The summer holidays are drawing near and the fine weather has finally returned. The sun’s shining, the temperature’s rising, the beaches and terraces are starting to fill up. But have you given any thought to preparing your skin for the sun? Both friend and enemy, the sun may be good for our complexion and mood, but without adequate preparation, it can equally cause us harm. When our skin and bodies come under attack from UV rays, the consequences can include dry skin, dehydration, sun burn and DNA damage. To make sure you benefit from the sun safely, it is vital to prepare your skin properly. A number of natural molecules have been proven to help do just that. Let’s take a look at the latest research findings.
Importance of good hydration for skin condition and complexion
Moisturise your skin well before exposure to the sun
Good hydration before, after and during exposure to the sun is essential both for the body in general and the skin specifically, in order to maximise protection against the sun’s harmful effects and achieve an optimal tan. A number of solutions are available to help achieve this. Moisturising creams are a well-known option but oral dietary supplements can also be very effective in hydrating the skin. This is particularly the case for formulations enriched with wheat ceramides, the efficacy of which has been confirmed by in vitro
tests and clinical studies.
Why choose a ceramide supplement?
Ceramides are lipids which are naturally present in the skin, accounting for around 40% of the lipids in the stratum corneum, the outermost upper layer of the skin. In direct contact with the external environment, the stratum corneum plays an essential role in protecting the skin. The ceramides it contains primarily ensure the skin’s hydration and impermeability, important functions which have made ceramides the subject of numerous scientific studies. Published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science1
, one such study focused on the potential of supplementing with ceramides to prevent skin dryness. The study involved 51 women aged 20-63 with dry skin. Subjects were divided into two groups, one given a placebo and the other 350mg of a formulation containing wheat ceramides. After three months, the scientists observed an overall improvement in skin condition in the supplemented group. This result confirms the benefits of supplementing with ceramides
for preparing the skin for exposure to the sun and countering skin dryness.
Potential of certain nutrients to combat the harmful effects of the sun
Protecting cells against UV damage
As well as dehydrating the skin and body, the sun can cause significant damage to the skin. Repeated, excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays can result in problems of varying severity including sunburn, photodermatoses and skin cancer. These are linked to the production of free radicals, highly reactive species which are responsible for cell damage and ageing of the skin. It is therefore important to limit your exposure to UV rays by using a topical sunscreen, though it must be said that this will not provide complete, unlimited protection. In addition, natural antioxidants – found in certain foods and in a number of dietary supplements - can also help fight the damaging effects of free radicals.
Why supplement with polyphenols and carotenoids?
Polyphenols and carotenoids are among the most widely-studied natural antioxidants. Their photoprotective effects were the subject of an article in the Annual Review of Nutrition2
. According to its authors, carotenoids are particularly effective at protecting the skin and eyes, two areas of the body significantly affected by ultraviolet radiation. In the skin, carotenoids may, in particular, reduce sunburn intensity. Carotenoid blends have thus been formulated offering these protective effects. The formulation Carottol™
from Supersmart includes beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Certain polyphenols similarly offer photoprotective effects. They include catechins, present in green tea, which have been shown to reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure. Researchers have, in particular, observed benefits against skin damage, sunburn and lipid peroxidation. An extract of green tea standardised in catechins
is now available offering the skin-protective benefits of green tea polyphenols.
Protecting your ‘sun resistance’ for an optimal tan
Maintaining your sun resistance while tanning
Some people have greater resistance to the sun than others. Research shows that each of us has an innate ability to withstand a certain amount of ultraviolet rays. Such inherent sun resistance is not, however, renewable and becomes depleted over a lifetime. It varies according to phototype - the amount of melanin in our skin. Production of melanin increases as a reaction to the sun’s rays, resulting in tanning of the skin. However, this very much depends on the quality and quantity of melanin which is why researchers are interested in the potential of melanin supplementation to speed up the tanning process.
Why choose melanin supplements?
Research has identified two natural forms of melanin: pheomelanin which has a lighter red/yellow colour, and eumelanin which is darker brown/black. Published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology3
, a study has shown that eumelanin has a greater photoprotective effect than pheomelanin. It reduces and destroys free radicals generated by exposure to the sun. It also acts as a physical barrier, filtering out UV rays. Levels of eumelanin are three to six times higher in people with dark skin than in their fair-skinned counterparts which is why the latter are considered to be more sensitive to the sun. In addition, the quantity and quality of melanin has been shown to have an impact on the intensity and duration of a suntan. Research has enabled the development of melanin-rich dietary supplements that offer the protective and tan-enhancing benefits of this pigment. One such product is Tan-Aid from Supersmart
, formulated from a keratin hydrolysate from the wool of black sheep which is naturally rich in melanin.
> Sources :
1. S. Guillou, S. Ghabri, C. Jannot, E. Gaillard, I. Lamour, S. Boisnic, The moisturizing effect of a wheat extract food supplement on women’s skin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Volume 33, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 138–143.
2. Helmut Sies, Wilhelm Stahl, Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight, Annual Review of Nutrition, July 2004, Vol. 24:173-200.
3. Michaela Brenner, Vincent J. Hearing, The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin, Photochemistry and Photobiology, Volume 84, Issue 3, May/June 2008, Pages 539–549.