A special Skin Health Education Report by Marilyn Territo, C.E., C.M.
Skin Care for Every Season
Many people are under the misconception that sun protection is only for sunny days of the year, usually the spring and summer months. Actually, the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays are affecting your skin 365 days a year, even on cloudy (80 percent of UV rays penetrate clouds), overcast, foggy, and rainy days. With fall and winter approaching, these seasons bring with them cold, biting winds, snow and ice, and dehydrating indoor heating. Also, snow and ice have surfaces that can reflect the sun’s rays onto your skin. This means that you have twice the UV exposure, both direct and indirect (reflective). All of these conditions can take a serious toll on your skin. So, don’t put away your sunscreen. It is an important part of your daily skin care regimen for all four seasons in the sun.
The word protection has taken on a new meaning as environmental aggressors continue to combine to create a toxic cocktail that is detrimental to our health and skin. It is estimated that 90 percent of skin aging is caused from UV radiation from sun exposure. It is at the top of the list as a major contributor to skin damage and the destruction of collagen, resulting in fine and deep lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and age spots, loss of skin tone and elasticity, and an overall aged look to the skin.
A twin to UV radiation is cigarette smoke, which has been known for a long time as a source of lines, especially around the mouth from pursing the lips to puff the cigarette (smoker’s pucker), wrinkles, loss of skin tone and elasticity, and a contributor to oxygen-deprived, lackluster and leathery skin. Smokers are more susceptible to developing age spots and dark pigmentation patches when exposed to the sun. Whether you are a smoker or exposed to second-hand smoke, the smoke affects you internally and leaves a toxic layer on the skin made of more than 4,000 chemicals, approximately 50 of which are known carcinogens (cancer-causing in humans), and 599 additives. According to Susie Rockway, PhD, “One puff of smoke contains millions of oxidizing molecules! There’s not enough antioxidants to combat the amount!”
These skin-destroying twins, UV radiation and cigarette smoke, can literally rob the skin of its energy, vitality, luminosity, and youthful appearance. But, that’s not all. Another contributor to skin aging is…the safe tan myth.
The Safe Tan Myth
The golden tan, once a symbol of health, vitality and beauty, is now seen as a major contributor to premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. There is absolutely no truth to the safe tan myth. A tan is your body’s response mechanism to UV radiation and an indication of injury and damage to the skin’s DNA. The body starts the tanning process as a natural defense from further DNA damage. This also translates to accelerated aging of the skin. Protecting the skin from damaging effects of the sun’s rays is an important health issue. As I have already reviewed, harmful UV rays can play havoc on your skin and body all year round.
Don’t think that tanning beds and sun lamps are safe alternatives. UVA radiation is the main wavelength found in the long tube of tanning equipment. Tanning beds are now being ranked as dangerous as cigarettes, asbestos and arsenic. In July 2009, the World Health Organization moved both tanning beds and UV radiation into its top cancer risk category. Tanning beds are now considered toxic and a carcinogen.
The link between indoor tanning and melanoma skin cancer is now well established. According to a recent large-scale case-control study from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and Masonic Cancer Center, the use of indoor tanning devices increased the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, regardless of an individual’s age, gender, device, or when the individual began tanning. The authors report that use of any kind of indoor tanning device increases the likelihood of developing melanoma by 74 percent; additionally, frequent users have a two and a half to three times higher chance of developing melanoma in comparison to those who have never used a tanning device.
But, what about the rapidly growing trend of spray tanning, airbrush tanning and other tanning products that gain momentum every year? Tanning products can be used on some parts of the body or sprayed all over. This means that people risk a high exposure to ingredients used in tanning products. The most popular ingredient used in sunless tanning skin preparations is dihydroxyacetone, a color additive. It is important that the eyes, lips, nose and mucous membranes be covered and protected during application of a spray tanning product. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) considers self-tanners to be safe as long as there is an implementation of appropriate safety precautions. While sunless tanning may be safer than exposure to UV radiation, it is best to use spray tanning on limited occasions, in safe conditions, and with a provider that has the expertise for application and a commitment to consumer safety and welfare.
Consider this before you get that supposedly safe sunless tan: The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is also an eliminative and respiratory organ. It is considered a third kidney and third lung. Do you really want to cover it with chemicals, even if they may be considered safe? Keep in mind, what you put on your skin has the potential of being absorbed into the body. In today’s challenging environment of chemicals, toxins and pollutants in the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat, think twice before you add an additional burden of impurities to those already stored in your body.
Know the Sun’s Rays
Before you have fun in the sun, remember that UVB rays (B equals “burn”) are the primary cause of skin redness, sunburn, and play a role in tanning of the skin. They are also the rays that stimulate vitamin D production in the skin. UVB penetrates the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, and reaches the more superficial layer of the dermis, known as the second layer of skin or “true skin.” In most of North America, during the fall and winter, UVB rays are not usually strong enough to reach the skin through the atmosphere. These rays also do not penetrate through glass. On the other hand, UVA rays (A equals “aging”) go deeper into the skin all the way to the dermis any time of year. UVA rays can penetrate window glass, and they may show no redness so there is no “warning alert” that the skin is being damaged. Cumulative exposure to UVB causes wrinkles to form and over-exposure to UVA causes a breakdown in collagen and elastin for a loss of tone and firmness resulting in sagging of the skin.
