Eat Your Sunscreen

What if I told you that you could protect your skin from sun damage by altering what you eat? I’m going to guess your reaction would be fairly similar to mine: excited. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a nice, cruelty-free and non-greasy sunscreen. But if I can boost my skin’s self-protective mechanisms with some of the foods that I consume, then why the hell not?

According to 2014 data from Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanomas were preventable. That makes you think, doesn’t it? All the stress and pain that comes with skin cancer which could have been avoided with better self-care.

When our skin is exposed to the sun, melanogenesis occurs. This is the process whereby skin pigment melanin is produced in melanosomes by melanocytes. This is what gives us our tan. Ultraviolet rays can cause cellular damage, so our skin has to have some sort of protective mechanism to prevent frazzling. That’s where the melanin steps up. It’s pretty remarkable really. It’s also the pigment behind our eye and hair colour.

But even with melanogenesis, cell damage can still occur in the form of DNA lesions. Our bodies have protective mechanisms that allow for these and can correct them to a certain extent, but once equilibrium has been surpassed, that’s when danger strikes.

Let’s talk about lycopene. This red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya and red carrots was shown to have tremendous sun-protecting benefits. A study was carried out on a group of women who were used to burning very easily in the sun. They were asked to eat tomato paste (known to contain high levels of lycopene) every day for 12 weeks prior to being exposed again and what was found was a 30% reduction in burning! It’s no substitute for sunscreen of course, but a definite help in protecting the most sensitive of skins.

Ketchup is an easy source of lycopene, but at only 2.5mg per tablespoon, it’s not enough. Consider tomato paste instead, at a whopping 75.4mg per cup or a wedge of watermelon which will provide about 13mg.

Next up we’ve got vitamin B3, otherwise known as nicotinamide. This has been shown to prevent skin cancer in those who are considered ‘high risk’ patients. It is found in trace amounts in many multivitamins, otherwise can be obtained from green vegetables, nuts and mushrooms.

This is really key in patients who have already been diagnosed with milder skin cancers. Supplementing with B3 was shown to have a 23% decrease in the likelihood of these patients developing another cancer.

Finally, let’s discuss Vitamin D. Because while the sun can hurt us, it also really benefits us if we’re exposed in the right amount. Vitamin D is metabolised when UVB rays come into contact with the skin. It is a steroid hormone that prevents a whole host of chronic illnesses as well as fighting short-term infections like cold and flu. It helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body and a deficiency can cause bone deformities. The key to generating vitamin D is to expose as much surface area of your skin as possible to sunlight, as close to solar noon as possible for as long as possible without getting burned. A pretty staggering finding is shown below:

Having optimum vitamin D levels (70 ng/ml) could prevent 16 different types of cancer including breast, ovarian and prostate.

But what happens when you simply can’t get out in the sun? Perhaps it’s the dead of winter, or maybe you have a demanding job that’s indoors and you work long hours. This is where supplements can come in. You can either buy supplements in the form of pills, or you can enjoy the intake through delicious foods. Do some research and you’ll see that things like oily fish, red meat and eggs all crop up. None of these are vegan-friendly, however. So let’s instead talk veggie options.

  1. Mushrooms – They naturally contain vitamin D, however a cool trick is to leave them in the sunlight to boost levels. Then, eat up! Seems mushrooms really are the one when it comes to powerful prevention. Hello portobello burgers at BBQs this summer…
  2. Plant-based milks – Consider fortified milks as an ideal and easy source of vitamin D. Whether it’s almond, soy, or oat that you’re chugging, check the ingredients list and see what’s included as a helpful addition.
  3. Tofu – Check your tofu ingredients because it’s likely that this too has been fortified. Job done.

If you needed another reason to consider eating more healthily and sun exposure is a risk where you live, consider these protective foods to help yourself out a little. The same goes for including more vitamin D in your diet if your problem is not getting enough sun. For something that can be so easily prevented, skin cancer is incredibly common. Keep your sunscreen handy, but enjoy the deliciousness too.

Photo via Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

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skin

When it comes to skincare and any kind of routine, we tend to stick with what we know. That usually means, how we were raised and what we picked up from friends or magazines growing up. But it consistently amazes me how many friends I have now as an adult in my twenties that have a less than ideal routine and then wonder why their skin isn’t looking its perkiest.

