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Have you always loved the outdoors but didn’t always use sunscreen? Yeah, me too. We’ve all spent too much time at the pool or beach hoping to get a tan. We slathered 4 SPF sunscreen on (if we used any at all) and told ourselves we’d be out there for a little bit. We worked on our base tans like they actually protected us.
Those careless days in the sun in our 20’s are now showing up as sun-damaged skin in our 40’s and 50’s (or even 30’s). Dark spots, wrinkles, and moles we just noticed. Sun damage doesn’t just happen when we’re hanging out poolside – 75% of sun exposure is incidental, occurring during regular things like running errands or walking from the car into work.
But it’s not too late to take a healthy approach to sun safety, and here are 5 ways to naturally protect and repair sun-damaged skin.
In simplest terms, skin damage occurs from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays put out by the sun and tanning beds. As UV rays are absorbed into the skin, they damage the DNA of skin cells. A study, published in the medical journal Clinical, Cosmetic And Investigational Dermatology, of almost 300 women found that UV rays were responsible for 80.3% of skin’s aging, including wrinkles and skin texture changes.
One of the biggest problems with sun damage is that it’s cumulative, building over time from the first childhood exposures. Plus air pollution, cigarette smoke, and household chemicals add to environmental stress on the skin.
Free radicals, created through exposure to these pollutants, damage the skin’s structure through a process called oxidative photodamage (premature aging, lines, wrinkles, dullness, uneven tone, and loss of firmness). But you already know the sun does damage. So how to fix it? Read on.
For a deep-cleansing and detoxing, start with a citrus steam facial. The steam opens pores (to help eliminate toxins), increases circulation, softens dead skin cells, and helps alleviate clogged pores.
Pour hot water (preferably boiling, but DO NOT burn yourself) into a small bowl and add a few drops of citrus essential oil or peels from lime, lemon, or orange. Drape a towel over your head and place your clean face over the bowl. Sit comfortably, breathe deeply, and allow the steam to penetrate for 5-10 minutes. Note that citrus is a natural mood booster and contains powerful antioxidants and reduces inflammation.
Rinse with lots of cold water when you’ve finished, since it acts as an astringent, closing pores to help prevent pollutants from reentering skin.
After the facial cleanse, apply a natural serum or moisturizer loaded with antioxidants, which work synergistically to decrease harm from the sun and pollution as well as the breakdown of collagen. Look for serums with Vitamin E and CoEnzyme Q10 as well as botanicals.
By applying antioxidants immediately after steaming and cleansing, you allow the potent ingredients to penetrate as deeply into the skin as possible. These ingredients help lighten the spots you have now and also act to fend off future damage.
Vitamin A (aka Retinyl Palmitate), another crucial serum ingredient, is effective in rebuilding collagen to fight wrinkles and speed up the turnover and shedding of hyperpigmented cells.
Find a serum free of toxins and harsh chemicals. Many skincare and pharmaceutical products include paragons, a synthesized preservative that bioaccumulates and causes various long term issues. There are many others you should avoid, and in general, you should know what every single ingredient is (and how it affects your skin and body) within any product that touches your skin.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Retinoids and Vitamin A should only be applied at night. When exposed to the sun, skin cells suffer from DNA damage. Vitamin A causes cells to divide and multiply. Combining these 2 actions means that DNA-damaged skin cells multiply before they can be repaired by the body’s defense mechanisms, effectively locking in the damage. Vitamin A works authentic wonders on the skin when NOT exposed to UV light (for instance, overnight while sleeping).
To get the most from topical antioxidants, it is important the skin is nourished from both the outside and inside by ingesting certain vitamins and nutrients. Skin is the largest organ in the body and thrives when nourished with clean, whole foods.
UV rays destroy a lot of skin’s nutrients, and although vitamins may not completely reverse sun damage, eating foods high in antioxidants will help fight signs of aging and support skin health and the ability to repair itself. Antioxidants reduce the free radical effects of the sun, pollution, stress, and more, and they help face down oxidative photo-damage, which can lead to signs of premature aging like dullness, uneven tone, fine lines, and loss of firmness.
Vitamin C encourages the production of collagen in the skin. It’s also the most common antioxidant naturally found in the skin. Vitamin E is another antioxidant that battles the effects of free radicals and protects cell membranes against damage. It helps reduce sun damage and counteracts premature aging by preventing wrinkles and improving the texture of the skin. The antioxidant power of fat-soluble Vitamin E and water-soluble Vitamin C are synergistic and work better as a partnership.
Healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids keep skin looking young and radiant by increasing hydration and lowering inflammation. Chia seeds and flax seeds are both excellent sources of plant-based Omega-3 as well as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which benefits skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as B-vitamins for reduced dryness.
A common recommendation for health, drinking water is an important step in detoxing body and skin. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily water intake to around 91-125 ounces (it varies depending on gender, weight, and general health). Don’t worry if that sounds like a ton, these amounts include water from the food consumed.
While this is the daily recommendation to eliminate toxins from your body and stay hydrated, very few people actually get this much, and on top of that, drink dehydrating liquids like coffee, sugary juices, and alcohol. When we drink less water than we should, we tax our waste removal systems, hindering their ability to flush out potentially harmful toxins, as well as slowing skin metabolism and regeneration.
Also, don’t drink everything in one sitting. Flushing and waste removal requires a steady supply of fluid throughout the day. Keep in mind, skin hydration is more affected by the environment than by the amount of water consumed. Hanging in the Florida humidity will automatically make the skin more hydrated and plump than hiking in dry air.
For a detoxing boost, sip green tea made with pure water and lemon juice, and avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.
A solid 7-8 hours of sleep a night will help lose those dark circles around your eyes and improve skin tone. While sleeping, the skin is busy repairing itself. It generates new collagen, which helps prevent sagging and makes skin plumper and fuller and less likely to wrinkle. Because blood flow increases while you sleep, getting sufficient rest means you’ll wake up to a healthier complexion than otherwise.
Several studies suggest the magic happens between 11 and midnight. “That’s when cell mitosis—cell division that renews and repairs skin—is at its peak, whether you’re asleep or not,” says New York-based dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD. “This is when cells need nutrients the most, and when their anti-aging benefits have maximum impact.”
During deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allows damaged cells to become repaired. This renewal process speeds up during deep sleep. In roughly a month, the top skin layer will be fully regenerated. Nighttime is when skin does the bulk of its repair work, such as making new cells and mending or shedding old, damaged ones.
During the night hours, the skin makes the most of any serums applied. Skin gets warmer at night, so products seep in better and yield faster results.
It’s never too late to start protecting yourself against the harmful effects of the sun. Your skin even has the ability to repair some of the damage that’s already been done.
Safe sunscreen is the best way to protect against the sun and prevent future premature aging or damage. Daily safe sunscreen use may even lower the long-term risk of skin cancer. By reducing daily sun exposure, sunscreen allows the skin time to heal, and the immune system the chance to repair existing damage. Make absolutely sure your sunscreen doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that protect against sunburn without REALLY protecting against deeper skin damage.
You don’t have to accept aging skin as a preordained fact of life. Facials, topical antioxidants, eating, and living well and using the right tools for sun protection will repair your skin and keep it in shape, no matter what your age.
We built Waxhead’s four modern, sun-safety strategies on traditional methods used for thousands of years. #ThriveInTheSun