All the latest natural skin care, anti-aging and healthy lifestyle tips from Marie Veronique Organics.
Five Ways to Repair Sun Damage
Sun damage is a polite way to describe the unwanted effects of too much UV exposure. The main effects we decry are wrinkles, leathery, blotchy skin and “sun spots.” Sun spots are often referred to as age spots (Lentigus senilis) or liver spots associated with sun damage or aging, sometimes appearing as raised spots (Seborrheic keratoses). They typically start showing up on the most exposed areas, like the hands and the face, by age 40-50, or earlier if you have an outdoor job or live in an area where you get a great deal of sun exposure.
Since this post is about repair we won’t belabor the obvious, namely that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that spreading on those ounces of sunscreen and sun protection measures prevents spending pounds and pounds (or dollars and dollars) on reparative treatments later on.
The conventional approach to treating the effects of sun damage can involve pretty drastic procedures such as cutting into the skin (facelifts), treatments like Botox injections or using ingredients like hydroquinone that pose health risks. Luckily, effective, safer and less invasive alternative treatments do exist. They start with the premise that since free radicals are the primary contributor to visible effects of aging, the best approach to minimizing damage is to limit free radical attack.
Free radicals attack a wide variety of structures: long-lived biomolecules such as collagen, elastin and DNA, mucopolysaccharides, lipids that make up the membranes of cells and organelles such as mitochondria and lysosomes, components of blood vessel walls, and proteins and lipids that combine and accumulate as "age pigment.” Since free radical assault covers such wide territory, it follows that repelling its advance involves lining up a variety of defensive weapons.
Here are a few suggestions for comprehensive repair to damaged skin:
L-ascorbic acid*, aka Vitamin C
This most versatile and important nutrient/antioxidant is a powerful scavenger of the hydroxyl radical, and is one of the ingredients that has research backing up its anti-aging claims. Studies show that regular application of topical l-ascorbic acid provides wavelength-independent ultraviolet protection and results in clinically visible anti-wrinkling. It plays a crucial role in two processes that become very important as we get older—collagen synthesis and inhibition of melanogenesis. L-ascorbic acid also helps to decompose preformed melanin, so in addition to its superb reparative, photoprotectant and anti-inflammatory properties it is indispensable in helping to normalize hyperpigmentation.
*Note: Vitamin C is unstable, and in the presence of air, liquid or other oxidizing agents it is easily converted to oxidized forms. The oxidized vitamin C is not only incapable of boosting collagen synthesis or scavenging free radicals, it may actually promote free radical formation because it has become an oxidant.
In other words, Vitamin C in serums or creams may already be oxidized by the time you apply them to your skin. In this case they will be working against you, not for you. In addition, only highly concentrated preparations (10% or more) deliver enough vitamin C to the cells to be topically effective. This is why we offer Vitamin C in it’s freshest form, to be mixed with a serum immediately prior to application.
Vitamin E is the chief fat-soluble antioxidant, and occurs prominently in all membranes. Vitamin E quenches the super oxide radical and lipid peroxide radicals. When Vitamin E quenches free radicals it becomes a Vitamin E radical, which then uses Vitamin C to return it to its antioxidant state. Thus the combined power of Vitamin E and C provides an excellent example of how antioxidants work synergistically in an integrated and regulated way to protect against oxidative stress.
Superoxide dismutase or SOD
Skin possesses an extremely efficient antioxidant system by two major groups: enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase, SOD) and small molecules (e.g., L-ascorbic acid). SOD is the strongest known biological agent for repairing free radical damage and quenching superoxide radicals.
Chronic inflammation caused by free radicals accelerates aging. Anti-oxidants like green tea, licorice, paper mulberry and bioflavonoids also have anti-inflammatory properties, and when applied to the skin can interrupt the arachidonic cascade that generates inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
Surrounding every skin cell is a layer of fat-like substances, called 'lipids’. When in contact with sunlight or air, lipids undergo peroxidation and lose their barrier ability, causing gaps to occur in the lipid matrix. When the lipid barrier is compromised, moisture loss increases which leads to dry, scaly or even cracked skin. Dehydrated cells function poorly and the immune system of the skin becomes weakened. From a health standpoint, the risk of infection or other skin diseases increases. From a cosmetic standpoint, skin dryness will occur, more fine lines will appear and wrinkles will become larger and deeper. The solution for both dry and oily skin types is to apply oils that will replenish the top layer of skin to optimize barrier function.
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