Summertime is right around the corner. This is the season for relaxing by the pool or on the beach and spending more time outside, soaking up the beautiful weather. While long days spent lounging in the sun may do wonders for your mood, it can have the opposite affect on your skin. Sun damage is one of the main reasons for premature aging of the complexion. It can cause wrinkles, skin discoloration, and can even lead to skin cancer. Shielding your skin with sunscreen and protective clothing can help to prevent some UV damage, but did you know that you can also protect your skin from the inside out?
Sun Damage Explained
Signs of UV damage to the skin are clear. From sunburn after spending a day at the beach to a cluster of dark spots on your face, the sun’s impact on the skin is undeniable. Not only does sun exposure accelerate the aging process in skin cells, UV rays can actually change the tone and pigment of your complexion, leading to undesirable age spots and wrinkles. While a sun-kissed glow is often attributed to health and beauty, repeated sun exposure causes damage to our skin over time and is the main contributor to an aging complexion.
Breakdown of Vital Proteins:
Collagen, the main structural protein found in the skin, is responsible for keeping you looking young. Collagen production slows as we age, leading to the imminent wrinkles and sagging skin that we associate with growing older. UV light from the sun actually accelerates this process by damaging collagen fibers while simultaneously causing an abnormal accumulation of elastin, another protein found in the skin. While under normal circumstances elastin works symbiotically with collagen to maintain skin elasticity, the UV induced accumulation of elastin damages collagen and stimulates the aging process. 1
Sunspots are unsightly areas of hyperpigmentation that are most noticeable on the hands and face. They are caused by the sun-induced changes to a compound called melanin. Melanin, a natural coloring found in the skin and other areas of the body, is responsible for the color of our skin and hair. This pigment is produced by special cells called melanocytes. Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen for the skin, darkening when exposed to light and blocking UV radiation from damaging cells.2 Sunlight exposure causes melanocytes to release an excess of melanin, which forms dark spots on the skin. UV radiation also damages the DNA of melanocytes, causing mutations in the cells that can lead to skin cancer. Though dark spots are most often associated with sun damage, sun exposure can also cause white spots to form on the skin. This happens when melanocytes become too damaged to produce melanin any longer.2
How to Protect your Skin from Sun Damage
Topical Sun Protection
Sunscreen is the most popular form of sun protection. From lotions to sprays, sunscreen comes in many forms and varying degrees of SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is a measure of how long a sunscreen will guard your skin from the UV rays of the sun. This number doesn’t correlate to the amount of time you can spend in the sun before you burn. It refers only to the amount of protection the product offers against UVB rays.
Sunscreens work by absorbing and reflecting UVB and UVA waves, which are the two main types of radiation that affect the skin. UVB rays primarily affect the surface of the skin, while UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the dermal layers.3 SPF refers only to protection from UVB rays and only sunscreens labeled as “broad spectrum” offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. When applied properly, a sunblock with a SPF of 30 provides protection from 97 percent of UVB rays.3 However, many factors can impact the effectiveness of these products. For maximum protection, sunscreens must be reapplied as frequently as every one to two hours, especially after swimming or engaging in vigorous activities. Many people do not apply enough sunscreen to the body, leaving sensitive areas like the lips, ears, and hands exposed.
While applying sunscreen is recommended, the ingredients found in many popular brands may do your skin more harm than good. Common additives like penetration enhancers, which help sunscreen to be absorbed more easily by the skin, can cause allergic reactions and damage skin cells.4 It is best to choose a mineral based, natural sunscreen that does not contain unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients.
Protecting Your Skin From The Inside Out
While topical sunscreens offer your skin some protection from the sun’s rays, your diet can provide you with an additional defense against UV damage. Certain foods like fruits and vegetables have been found to contain compounds that act like an internal sunscreen in the body. When combined with traditional methods of sun protection like natural sunscreens, increasing the amount of photoprotective foods in your diet will help to ensure that your skin is being adequately safeguarded from sun damage. Broccoli, papaya, watermelon, tomatoes, seeds, and nuts are just a few of the many foods that contain special compounds that help to protect the skin from the sun’s rays.
