Growing up the fairest person in LA, I despised my skin. I found the process of protecting it exhausting and embarrassing. Everyone was comparing tans, while I thought about sun poisoning; I knew from experience how it would feel if I was out too long - one major reason why I love the shade. It may sound vain, but for the Shade Market Project (SMP), one of my biggest worries was my skin. I knew I would be working in the sun for much longer periods of time than I was used to. My concern went beyond the cosmetic; with skin cancer being one of the most common forms of cancer, taking care of my skin is of the utmost importance.
Skincare is often only discussed in the summertime, because the sun’s radiation is the main source of skin damage. But, even the cloudiest day of winter can hold up to 80% as much UV radiation as the hottest day of summer. UV rays can even affect you while you’re indoors and exposed to natural light or while driving in the car. Nearly all signs of skin aging can be attributed to sun exposure.
The most harmful UV rays are UVB and UVA. UVBs (UltraViolet B) are shorter wavelengths that reach more of the surface layers of your skin. Their damage is commonly seen in the form of a sunburn. UVAs (UltraViolet A) are longer wavelengths that penetrate deeper into the skin; so much so that they can reach your DNA. The damage from these rays is often seen in the form of skin aging and wrinkling. Unprotected exposure to both of these rays can easily develop into skin cancer. As opposed to popular disregard, even skin that tans and rarely burns can be affected by the sun’s harmful rays. The skin forms a tan in reaction to an injury of the DNA caused by the UVs (mostly UVAs); your skin darkens as it tries to protect your DNA from further damage. But, further damage (i.e. more tanning) can lead to skin cancer.
It seems as though we’re never safe from sun exposure, but we can take steps to avoid serious damage. Certain skincare products can protect you from from both UVA and UVB rays. There are also foods you can eat that help fight off the free radicals caused by the sun.
I have tried a number of sun care products. These particular ones have never let me down and are essential for everyday use. Their pricing might seem a bit high at first glance, but these are excellent products that will last a long time. Personally, it has been worth sacrificing other luxuries in order to afford high quality skin protection.
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic - A serum constructed with the proper amounts of antioxidants to make this product effective. CE Ferulic wards off free radicals which defends against premature signs of aging. It helps protect against UVB & UVA rays. I use this serum in the mornings, after washing my face and before applying moisturizer.
PeterThomasRoth Instant Mineral SPF 45 - A sheer powder, with a built-in brush, dispenses high amounts of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (sunscreen actives). It is packaged perfectly for on-the-go SPF touchups for face, neck and arms. I also love using it before outdoor workouts.
BurnOut Eco-Sensitive SPF 35 Sunscreen - Hands down, my favorite sunscreen. And, it’s quite affordable. Made by environmental scientist & surfer Kevin Dunn, BurnOut is a product that protects you from UVB & UVA rays, is safe for your skin and the environment.
As far as food is concerned, we now know that certain whole foods contain antioxidants and that antioxidants help fight free radicals. [If you missed it, be sure to check out Jason’s informative piece in The Breakdown discussing this topic.] Free radicals can harm your skin causing wrinkles, age spots, blemishes, dehydration and skin cancer. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-Carotene are antioxidants our skin needs to help protect it against free radicals. These antioxidants are not produced in the body and can only be acquired from outside sources, the chief source being food.
Vitamin C sources: Many different citrus fruits and pineapples have large amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps produce collagen, boosts the immune system and encourages blemishes to heal. Citrus fruits are best in the winter, so stock up before it gets too warm.
Vitamin E sources: Hazelnuts, almonds and other nuts are great providers of vitamin E which gives skin that healthy glow and protects it from oxidative damage.
Beta-Carotene sources: Kale is available in North America most of the year, but the colder months is when it’s best. Beta-Carotene strengthens normal skin development and helps create an even skin tone. It can also be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, papayas and other dark greens.
I’ve come to terms with my lack of natural skin protection. These products and foods have become part of my routine, making it simple and even enjoyable to shield my skin. Where I once felt contempt for being pale, I now respect it and am proud to say that I never gave in to the peer pressure using of a tanning bed.