It takes more than SPF to save our skin in summer, says our columnist
Oxidation, also called free-radical damage, accounts for the majority of damage to skin. Our environment and natural bodily processes create a manageable degree of ‘collateral damage’ to our skin. When this damage is accelerated by the sun, regular exposure to pollutants (for example commuting in urban areas), smoking, excess alcohol and high-sugar diets, the damage becomes less manageable.
To counter oxidation damage with antioxidants make sure you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to a minimum of five portions daily. Eating a colourful array of green, red, orange, yellow and purple fruits and vegetables gives the widest antioxidant protection because it is these very colours in fruit and vegetables that are antioxidant-rich. Skin-supporting antioxidant nutrients include beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium and zinc.
Skin, hair and nails need a good supply of minerals in the diet. Mineral-rich foods include lean meats, fish, eggs, grains, lowfat dairy, nuts and seeds. Iron and zinc in particular are needed for normal growth of skin, hair and nails. Iron supplies oxygen in the blood to nourish and fuel growth and zinc is needed for proteins to be used for growth. Since hair, skin and nails are growing and replacing themselves all the time they need good amounts of these minerals. Silica, found in beer, whole-grains, oats and the herb horsetail, is a mineral that is needed for the connective tissue in nails and skin. Skin and hair quality are dependent on sufficient healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. These fatty acids are incorporated into the cell structure to improve flexibility. They also have a protective mechanism against oxidative damage. Dull, lifeless hair and skin are a sure sign that you need more fatty acids from fresh nuts, seeds, and oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel.
Exposure of the skin to UV-light can generate an immune response, resulting in sunburn. This immune response activates immune cells to primarily protect from the sun, however they also produce inflammatory by-products which, over long-term exposure, can be even more damaging to the key skin proteins elastin and collagen, and trigger a process called ‘cross-linking’. Antioxidants can reduce this ‘cross-linking’ of proteins that lead to toughened and leathery skin.
Time is a great healer, particularly for skin. By making these changes to your diet and supplement routine, you can make a profound difference to how well your skin is protected and supported for life’s natural ageing process. This is why my summer supplement regime includes my Wild Nutrition Skin, Hair and Nails and as well as a shift towards light protein sources and water-rich vegetables.
Henrietta Norton is an established nutritional therapist, women’s health expert and founder of award-winning supplement brand Wild Nutrition
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