Lycopene is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and papaya. This natural pigment has been shown to greatly benefit the skin. Studies have found that this extraordinary phytonutrient can protect the skin from sunburn and UV damage from the inside out.9
Glucoraphanin, an antioxidant found primarily in the young sprouts of broccoli and cauliflower is a powerhouse when it comes to skin health. It is the precursor to sulforaphane, an organic sulfur compound best known for its antioxidant and cancer fighting properties. Glucoraphanin protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun and reduces the risk of developing skin cancer.10
Vitamin E has long been celebrated for its role in maintaining a healthy complexion. This fat-soluble vitamin has powerful antioxidant properties and fights off free radicals, reducing wrinkles and keeping the skin looking young and healthy. In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin E has been found to absorb UV light and prevent UV induced damage to the skin.11 The best sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, Swiss chard, and avocados.
How to Naturally Brighten and Lighten Your Skin
While many foods contain compounds that help to protect our complexions from premature aging and UV rays, some foods even have the ability to lighten and brighten the skin. Signs of sun damage include dark pigmentation called sunspots, age spots, or liver spots. This hyperpigmentation can appear at any age due to the over exposure of the skin to UV rays and can affect all skin tones. While protecting your skin with a natural sunscreen is a way to prevent signs of hyperpigmentation, research has show that certain compounds found in foods can help to lighten and brighten the skin, helping to reverse signs of sun damage like age spots and uneven skin tone.
Eating Your Way To Lighter, Brighter, Younger Looking Skin:
Ellagic acid is a natural antioxidant found in pomegranates, berries, grapes, pecans, and walnuts. This phytochemical has been studied for its ability to inhibit hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation.5 Ellagic acid lightens the skin by preventing melanin formation by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme that controls melanin production. In one study, women who consumed 200mg of ellagic acid experienced a reduction in hyperpigmentation and also reported improvements in the brightness of their skin.5 This phytonutrient has additionally been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties and acts as a strong antioxidant in the body. 6
Glutathione is the body’s most potent antioxidant. It plays a vital role in the detoxification of destructive compounds and the scavenging of harmful free radicals. Among its many health and beauty benefits, glutathione has been studied for its skin lightening effects. Like ellagic acid, glutathione inhibits melanin production by inactivating the enzyme tyrosine, resulting in a lightening of the skin.7Foods highest in glutathione include avocados, broccoli, spinach, and grapefruit.
Selenium and alpha lipoic acid are both necessary for the proper formation of glutathione in the body. Selenium is a mineral found in foods like Brazil nuts, grass fed beef, shellfish and tuna. Aside from its role in glutathione formation, selenium protects cell membranes from oxidative damage, keeping your skin looking young and vibrant. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant found in spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes. It boosts glutathione levels and also inhibits the formation of advanced glycation end products, which are damaged proteins that can contribute to premature aging.8 Consuming foods that are rich in selenium and alpha lipoic acid will help to stimulate the production of glutathione and enhance its skin lightening effects.
Another super food that brightens the skin is turmeric, a commonly used spice that has recently gained popularity due to its incredible health benefits. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which gives the spice its characteristic bright yellow color. Curcumin acts as a powerful antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation in the body. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties and provides therapeutic benefits such as reducing common skin ailments like acne and rosacea. 12 By reducing inflammation and skin damage, curcumin increases the brightness of the skin while decreasing signs of oxidative damage like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
Catechins are compounds that are abundant in green tea. These antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals before they cause damage to your skin. Because of their potent anti-inflammatory properties research has shown that consuming green tea may prevent the development and growth of certain skin cancers. 11 This impressive beverage has been shown to stimulate skin cell rejuvenation, reactivating and renewing old and damaged skin cells and promoting a youthful appearance.14 Drinking green tea increases the blood flow and oxygen delivery to your skin, which keeps your complexion glowing.13 Green tea hydrates the skin while delivering an effective dose of skin benefiting antioxidants.
The Perfect Skin Brightening and Lightening Smoothie Ingredients
The perfect way to increase your intake of skin brightening and lightening foods while adding in natural protection from the sun is a superfood smoothie. By incorporating these beneficial ingredients into your daily routine, not only will you be getting a mega dose of much needed antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, you will also be consuming compounds that work synergistically to lighten and brighten your skin from the inside out!
1 Cup Kale or 1 tbsp CORREXIKO Organic Kale Powder
1 tbsp CORREXIKO Organic Spirulina Powder
½ cup Broccoli Sprouts
3 Brazil nuts
½ Cup Pure Pomegranate Juice
1 Cup Coconut Water / Pure Water
1 Tsp Matcha Powder
1 capsule (opened up or just blend the entire capsule) CORREXIKO Curcuminex capsule
1) Combine non liquid ingredients in a high powered blender
2) Add pomegranate juice, water, and coconut water and blend
3) Pour and enjoy!