7 skin protection strategies

A scorching summer has arrived early for many of us. In preparation, understand your skins natural protective measures and seven strategies for managing exposure…

Skin Exposure to the Sun

Exposure to the sun is important for our health, albeit in small amounts, and for this reason you should know how much sun exposure your skin can handle. Researchers generally agree 12-15 minutes a day for Caucasians is safe, unless there are special considerations (for example, from taking medications that increase photosensitivity). It takes most of us longer than 12-15 minutes to find a park and walk to the beach, so we’ve listed some ways to stay sun safe without having to lock yourself in a dungeon.

Melanin and it’s role in skin protection

Melanin plays a key role in skin protection. It helps to soak up UV rays at the surface, and acts as an antioxidant, reducing cellular damage from radical oxidative species. The amount of melanin we produce depends on your natural skin pigmentation. Darker skin pigments are indicative of greater melanin production.

Darker skin pigmentation are linked with reduced vitamin D production from the sun – one study indicated African Americans need six times the exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D3 as Caucasians.

The risk of skin cancer caused by UV radiation is a major concern for many of us, but sun exposure can cause other problems for our skin. Dehydration and reduction of elasticity and strength increases the rate at which our skin wrinkles and sags. Skin thickening, translucency and sunspots also result from over exposure. Thankfully, there are a number of ways we can protect and repair our skin…

Combat the damaging effects of the sun in 7 simple steps

1. Grow Aloe Vera in your backyard / on your balcony. We all get stuck outside without sun protection at times, so have an effective recovery plan in place. Gently split open the leaf, squeeze the gel and apply to take the sting out of sunburn and cool the skin. These are perennials which should be easy to source from your local nursery.

2. Another great thing to look for is soy lotions. Ensuring you use the right moisturizer for external skin rehydration. Some moisturisers contain synthetic chemicals that increase the skin’s photo-sensitivity (parobens) and reduce the amount that the skin can “breathe”. Moisturisers containing petroleum trap the heat inside your skin. Benzocaine and lidocaine should be avoided as they can irritate the skin. See treatment tips from the American Academy of Dermatology.

3. Ensure your diet contains sun-protection helpers.. zincvitamin C and lycopene. Zinc is involved in repairing damaged skin and healing wounds, and used externally in the form of zinc oxide to protect your skin from UV rays. Vitamin C increases skin elasticity and reduces the rate your skin ages.

2011 study found the dietary intake of lycopene (via consumption of tomato paste) significantly increased sun protection for participants compared with controls. Lycopene is gives fruit and vegetables red colour. Tomato (and tomato products) are particularly great sources. Other natural sources of lycopene include watermelon, apricot and pink grapefruit. Lycopene supplements are also available and have a number of additional health benefits including supporting the prevention of heart disease and cancer.

4. Check the ingredients label on your sunscreen and educate yourself about what you’re putting on your skin and covering yourself with. Broad spectrum protects you from both UVA and UVB radiation. There are a number of natural broad spectrum sunscreens on the market with SPF 30+ protection containing reduced synthetic chemical content.

5. Remember that clothes and sunglasses don’t necessarily protect us from UV radiation. There is a growing market for sun protective clothing and accessories. Look for a UPF approved tag, or alternatively a paper bag for complete head protection.

6. Common sense prevails. Avoid spending too much time outdoors between 10am – 2pm or 11am – 3pm (daylight savings time). Wear protective clothing and sunglasses and try not to look directly in the sun unless you are an astronomer and know what you are doing. Know that you are exposed to high UV radiation even in the shade. And fill up the tank – stay hydrated.

7. Unless you’re going on Bondi Rescue, stay off the tanning beds. And remember you can get burnt sitting at your desk pretending to do work. Unless your window glass at home and/or at work has a UV ray block on it, you can still get sunburnt.

Enjoy the summer :)

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