The Anti-Ageing Acai Berry

Acai BerryYou have probably heard much about the Acai Berry of late, but is it really a super berry or super hype? Well some recent medical studies have shown that Acai Berry has potent antioxidants that can be absorbed by the human body and have a very positive effect on our health.

The Acai Berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee)  is a small, round, dark purple berry, the size of a small grape. The Acai Berry grows in clusters on the Acai Palm Tree, and is native to tropical Central and South America. The prime commercial source of Acai Berry comes from the area where several rivers converge within the Amazon estuary. The people of Brazil refer to Acai as “The Milk of the Amazon“.

Harvesting the Acai Berry doesn’t harm the Rainforest (something that concerned me), in fact the Acai Palm Tree will continue to thrive once the berries are picked, and it is an incentive for the natives to preserve the tree.

For centuries, the people of the Amazon have loved this unique fruit for its health boosting properties and prized it as a source of health and vitality. It seems modern science is beginning to document the many beneficial properties of the Acai Berry. It has extraordinary antioxidant levels and nutrient content, and is becoming one of the world’s top superfoods.

Why is Acai Berry so good?

The Acai Berry contains concentrated levels of Anthocyanins – a powerful family of antioxidants that assist in neutralizing the harmful effects that Free Radicals have on the body. Acai has an ORAC score (a measurement of antioxidant power) higher than any other fruit and vegetable to date, in fact it has twice the antioxidants of Blueberries and 10 – 30 times the anthocyanins of Red Wine.

 Acai Berries are rich in …

  • Antioxidants
  • Phytonutrients
  • Amino Acids
  • Vitamins
  • Trace Minerals
  • Omega fats – 3, 6 & 9

The Claimed health benefits of Acai Berry are….

  • Healthy and more Youthful Skin!
  • Slowing of the Ageing Process
  • Promotion of weight loss
  • Increased energy
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved eye sight
  • Improved circulation
  • Preventing age related degenerative diseases – it has shown anti-cancer activity in a cell culture model.

There is a lot of claims being made about Acai Berry, and it seems that medical research is proving many of them true. Acai Berry may not be the answer to all diseases, and is not the only Super Food to eat, but consumed regularly will boost your health as part of a well balanced diet and Anti-Ageing strategy. For more information read Amherst College’s special Acai Berry Report.

Super Berry with Acai

There are many Acai Berry Supplements available today, one of the best is Dr. Perricones Super Berry Powder with Acai. If you would rather drink the juice, then Monavie has a Premier Acai Berry Blend, which has recently launched in the UK –  I take an egg cup full of this juice everyday – it’s delicious.

Turmeric – Your Skin’s Friend

Turmeric Root and Turmeric PowderTurmeric is definitely one Age-Defying spice to add to your shopping list.

 This brilliant Yellow spice has been in culinary use for thousands of years and is what gives curries their characteristic bright Yellow colour. This amazing spice is derived from the root of the Curcuma Longa plant, which has a tough brown skin and deep orange flesh. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and contains potent Antioxidant Polyphenol substances called curcuminoids.

The Curcumin compound is a potent Anti-inflammatory Antioxidant, and extremely good for us and our skin. Try to include some Turmeric in your meals as part of an Anti-inflammatory diet and reap the benefits of this yellow skin friend…

The Benefits of Turmeric

  • Potent Antioxidant that prevents Free Radical formation and helps neutralise existing Free Radicals
  • May reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • It has anti-viral and anti-cancer effects
  • Helps lower bad cholesterol
  • Protects the Liver
  • Many say that it helps with joint pain and inflammation
  • Used in india’s Ayruvedic medicine as a stomach tonic and also for cuts, wounds, poor vision, rheumatic pains, coughs, liver disease
  • May improve Psoriasis and inflammatory skin conditions

My family laugh now when I cook something and it’s Yellow, again! It’s very easy to include Turmeric in your food, I am fond of roasting vegetables in Olive Oil with 1 teaspoon of Turmeric powder, then mix until everything is well coated. Roast potatoes are also very nice with  a coating of Turmeric, add a pinch to an egg salad for a rich Yellow colour and a nice taste, and of course curries! If anyone has any wonderful recipes with Turmeric then please share in the comments.

You can also use Turmeric in an in-expensive anti-inflammatory, hydrating face mask –  just mix a pinch with a little Yoghurt and leave on your face until dry – then rinse well.