The skin keeps score of all your UV sun exposure. The bad sunburn (phototrauma) that you got in your teens left damage deep within the skin. Cumulative UV exposure will eventually rise to the skin’s surface and reveal itself as photodamage. Ultimately, this all translates to photoaging, which reveals a broad-range of visible signs of aging. And, that is not all…
UV Radiation can be Hazardous to Your Health
Skin cancer is epidemic and these rates have increased by 46 percent in seven years. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Approximately 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. And, one person dies of melanoma every hour. I am not stating these numbers to frighten you. I just want you to be aware of the potential risks of UV radiation exposure. Protecting your skin from daily casual, incidental sun exposure by using a sunscreen is a responsible part of your wellness lifestyle. However, it is only a part of your safe sun practices. Make sure you…
- Wear a minimum of SPF-30 sunscreen
- Wear protective clothing, hat and sunglasses
- Seek the shade
- Stay out of direct sun exposure from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Currently 58 U.S. cities provide a UV Index regarding UV light levels on a scale from 1 to 10+ as public health education and a daily report by meteorologists. If available in your area, check this index daily and plan for appropriate protection.
- If you are inside your home, office or car, you will need protection from UVA rays if you are sitting or standing near windows with sun exposure.
Be “sun wise” during your time outdoors, and make sure that you don’t get taken in by… the numbers game.
The Numbers Game
Predominantly SPF (sun protection factor) ratings for sunscreens only guard against UVB radiation, and UVA radiation is not rated. Many consumers are under the belief that the higher the SPF rating 40… 50… 60… 70, etc., the safer they are when exposed to the sun’s rays. You have to understand that this is more marketing than sun protection. Also, with a higher SPF rating, you will be exposed to considerably more chemical UV absorbers and synthetic hydrocarbons that break down, are potentially harmful, and can easily penetrate the skin to produce endocrine-disrupting activity. The higher SPF does not mean that you get a huge increase in protection. For example, to jump from SPF 30 to SPF 50, you will get approximately 1 percent additional protection. The small bump you get in protection is insignificant compared to higher exposure to sunscreen chemicals. This is not a fair tradeoff. High SPF ratings are misleading and provide a false sense of safety when you are exposed to UV radiation.
SPF is an indicator of how long it will take for UVB rays to redden the skin when using sunscreen versus how long skin will take to redden without the product. A person using SPF 30 will take approximately 30 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen. An SPF-30 rating will provide you protection against 97 percent of UVB exposure. However, the best sun protection is combining an SPF-30 sunscreen with safe sun practices.
The U.S. FDA maintains compliance guidelines that sunscreen manufacturers must follow to get a SPF rating for their products. The FDA maintains a long list of approved sunscreen agents for UVB protection. However, there are only a few UVA protectors on the FDA’s list, and they are synthetic chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin and cause harm to the body as endocrine disruptors. Here’s my recommendation for the best form of sunscreen protection.
The Best Form of Sunscreen Protection
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two natural minerals that I consider to be the safest and most effective physical UV blockers. When the sun’s rays hit the skin, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide create a barrier in which the sun’s UV rays are either absorbed into the sunblock material or reflected away from the skin and basically scattered. Zinc oxide provides superior UVA protection, and it has been found to be the most broad-spectrum sunscreen agent available with both UVA and UVB absorption characteristics. It absorbs primarily UVA light rather than scattering or deflecting it. Titanium dioxide also provides UVB and some UVA protection. Physical blocking filters do not degrade, break down or become unstable, which is essential during longer periods of sun exposure, and they do not absorb into the skin. Consumers using sunscreens without titanium dioxide and zinc oxide would be exposed to an average of 20 percent more UV radiation with higher risks of UVA-induced skin damage and premature aging.
It used to be extremely challenging to formulate a sunscreen product with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, because they are naturally heavy and dense materials. However, technology advancements have now given us the opportunity to create formulations combining these excellent UV protectors with moisturizers, skin conditioners, botanicals, vitamins, as well as microemulsions with water-resistant properties. These all work in synergy to provide UVB and UVA broad-spectrum protection with daily moisturizing benefits. Don’t leave home without it!
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is commonly termed the sunshine vitamin. However, it is not actually a vitamin but rather a hormone. It is believed that every cell and tissue in the body needs this vitamin for overall wellbeing. The skin can synthesize vitamin D by being exposed to the sun for approximately 15 minutes each day to help supplement the vitamin D you get in your diet. This is where the controversy begins. For this to happen, you will need to be exposed to the sun, without the use of sunscreen, and this can translate to cumulative skin damage due to UV radiation. Vitamin D offers support for a broad-range of systems and functions in your body, and it is recommended that you add vitamin D to your daily supplement and replenishing program to maintain health and wellness.
What you do to protect your skin today will benefit you in years to come. The good news is that you can influence how your skin ages by using a sunscreen along with other safe sun practices, an anti-aging morning and evening skin care regimen, drink plenty of pure water daily, make good nutritional choices, replenish your body with quality supplementation, including Vitamin D, and continue to make wise lifestyle choices. This is a powerful program for skin enhancement and protection.
Lazovich D., Vogel R. I., Berwick M., Weinstock M. A., Anderson D. E., Anderson K. E., Warshaw E. M., Indoor Tanning and Risk of Melanoma: A Case-Control Study in a Highly Exposed Population. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, June 2010 19; 1557.
This article is printed with permission from Marilyn Territo, C.E., C.M. September 2010. Marilyn Territo is an award-winning businesswoman and international consultant and speaker. She is a Clinical-Paramedical Esthetician and holds nine advanced credentials in the fields of medical-esthetics, facial fitness and regenerative wellness. Ms. Territo is a member of the Isagenix Scientific Advisory Board.