Diet, hydration and adequate sleep are of course your power trio when it comes to good skin. As is minimising stress levels. Your skin is a mirror of what’s going on inside. Dehydrated? Fine lines will become more visible. Eating too much sugar? This is a collagen killer; you know, that important protein that gives skin its bounce? Then there’s sleep. Lack of sleep causes the undereye blood vessels to dilate. This will give you those tired-looking dark circles that hardly scream, “Look at me, I’m a youthful, healthy human!”

No life is perfect and from time-to-time we don’t drink enough, eat too much junk food, get sick and party too hard. That’s a given and quite honestly, life would be boring without that variety. However, one thing you can do is have a consistent, thorough skincare routine. If you feel like you’re generally pretty healthy, but still finding your skin isn’t looking the greatest, try incorporating these into your day.

Skincare Routine

  1. Double-cleanse. If you wear make-up or sunscreen, or live in a very polluted city, you need to be double-cleansing. If you think about it, any layer(s) of product(s) that you apply to your face will be the first thing that a cleanser comes into contact with when you lather up at the end of the day. Massage it all in and break down the sunscreen/make-up/smog, wash it off and then think about what you’re left with. The answer is, skin that hasn’t been cleaned. Your fancy cleanser may have done a great job at breaking down your layers, but what are you doing to clean your skin itself? Your skin secretes oils and sweats and it’s important that you remove those at the end of the day to keep skin healthy. I personally use an oil cleanser as my first cleanse, massage in and emulsify with water. I then use either a cream or gentle foaming cleanser for my second cleanse. It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to budgeting for your skincare, try to spend less money on your first cleanser and more on your second as the second one is the one that’s actually going to be giving you the skincare benefits. You want the first to do its job of course, but if you’re going to invest in a pricier option for one of your cleansers, make it the one that will be cleaning and nourishing your skin directly.
  2. Wear sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but prevention is key. The sun – that beautiful, glowing star – does wonders for our energy and gives us vitamin D, but it also causes cell damage and therefore aging. Wear an SPF that you like on your face every day and the future you will be glad that you did. I personally love the This Works In Transit Skin Defence SPF 30. I apply this right before my make-up. It absorbs quickly and is non-oily. Plus, although the packaging is a big chunk of plastic, you can see when you take it apart when its empty that it is cleverly designed. An inner,thin bag stores the product and pumps every last drop out for you so you don’t waste anything. Big thumbs up from me.
  3. Exfoliate. This makes a huge difference, whether you’re complaint is dullness, acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation or aging. Check out this post where I cover everything you’ll ever need to know about chemical exfoliants and why you should make acids your best friend. They sound scary, but forget whatever horrid connection you have in your mind with acid on skin and read up. They are great for cleansing the pores, dissolving dead skin cells and revealing more youthful skin underneath. You can also opt for physical exfoliants if you like a good scrub, but I pick chemical every time because they are less likely to irritate and more likely to give a noticeable improvement.
  4. Take time to remove eye make-up. We all know to remove our make-up before we go to bed, but most of us don’t pay particular attention to removing all the little bits of eyeliner and mascara that stubbornly cling to our eyelashes. Consistantly leaving a layer of make-up in this delicate eye area can lead to blepharitis. This is a common inflammatory condition caused by oil glands at the base of our eyelashes becomming clogged. It can cause redness and sensitivity. Eyes are the windows to the soul, so red and squinty simply won’t do! I have also found that sleeping with crusty eyelashes makes me more likely to mindlessly pick at them in the morning. This increases the chances of pulling them out – not a good look!
  5. Introduce a face oil. Everyone can benefit from using a face oil either daily or occasionally. Yes, even the oily skin types. I think there’s this huge misconception that if your skin is very oily throughout the day that adding oil into your routine will only make things worse. WRONG. Our skin often produces too much oil when it is dehydrated. Giving it oil intentionally hydrates it so that it doesn’t have to go into overdrive producing sebum. For a really great overview of facial oils, I recommend giving this a read. Sunday Riley do a comprehensive range, otherwise for a really affordable, vegan and cruelty-free option I recommend Viridian’s.