Turmeric is also available in high strength supplements from good health shops.

Sleep – Skin’s Best Friend

Lack of Sleep can lead to the Premature Ageing of your Skin, as well as making you grumpy! Being aware of sleep and the role it plays in healthy ageing is vital to anyone concerned with getting older (aren’t we all?)

Do you ever stop to think of the effect too little or too much sleep has on the body? You only have to look in the mirror after a good or terrible night’s sleep to see where the term “Beauty Sleep” came from! The role of sleep and successful ageing is huge and so important for overall health.

Lack of Sleep Causes Inflammation
One revelation that has come to light is that sleep loss is pro-inflammatory, inflammation is characterized by the release of inflammatory molecules that damage the structure and integrity of the skin – reducing inflammation is now a key focus in anti-ageing skin care products.

Aside from inflammation, it has also been discovered that the stress that sleep deprivation causes has an effect on the skin’s barrier function (this can trigger or make worse Psoriasis, Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis), it’s clear then that the role that sleep has on maintaining healthy skin functions is important, but when it comes to looking good, the benefits of sleep don’t stop there.
The effect that sleep deprivation has on hormone secretion is interesting, growth hormone is produced naturally in the body by the Pituitary gland at the base of the brain, and more than 70% of it is secreted at night, mostly during deep sleep or slow wave sleep. Although growth hormone secretion has been found to naturally decline with age, poor sleep that is lighter and more disrupted will also impact on growth hormone secretion. There is a whole host of skin and hair complaints that low levels of growth hormone are responsible, as well as premature ageing.

The way you sleep also determines your wrinkle pattern. If you favour one side, your face may end up more pleated on that side. To help prevent this, try sleeping on a Silk Skin pillow case. Also cotton pillow cases can absorb moisture from your skin and your moisturiser, so you may not get the benefits and is a waste.

Sleep – The Lifestyle Prescription

  • Sleep Hygienic – keep your bedroom calm and tidy, with clean bedding.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures.
  • Avoid TV or computers in the bedroom.
  • Avoid stimulants (Caffeine, Nicotine, Alcohol) have a Chamomile or Valerian tea instead.
  • Try eating a Low Glycemic load diet – this will help keep blood sugar levels steady, foods such as chicken, eggs, tuna, nuts and seeds are linked to sleep inducing hormones melatonin and serotonin.
  • Regular exercise will help with anxiety and depression, and control excess glucose and cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Try some Lavender Oil for inhalation (I put a few drops on my pillow) or in a warm bath before bedtime. You can also try this with Chamomile Essential Oil.

Looking Good The Morning After a Bad Nights Sleep!
If you have had a bad night and are looking less than your best, here are a few tips!

  • A quick bout of exercise can restore some glow to your complexion.
  • Eat some protein for energy.
  • Instead of your normal tea or coffee, try some antioxidant rich Green Tea with a squeeze of lemon.
  • Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, brightens and polishes your skin.
  • Dermalogica Total Eye Care  disguises tell tale dark circles.
  • Mineralogie Mineral Make-Up bounces the light off your face, creating a healthy, flawless skin.
  • Apply a rosy pink blusher, this makes you look less tired – try Mineralogie Pink Sand.
  • Massage your skin lightly to increase the micro-circulation and try a Yuroll Jade Roller around your eyes to help with puffiness and aid Lymphatic Drainage.

Jan Marini C-ESTA Serum

Jan Marini Topical Stabilized Vitamin C

Jan Marini C-ESTA Serum is an advanced anti-ageing serum to rejuvenate the skin with some very effective ingredients. C-ESTA is a stablized form of lipid soluble topical Vitamin C that is able to rapidly penetrate the surface of the skin. We know how important Vitamin C is in terms of healthy skin, so it is wise to choose a formula that has medically efficacious levels and able to be transported into the skin cells through a stablized formulation – Jan Marini C-ESTA Serum ticks all of these boxes.

The C-ESTA Serum is a lightweight fluid for application after cleansing, you may feel a mild tingling sensation, but this is very normal.Within a short time of using the serum your skin will begin to appear smoother, supple, and feel firmer and more resilient. Fine and deep lines will look less pronounced and skin colour and texture improves.

DMAE Tightens Slack Facial Muscles

C-ESTA Serum also contains Jan Marini’s DAE Complex, which contains a powerful antioxidant cocktail, this cocktail contains DMAE, which acts on the appearance of sagging  muscles, for a firmer tighter skin with more defined facial contours, it really does work!

The C-ESTA Serum is suitable for an oily/acne skin type, and is completely non-comedogenic. If you have a drier skin type then the C-ESTA Cream will be more suitable.

Top Tip – Use Jan Marini C-ESTA Serum or Cream after using a Medik8 Dermaroller(skin needling), this enhances the penetration of the product and also stimulates Collagen and Elastin, for tighter, firmer skin – this really gives fantastic results.  I would recommend this to anyone concerned with the signs of ageing.

O2 Intraceuticals Opulence Hydration Gel

O2 Intraceuticals Opulence Hydration Gel is a silky, Hyaluronic Acid rich gel that is lightweight and non greasy. This is suitable for all skin types to counteract skin dehydration and also to brighten areas of uneven pigmentation, or to just brighten your skin up.

This silky hydration complex promotes natural collagen and elastin production – visibly reducing the appearance of fine dehydration lines and improves skin texture.
A botanical brightening complex helps to balance uneven skin pigmentation, refract and disperse light, leaving skin smoothed, refreshed and radiant.

The brightening complex helps to suppress excessive melanin formation, and with regular use can help  minimize dark patches of pigmentation (sunscreen must also be used at all times for any chance of success).
This concentrated multi-action Hyaluronic acid will attract and bind moisture, and has a cumulative effect on the skin’s surface, also contains essential Antioxidants to fight off free radical damage.

Some of the key ingredients in the Intraceuticals Hydration Gel, are Alpha Arbutin, Yellow Dock (both skin brighteners), Stabilized Vitamin C, High Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid and Non Polymerised Hyaluronic Acid.

This is a great product for any skin type, and visibly counteracts skin dehydration. Also available is O2 Intraceuticals Rejuvenate Hydration Gel – which has all the benefits as above but without the botanical skin brighteners.


Jan Marini C-ESTAMINS are the most advanced anti-ageing nutritional supplement available today. C-ESTAMINS provide all the essential nutrients that have shown to boost energy and provide support for enhanced well-being and longevity.

These once daily packs are formulated to assist in noticeably improving the appearance of ageing and sun-damaged skin.
C-ESTAMINS contains a patented technology called “BioCell Collagen II“. BioCell has been the focus of two double blind placebo controlled studies that confirm the effects of BioCell on factors that influence skin elasticity and volume, improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

One of the visible signs of skin ageing is the loss of connective tissue, this helps give skin form and structure by acting as a “filler” agent and providing volume.
Rejuvenating Hyaluronic Acid is one of the primary components that connective tissue is made up of. Hyaluronic Acid is a water filled gel and known as natures moisturiser – more than half the body’s HA is found in the skin and we start to lose this as we get to around 40 years old.
C-ESTAMINS contains every vitamin and supplement you need for you to remain youthful and prevent skin damage. You do not need any other supplement and this is reflected in the price.

  • Lessens the appearance of facial wrinkles
  • Improves the appearance of facial and body skin texture
  • Noticeably increases the skin’s moisture content
  • Improves appearance of firmness and volume
  • Increased energy and enhanced well-being

C-ESTAMINS are conveniently packaged in a sealed container containing a 30 day supply (5 tablets per packet). Take one packet daily with food and a full glass of water.

These are great for the run-up to a big event, e.g. your wedding! It takes at least 2-3 months for the results to show in your skin, so be patient!

Tua Viso

Tua Viso Micro-Current Machine

The Tua Viso has been a much coveted skincare gadget by me for quite a while, until my 32nd birthday in July when I finally invested in one.

Tua Viso is Italian for “Your Face” and claims to reduce the signs of ageing, gives you a more firmed, sculpted and radiant appearance. The Tua Viso is a hand held gadget and a non-invasive treatment for the facial muscles that works via Hydro electronic micro-current stimulation. It was developed by an Italian Dermatologist – Dr Andrea Paolorosso and brought to the UK by facialist “Tina Richards“.

