doing!)
But I digress …
It seems that, although topical options (sunblock, lip balm, etc.) aren’t so great, there might other ways to protect yourself from the sun giving you a wicked case of GoT-style Greyscale. I give you: Vitamins to prevent, and help repair, damage from the sun!
Yes, apparently, skin-specialists now believe that they should treat skin health/protection systemically. By providing your body with an abundance of natural, nutritionally-based, tools to guard against the sun’s rays you will not have to rely solely on the protection of – possibly toxic – creams and lotions.
But first, we need to understand the birds-eye view of why the sun messes with the health of our skin.
The Sun and Free Radicals
The main reason why the sun and skin-damage are often used in the same sentence is due to free radicals. Free radicals are the byproduct of several common metabolic processes that happen in your body that can cause damage to your cells, nuclear proteins, and even your DNA. However, free radicals are an important part of our normal – healthy – bodily functions. In fact, they play a large part in turning food and oxygen into chemical energy that your body uses to, you know … Live.
Yet, there are many dietary and environmental factors that could cause a buildup of free radicals, thereby damaging your entire body, especially your skin. Some notable sources of unsafe levels of free radicals are: cigarettes, fried foods, alcohol, and (especially) the sun. So, basically 97% of your summer weekends are a glorified free radical binge-session. To quote a wise Great Dane, “Ruh-roh!”
There are natural ways to counter-act an elevated number of free radicals in your system however: Antioxidants.
Antioxidants have long been praised for their ability to fight the aging process. That is because (among other things) they directly counter act free radical damage that can cause premature skin damage and sagging. So, it was assumed that by adding a few antioxidants to topical skin-care products, you could be adequately protected from sun damage. Though, unfortunately, the antioxidant vitamins that you need most (Selenium, E, and C) do not absorb properly through the skin.
Thankfully, you can find these elements in nutritional supplements such as the all-natural, research-backed, nutraceuticals available through Pharmaden, which will leave your body better protected from the inside out. And these vitamins don’t only protect against the sun:
Helps protect the body from cancers (including skin cancer from overexposure to sunlight), preserves the skins elasticity, and prevents hardening of your cells.
- Vitamin E:
Aids the health of the cell membrane, prevents damage to your bodily enzymes, helps inactive free radicals (making them less likely to cause harm), limits the production of cancer-causing cells, reduces photodamage/wrinkles, and improves skin texture.
- Vitamin C:
Repairs damaged skin, prevents cells from becoming cancerous, and decelerates the aging process.
While there are many topical products available at your local drug store that claim to contain these elements as “key ingredients”, the fact is that many times those statements are bold-faced lies. And – even for the few lotions that actually do include antioxidant vitamins – in many cases, they aren’t being absorbed efficiently into the body through the skin or are burned away on exposure to oxygen (as is the case with Vitamin C). Hence, our recommendation to look into a few good dietary aids.
Since the research on this subject is still relatively “new”, no one can say for certain that vitamins can totally prevent or treat catastrophic skin damage caused by exposure to daylight. But the preliminary studies have shown very promising results. What is certain though is that topical sunblock does not do the job it claims to be so successful at.
In order to protect yourself from the sun’s rays, we recommend limiting your exposure, wearing a high SPF topical ointment, AND getting enough healthy nourishment through diet and supplements so you are covered from multiple angles.