The last few days have seen warnings issued by the Met office and the government regarding the heat wave and how to stay safe in the sun.
By now we should all be aware of the health benefits of some sun exposure – helping to top up our Vitamin D levels – and the downsides – skin cancers and ageing skin.
For us sun-starved Brits it can be almost impossible to avoid the allure of a lovely tan but the unseen damage to our skin once the tan fades can continue to contribute to wrinkles, sun spots, dryness and even more serious skin damage etc.
So this blog is about nutrients that can help to protect the skin and minimise damage from within.
Firstly, make sure your detox mechanisms are in tiptop condition! You need to have your liver and digestive system working efficiently in order to support digestion and elimination. Make sure you have good gut bacteria (found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, apple cider vinegar, natural bio yoghurts) and that you support your liver with friendly foods such as watercress, beetroot, rocket, the onion family, celery and fennel.
Water is important to help the detox process including elimination. It’s easy to become dehydrated in hot weather and after exercise. We should be aiming for 6-8 glasses of water daily. I have taken to adding a big bunch of fresh mint to a jug of water and muddling it around the release the flavour, adding lemon and lime slices and drinking that throughout the day to keep refreshed. If you find it difficult to remember to drink then use the timer on your phone as a reminder.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that works with sulphur to help form collagen the ‘glue’ that holds our skin and bones together. Fortunately Vitamin C is easy to get into the diet if you eat plenty of vegetables and fruits eg: green vegetables, bell peppers, kiwi fruit and strawberries as well as all citrus. We can’t store Vitamin C in our bodies so we need to ensure we eat it regularly – another reason to get those 7 daily portions of veg and fruit.
Vitamin A is crucial for all the epithelial or ‘lining’ tissues in our body including the skin. In fact Vitamin A is often prescribed in very high doses for those who suffer acne (this must be done under medical supervision because Vitamin A in large doses is toxic to the liver). Vitamin A is also very healing and will help reverse sun damage. This vitamin is found as beta-carotene in plants which our bodies then convert into the active form. So include not only orange veg such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes but leafy green veg such as kale and spinach.
Zinc has positive effects in tissue healing and is essential for regular cell growth and regeneration. You can find it in all red meats, eggs, seafoods, nuts, legumes and beans and wholegrains.
Essential fats are necessary for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, E, D and K. They are also anti-inflammatory so can be useful for all sorts of problem skin conditions such as acne, dry patches, eczema and psoriasis. Add oily fish (mackerel, sardines, wild salmon, herring), nuts and seeds to your diet especially flax (linseeds) and chia which both provide good sources of omega 3 fatty acids – the seeds contain fibre which helps support liver detoxification.
Sulphur is a mineral that is found in abundance in every cell within the body. It is important for the formation of collagen and keratin, both constituents of skin. Sulphur is needed to help renew skin and also helps the healing process in damaged skin: think exposure to the sun as well as wounds etc. You can find sulphur in pasture fed meats such as beef and chicken, beans and legumes, eggs, brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, bok choi etc.
I think I probably write this in virtually every blog I post but…. CUT OUT SUGAR! Excess sugar can depress the immune system and contributes to the formation of advanced glycation end products, AGEs which trigger an inflammatory response causing tissue damage and premature ageing. Excess sugar and refined carbs also attack collagen (necessary for skin elasticity) and can contribute to dryness, acne and wrinkles.
If you have been out in the sun include the following products to help moisturise and protect the skin:
Aloe Vera gel is soothing and helps to calm inflammation reducing soreness and redness on sunburnt skin.
Hyalouronic Acidis found in many skin products and is known for its anti-ageing properties. Hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge holding water in the skin, helping to plump out the skin and reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles with the added benefit of improving the skin’s hydration and texture.
Rosehip seed oil helps to replenish dry and damaged skin and promotes elasticity and firmness. Research studies confirm that the oil is highly effective in the treatment of premature ageing, producing a dramatic effect on fine lines and wrinkles. It may also help to reduce pigmentation and scarring.
Finally, choose a skin regime appropriate for your age and skin condition and remember that most skin specialists recommend the use of sunscreen all year round for the face.