Micro-current is a low level of electrical current that mirrors the body’s own natural current. It’s a proven and accepted method of Muscle Re-education. There are 32 different muscles of the face that are manipulated during the average micro-current skin treatment. Our facial skin is supported and anchored by a network of muscles, while we age the facial muscles start to lose their tone, volume and elasticity also the facial ligaments become loose that hold our muscles in place, this leads to a loss of facial contour and sagging. Although this is not the only reason for the visible signs of ageing, it will contribute to an aged appearance.

I have worked with some of the expensive salon “Non Surgical Facelift” machines and can conclude from using this myself that I have got far better results using this – This is my personal opinion and I am in no way connected to the company to sell or promote the Tua Viso. I am just interested in non-invasive treatments and gadgets that give results.

Here are some of the benefits of using a Micro-Current Machine

  • Increased circulation for the blood and lymph – this I feel is a real plus point and will help detoxify the skin, reduce facial puffiness and under eye bags and improve the overall surface appearance of the skin. Skin is plump with an enhanced colour .
  • Muscle re-education – you will prevent and correct the loss of facial tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Improves the firmness and tone of the cheeks, jaw line and neck for a more youthful appearance.
  • Increased natural production of Collagen and Elastin
  • Increased Protein sythesis
  • Dispersion of hardened Collagen

Electrical stimulation for the facial muscles works the less used muscle fibres which is why this works much better than manual Facial Exercises (which may cause more wrinkles) and has many more benefits for your skin.

I feel that starting this earlier on will prevent more signs of ageing and keep your skin in great condition. I have been using it 3 – 4 times a week since the start of July and after the 2nd go I could notice results, especially around my eyes as the skin feels firmer and I look less tired. Admittedly I don’t have many fine lines yet, but I have noticed the deepening of my nasal folds either side of my mouth, and after a month of using my Tua Viso they have definitely improved. I actually hold a lot of tension in my facial muscles and since using the Tua Viso it has really helped alleviate it, especially around my jaw line.

Once you have been patient enough to learn how to use your Tua Viso and master the points on which to place it, then it really is very easy! No sticky pads that lose their sticky, no messy gels to apply, it just needs some water that you pour into the back  reservoirs that dampen the sponges which you press to your face. As for the feeling, well I wouldn’t say it was nice but you actually get used to it – and I am a bit of a wimp. You can start off with the intensity low and build up to higher level – the higher the level the better the results. The whole face can be done in about 30 – 40 minutes (watch some TV). I choose to focus on areas where I need it more and do a couple more minutes, like around my eyes.

This may not be for everyone and as with everything some people will love it and some wont! but I feel it is a very good option as a non-invasive Anti-Ageing treatment for long-term use – whilst being cost effective.

Botox and Micro-current do not mix – so steer clear if you have Botox injections.

You can buy the Tua Viso online from Tina Richards Website.

Antioxidants to the Rescue!

You have probably heard the word “Antioxidant” used lots of times in regards to skincare and nutrition, but you may not exactly understand exactly what they are or how to get enough of them! They have amazing health benefits and help prevent heart disease, liver disease and some cancers, they can also offer protection against other age related conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Antioxidants are also know as Free Radical Scavengers and are the best defence against oxidative damage and will help prevent wrinkles! That is enough reason to start guzzling the Pomegranate Juice!!
To understand what Antioxidants do, we must first understand oxidation, this is easy – imagine an apple that has fallen from its tree and laid on the ground in the sun – it soon goes brown and shrivels up! Our skin, unlike the apple has a constant supply of nourishment from within (as long as we eat well and hydrate ourselves!) but the effects of the environment will eventually take their toll. As our outermost layer, our skin is constantly exposed to environmental factors which influence its health and appearance. Ironically most of the oxidants in the body are actually toxic forms of one of our most essential elements – Oxygen.
Oxidants – also known as Free Radicals and Reactive Oxygen Species, are the body’s equivalent of nuclear waste which must be disposed of to remove the danger! Think of them as sparks being generated by our bodies burning glucose to make energy in our cells, or by pollution, UV and smoking. These sparks or oxidants, cause damage to cells and need to be put out! This is where Antioxidants play their part! they are like the fire extinguishers for the sparks.

