Hopefully you have all been having a great time in the beautiful sunshine these last few days – it’s a great opportunity to spend more time outdoors. Whether that be pottering in the garden or going for long walks, having picnics in the park or barbeques with friends or sunbathing and enjoying everything else these warmer climes have to offer.
It is also a time when people start to think about their body shape and appearance as they dig out their summer clothes and dare to bare more skin. This is generally a very positive time for most people as our “winter blues” are improved and we begin to get more vitamin D from the sun and feel more energised. However, it is also a time when individuals can suffer from the negative effects from the sun such as prickly heat, sun stroke and sun burn. Damage to the skin from excessive sun exposure may not be a priority for those in their youth, however skin damage at any age is extremely detrimental and over time the harmful and ageing effects of the sun can become more apparent.
The skin is our largest organ and it provides us with a barrier against damaging pathogens entering our bodies such as bacteria and free radicals from our environment. In order to prevent these factors from entering our bodies, we need a high level of protection as they not only impact on our immune systems but they can also significantly contribute to ageing.
A recent review (1.) published by the journal Molecules analysed research findings available in the area of skin health and the effects of powerful antioxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. These free-radical scavengers are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and sweet potato.
The authors reported that these antioxidants enhance the skins ability to protect itself from oxidative stress as they act to mop up and destroy the free radicals that attempt to attack our skin and cause signs of ageing. However, the levels of these carotenoids are significantly affected by detrimental lifestyle factors. These include smoking or stress, poor diet, illness and exposure to the sun (especially sunburn) and were reported to significantly reduce the levels of concentrations of antioxidant carotenoids in human skin.
These factors can result in skin damage as they reduce our level of protection and speed up the ageing process which can result in sun spots, pigmentation, lines and wrinkles and sagging of the skin. The authors reported that increasing levels of carotenoids in dietary and supplemental forms was reportedly one of the best defensive approaches against ageing.
Therefore to help keep looking and feeling young, youthful and radiant, make sure you top up your levels of carotenoids and limit your exposure to the sun to keep your levels of these antioxidants high. Raw carrots dipped in hummus, tomato salads or roasted butternut squash are some ways of incorporating higher levels of these antioxidants into your diet. If you can’t stand vegetables or want to supplement your diet with an extra boost, then a high quality carotenoid supplement could be considered.
As well as protecting your skin from the inside, it is also important to protect your skin on the outside with good quality, high factor natural sun protection cream. You can find more blog posts about natural sunscreens here.
Written by Lauren Foster
1. Darvin, M.E., Sterry, W., Lademann, J. and Vergou, T. (2011) The Role of Carotenoids in Human Skin. Molecules 16, 10491-10506.
2. Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane