We all know how lovely the sunshine is, especially after long wintery grey days. Often we crave for sunlight because of its many positive actions on our life – such as helping to produce serotonin, (the happiness hormone), stimulating the immune system or converting Vitamin D into its active form, enhancing the health of our bones.
But sun protection is important for our skin’s health. During the summer the light is much more intense and we are at risk of over-exposure to UV rays: they damage the skin, oxidizing the epithelial cells (free radicals), making them prone to inflammation and the ageing process, altering their DNA.
Another risk is the loss of water due to heat, sweating and swimming in the sea. Sea water with its high salt content dehydrates the skin: the skin becomes harder, less elastic and opaque.
Many recent discoveries identify in the carotenoids family the best free radicals “scavengers”: alpha, beta and gamma carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin: they can be taken orally or applied to the skin through good organic skin products.
Carrot, cherry, pomegranate and tomato juice are some great examples of best summer skin friends. The other family of naturally-occurring “friends for the skin” are the Essential Fatty Acids, particularly Omega 3 and Omega 6, but not forgetting Omega 9: these all keep the skin moist and soft, reduce damage from UV rays and make the skin glow: a wonder from Nature.
The key to healthy, calm skin when it’s exposed to the welcome sunshine lies in looking after its natural lipid barrier, so underneath your daily SPF give your skin enough antioxidant protection to help neutralise free radical damage to the skin’s collagen.
Avoid soapy cleansers and harsh exfoliators and keep skin well moisturised and cool all day long. If your skin is very sensitive use a body oil even before the shower during the summer months to reduce stinging as the water hits your skin. Always shower with lukewarm water. Avoid exposure to direct sunshine between 11am and 4pm if you want to prevent skin irritation.
Dr Mariano Spiezia