Without being too technical (or boring!), here is a brief explanation of how oxidants wreak their havoc – first imagine millions of atoms in our bodies, and in the chemicals in the environment. Each atom has a paired positive and negative charge (electrons) which keep it nice and balanced. An oxidant is, in contrast unbalanced and highly reactive. It is an atom with one of its electrons missing, so it causes chaos by trying to steal one from a nearby atom. As you can imagine, the theft of an electron itself creates another oxidant and so the process continues in a cascade of damage to vital skin components (not to mention your internal bits as well). Oxidants are very destructive overall because they damage fats, proteins, connective tissue and DNA.

Some oxidants arise normally during metabolism, sometimes the body’s immune system’s cells create them on purpose to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Normally the body can handle them, but if Antioxidants are unavailable, or if the Free Radical production becomes excessive (UV damage and smoking!) then damage occurs.
By understanding this process, we can defeat it! and stay healthier and younger looking for longer! Smoking creates something like 500,000 Free Radicals at every puff! that is why smokers age at double the rate, and are at risk of more cancers than non-smokers – very scary!
“The Free Radical is the source for virtually all disease, illness and ageing itself”

Antioxidants to the rescue!!– The most well known antioxidants are Vitamins A, C and E, Beta-Carotene and in the minerals Copper, Zinc and Selenium. Dietary compounds are believed to be even more powderful, these include Lycopene (tomatoes), Anthocyanins (cranberries), Lutein (leafy greens) and Flavanoids ( Green Tea, White Tea, Rooibos Tea and Red Wine). Other excellent sources of antioxidants include Blueberries,Pomegranate and Acai fruits, and herbs like Turmeric, Ginger and Cinnamon. We should aim to get some of these from our diet as they are the most effective sources – however I think a supplement is well worth taking as we don’t always manage the perfect diet! While ingesting Antioxidants can effectively scavenge Free Radicals, our skin is often the last to get its ration of Antioxidants. That is when topically applied cosmetics come into play.
Scientists have been studying an entire host of plant antioxidants that, when applied topically, can help us fight Free Radicals and protect our skin, look our for some of the above ingredients in your skin care formulas and make sure the Vitamins are in a stable form to keep them potent especially in your sun care products – it has been proven that they give you further protection for your skin cells. Look for some of the same Antioxidants as above, especially Vitamins A, C and E, Resveratrol (from red wine) is the new super-antioxidant to watch out for and Green and White Teas are always a great choice. Antioxidants are a preventative measure only, and cannot make your wrinkles you already have go away!
Our body actually creates antioxidant systems as well, some of these are enzyme systems and others are amino acids, like Glutathione, which can stop Free Radicals in their tracks!
We need a healthy balanced diet for our body to do what it can to repair and heal itself, Antioxidants are basically like insurance for our skin and our health! prevention is better than cure!
Make sure you are including loads of Antioxidant rich fruit and veg and get a good Antioxidant supplement just to make sure – start from a young age and you will reap the benefits, but it is never too late too prevent further damage.

Right, I’m off for a cup of Green Tea!

Fabulous Vitamin A

Retinoids are a family of chemicals derived from Vitamin A. This is a very important Vitamin in regards to your skin,  as it has a normalizing effect on skin cells, it’s a potent exfoliator,  reverses photo-ageing (sun damage), inhibits Collagen breakdown and makes the skin cells more organized.

Vitamin A is a beneficial Cell Communicating ingredient and an Antioxidant when applied to the skin and is confirmed to improve wrinkles. It can increase Collagen synthesis and Glycosaminoglycans (the substances in your Dermis that hydrate and plump skin, e.g Hyaluronic Acid). Vitamin A in the appropriate strength also has the ability to stimulate the anchoring fibrils at your Dermal Epidermal Junction – this is the area that starts to separate your epidermis from your dermis as we age.

What is confusing, is the various forms of Vitamin A and what strengths they should be to have any noticeable effect on the skin.

Not all forms of Vitamin A are created equal. Some are more easily converted to Retinoic Acid than others. The typical conversion pathway – is as follows – Retinyl Palmitate => Retinol => Retinaldehyde => Retinoic Acid.

Our skin has enzymes which convert the Retinyl esters into Retinol and from that the Retinol is converted into Retinyl (Retinyl Aldehyde) and from there it is converted into Retinoic Acid and this is the form that actually makes the changes in DNA and cellular structures. Only a small amount of Retinoic Acid is normally found in the skin.

