Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Fair, pale, au natural.....even fairy tales love sun-protected skin. I know, I know, that's not what the Queen had in mind, but this is my story now so indulge me. What was the Queen longing to see when she looked in the mirror? She desired a youthful appearance, like that of Snow White, with a face free of wrinkles, brown spots, dilated pores and blood vessels. I know that's what I long to see when I look in the mirror, how about you?
Unfortunately, despite my career choice to nurture and protect skin as a dermatologist, as a kid and teenager I was not a skin nurturer, in fact, I was a down-right skin-abuser. I burned, fried and tanned my skin any chance I could get. My sister and I would have contests to see how long we could lay out in the sun before we nearly passed out from heat exhaustion or play the game of "how low can you go" with the SPF factor on our "suntan oil." Yes, oiling our hide to tan it was the object of the game. Thankfully we quit playing before our hide became leather.... but barely. Instead of leather, I got lots of freckles and moles (a direct correlation of sun-damage), many of which have been biopsied and been proven to be atypical, including one that was diagnosed as early melanoma. In essence, I am my own skin nightmare with scars all over my body as a constant reminder that I'm not dreaming.
Premature wrinkling, sagging skin, freckles, dilated facial blood vessels and brown spots are manifestations of sun-damage which is referred to as photo-aging or if you want to be fancy, dermatoheliosis. Compared to physiologic (chronologic) aging, the changes seen with photo-aging are accelerated with the end result of having you looking significantly older than your stated age. Sure, as teenagers some of us wanted to look older so we could get into establishments with age restrictions, but as adults I think many of us are thrilled when someone mistakes you for someone's "younger sibling." Maintaining a youthful appearance is the reason the cosmetic/aesthetic procedure industries have exploded in recent years with new products and innovations.
The good news is that you don't have to spend a fortune to maintain your youthful looks! Just a few minor adjustments to your daily routine will help you minimize the damaging effects of the sun on your skin. The first steps are placing high priority on quality sleep, keeping stressors at bay, staying hydrated (at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily) and optimizing your nutrition. Research has found that vitamins as well as selenium, Coenzyme10, alpha-lipoic acid and omega-3’s can help protect the skin against sun damage and skin cancer and may reverse some of the discoloration and wrinkles associated with aging. So go ahead, fill your plate with a rainbow of colored fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E. Carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and swiss chard are rich in vitamin A. While kale and mangoes offer double duty providing vitamins A and C, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower and kiwi are additional great sources of vitamin C. Foods like nuts, seeds, olives and asparagus are rich in vitamin E.
Pair the above with a daily dose of sunscreen, either in your moisturizer, after-shave cream or make-up as a simple way to layer on your sun protection on all your exposed skin. It's the UVA rays which are the "aging" rays, so make sure the products you buy are labeled "broad-spectrum" so that you get coverage for both UVA and UVB (the burning rays). Remember, UVA rays can penetrate window glass, so while you are driving in your car and sitting by your office window you are still get "sun." If you have ever noticed that the left side of your face and left arm have more spots and lines on them, this is one of the big reasons as your left side gets bombarded by UVA rays while you are driving. The recommendation is to use products that are SPF (sun protection factor) 15 or higher and I like to use SPF 30 in my daily moisturizer. Choosing products that have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will minimize irritation for those of you with sensitive skin. There has been much controversy over nano-sized particles of these ingredients, although the research is still ongoing, there are plenty of fantastic products currently on the market that do not use nano-sized particles. Remember, whichever products you choose to use, sunscreens regardless of SPF or active ingredient will break down approximately 2 hours after application, so if you are planning on being outdoors for an extended period of time you need to reapply. There's no reason you can't look good while maintaining your youthful appearance right? So wear some fashionable sun-protective clothing (ie. long sleeves and pants or skirt), a broad-brimmed hat, and don some shades to protect those eyes because ocular melanoma is challenge to treat, so prevention is key.
Mirror, mirror on the wall who's the fairest and most youthful looking of all? With your newly acquired sun-savvy, you are, of course!