You don’t need a million products to have great skin. It starts with a healthy lifestyle and can be supported by care and consistency with high quality products that you do choose to use. Less is more. Quality over quantity.

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petroleum in skincare

Let’s talk about petroleum. Not in terms of it’s role in fueling our transport or making our plastic packaging, but how it has become such a normal component of our cosmetics. It’s slippery self has slipped in and it’s really better that it slip on out again, in all honesty. Today I’m discussing a little bit about what it actually is and why there are better alternatives you can be using.

To commence with a product with which everyone in familiar: Vaseline. Your tub of vaseline starts its lifecycle amongst a thick sludge of crude oil beneath the sea bed or land. It’s drilled, collected and then undergoes a process known as ‘fractional distillation‘. This process splits the oil into groups based on hydrocarbon chain-length. There are the short-chain hydrocarbons that are the most volatile and these become our gaseous and liquid fuels. These are the most desirable. The heavier, long-chain hydrocarbons (the sludgier stuff) that are less volatile are actually considered waste products of the petroleum industry. However, they’re scooped up and used in everything from industrial lubricants such as motor oil to fertilisers, pesticides and many, MANY cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

So, we’ve got our super obvious petroleum-based products like Vaseline, but this same ingredient is found in a whole host of topical skincare, bodycare and cosmetic products under names such as: petroleum jelly, mineral oil, paraffin, and petrolatum in various different wax to liquid oil proportions. I’ll use these terms interchangeably throughout the rest of this post.

Why it’s not worth a moment’s notice

Mineral oil is an emollient and applying it to a surface will prevent moisture from evaporating from that surface. Hence why it has a reputation for being great for dry skin. Dry skin doesn’t want any more moisture lost, so slathering on a layer of mineral oil surely does the job, right? Wrong. It acts as a barrier, but offers nothing to soothe the dry skin. It offers no kind of nourishment. Worse still, a recent article showed that long-term use of paraffin-based products actually makes us and our textiles more flammable. There have been several tragic deaths caused by heavy-usage of these kinds of topical treatments for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

You can see the appeal though, can’t you? Petroleum jelly is dirty cheap, has a long shelf life, plus it seems like a great moisturiser, lubricant and cure-it-all for any kind of ailment. But that’s really all it is: an imposter. It appears in so many of our cosmetic products because it is an emollient and can hold moisture in. But that’s assuming you’ve already cleaned and moisturised the part of your body in question first, which we wouldn’t because we’re often buying the moisturiser containing the mineral oil with the promise that it will do the moisturising!

Any Alternatives?

The good news is that there are so many things that you can use instead of wasting your money on cheap, crappy, petroleum-based fillers. Coconut, olive, avocado, sweet almond or one of the many other natural plant oils do an excellent job at giving your skin or hair the nourishment it needs. There are also shea and cocoa butters as richer components to add to the mix.

There are a plethora of alternatives on the market. All you have to do is start reading the ingredients lists on the products you’re picking up off the shelves and you’ll soon come to recognise which brands are investing in quality over quantity. Or you can go one step further and simply make your own. Scour the internet until you find a recipe that you like. For the face, try here and body here. That should get the cogs turning.

FYI Tattoo Lovers

It’s been a long time since I eradicated petroleum-based products from my household and as you can imagine, I’ve never looked back. Bar one. My tattoo ointment. Like most people, I use either a specific tattoo balm (petroleum-based) or Bepanthen nappy rash cream (also petroleum-based). I just assumed that it was the one product that I’d have to suck it up and use. However, it was a revelation to meet an artist this year who recommended coconut oil. I’ve never experienced that recommendation before and he was so right. And of course it made sense; much like any other scabby cut that needs nourishment, why not feed my skin coconut oil?! Here I was not even following my own logic. It worked and it’s all I’ll use on my tattoos from now on. Thanks Merry!

You may well have no negative reactions and if you enjoy the petroleum-based products that you’re using, by all means go ahead. But I’d like to put it out there that you only have one body to love and nourish and keep looking its best. No matter how many layers you slather on, no amount of petroleum jelly will feed your skin the goodness it needs to regenerate and replenish.

 

 

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