Year-round skin protection
I’m what people call fair.
What they mean is, “Girl, why don’t you get a tan?”
I’ve never been one of those people who walks away with a nice sun-kissed glow from a day at the beach. In fact, I’m the Queen of Sunscreen – otherwise, I’ll end up red and sunburned within 10 minutes.
Of course, now that fall has arrived and winter is right around the corner, it might seem like a good time to shirk sunscreen application and other skin care duties. Hell, I don’t know about you, but as it gets colder, my top priority is to bundle up and stay warm. And I will readily admit that applying sunscreen falls very low on my cold weather to-do list. But research shows this way of thinking is so last decade. In fact, research by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (mdanderson.org) shows that summer is far from the only time of year we need to apply sunscreen.
“In some parts of the United States, the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation we receive from the sun doesn’t drop significantly, even during winter months,” said Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at M.D. Anderson, in an article released by the center. “The strength of the sun can be strong regardless of the season or temperature outdoors.”
Yep, that’s right: Winter sun can be harmful, too. Sure, the weather feels chilly, but ultraviolet rays are still present, leading to premature skin aging and cancer for people who leave skin unprotected. According to the American Cancer Society, the sun is responsible for most of the more than one million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed yearly in the United States.
Another everyday habit that might cause skin damage, no matter the season: Cell phones.
“Anything that comes in contact with the skin as frequently as a phone does should be cleaned regularly with an alcohol or antibacterial wipe,” said Dr. Emily Moosbrugger, a dermatologist at University of Cincinnati Health who practices in West Chester, Ohio. “Or even better, use the speaker phone or headset option on the phone – this way you avoid irritation and any bacteria that the phone may be carrying.”
Another current trend that can stand in the way of clear skin is fad diets, which, according to Moosbrugger, often include cutting out entire food groups.
“Over time, there are numerous skin problems that can result from nutritional deficiencies,” Moosbrugger said about eliminating too many foods from a diet. “Skin can appear older, more wrinkled and dry, or bruise easily; the hair and nails can change; or in severe cases of nutritional deficiencies, even rashes and diseases.”
Dr. Cynthia Bailey of Sebastopol, Calif., pointed out, however, that some fad diets focus on the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and actually can be beneficial to the skin. This, of course, falls in line with the fact that Bailey subscribes to the age-old saying of “You are what you eat” – skin included.
”No matter what your skin looks like, it’s healthier and more beautiful with a diet that’s weighted towards fresh fruits and veggies, and that includes whole grains,” she said. “It’s also prettiest when the diet minimizes the junk and empty calorie, chemical-filled foods.”
The list for foods that promote healthy skin is a big one, but there are various nutrients that a person should try to incorporate into a diet and they can be find in a variety of foods, including:
Seafood – for omega 3’s, zinc and selenium
Citrus fruits (like oranges) – for vitamin C
Red and green vegetables – for vitamin A and B-carotene
Spinach – for vitamin E, vitamin A, folic acid
Tomatoes – for antioxidants, vitamins A and C
Nuts – for vitamin E
Whole grains – for B vitamins
Sweet potatoes – for vitamins A and C
Still, just like timeless advice from grandma, the healthy skin rules of the past are not to be ignored. And that, naturally, brings us back to square one: Protection from the sun.
“The number one thing for keeping skin healthy is sun protection – wear sunscreen daily, especially on the face, and avoid tanning,” Moosbrugger said. “In addition, get adequate sleep, stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet and moisturize the skin regularly. Lastly, avoid smoking since it also can lead to skin cancers and accelerates the development of wrinkles.”
Bailey added: “You’re going to be reminded that sunscreen alone is not good enough. No more permission to apply sunscreen and run around bare-skinned in the sun thinking your safe.”
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.