  • Retinyl Palmitate  – This is an ester of Vitamin A and the animal form. It is found in nearly all skincare products that are widely available. As you see from above it is the lowest in the coversion chain, so isn’t as irritating as the other forms. Many products with Retinyl Palmitate are touted as equivalent to Retinoic Acid yet without the side-effects. Many of these products contain too little Retinyl Palmitate to have any noticeable effect and just to have it listed on the ingredients list is not enough. Products with higher concentrations do exist, Environ formulated their whole range around the use of Vitamin A in this form. Some individuals may not be able to convert this effectively into Retioic Acid, while others may see great results.
  • Retinol -This is the alcohol form of Vitamin A and Retinol is regarded by some as the “True” Vitamin A or the complete molecule. It is highly effective if in a stable form and helps create better, healthier skin cells and increase the amount of skin support substances. The stability and packaging issues are important as any container or jar that lets in air or sunlight will degrade the Retinol. Effective stable versions of Retinol will have this either near the top of the ingredient list or above half way. I use Afirm TRx systems, it has shown me great results.
  • Retinoic Acid – This is the acid form of Vitamin A and is usually only available from prescription from your doctor/dermatologist. It is also known as Tretinoin – its technical name is All-Trans Retinoic Acid and is the ingredient in the following prescription topical drugs – Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac, Avita and Differin. Some of these are prescribed for acne as Vitamin A has shown to clear acne lesions and normalize the skin. It  is approved as a treatment for severe Photo-aged skin and helps prevent further damage. The results of using this drug are indisputable, as Tretionoin affects and improves the actual cell production deep in the Dermis. However not every-one’s skin will tolerate the use of Tretinoin without experiencing discomfort and side effects including flaking and a sunburned like skin. Most dermatologists advise starting with the lowest percentage and use once a week, then building up the usage – follow any guidelines given by your doctor.
  • Beta Carotene – This is the plant version of Vitamin A and a member of the Carotenoid family – it’s not just Carrots that contain this, many dark leafy veg contains this as well as other fruit and vegetables. Beta-Carotene  is a fantastic Antioxidant but also has the ability to convert Retinol into Retinoic Acid,  this may not be effective for everyone or very results based.

In summary Vitamin A is the most effective anti-ageing ingredient you can use. Although it is not the only ingredient to look for in a formula, it deserves strong consideration by anyone concerned with keeping their skin in top condition. Vitamin A deficiency is probably the greatest vitamin deficiency of the skin and can lead to DNA damage of the skin cell, to minimize this debt apply a product every day with Retinyl Palmitate (skin friendly form), start this from a young age and use with a reliable sunscreen with antioxidants C and E, as Vitamin A is depleted by daylight. You may choose to try one of the stronger forms of Retinoids as you age, especially if your skin is very strong and resistant.

To get enough Vitamin A inside you, try to eat more Vitamin A rich foods. Animal (especially fish) livers contain a good source,  but I prefer the vegetable sources of Beta-Carotene,  e.g – Carrots, Sweet Potato, Canteloupe Melon, Goji Berries and loads more. My mum used to tell me to eat all my carrots and I will be able to see in the dark, well it is indeed true as Vitamin A improves night vision!

Recommended Supplements, Skin Vit A by the Advanced Nutrition Programme.


The Sun and Smart Protection

The skin is a wonderful record keeper! every time you expose your skin to daylight, your skin adds up all those times like money in the bank! – the trouble is eventually the payoff catches up with you!, in the form of premature ageing, wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation and the risk of skin cancers.

This world wide issue reinforces that the best defence is to limit daylight exposure and protect the skin with sunscreen at all times.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Sunlight is comprised of different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. About 35% of the spectrum is called visible light, with 60% of infra-red range (felt as heat) and 5% is made up of ultraviolet (UV) rays. It is this whole UV range that we must concern ourselves with.

How UV light is absorbed in your skin

How deep do the UV rays penetrate your skin?
UVC radiation is potentially the most damaging as it is very energetic, fortunately for us UVC is absorbed by oxygen and ozone in the stratosphere and never reaches the earth’s surface, if it did we wouldn’t exist!

UVA rays are the longest rays in the spectrum, and they penetrate deeper into the skin. UVA rays are responsible for causing the damage at a cellular level, making them responsible for most skin cancers and the main cause of the signs of ageing in the form of wrinkles and discolouration. UVA is present all year round, even in wintertime!, 80-90 % of the ageing we see on our skin is down to environmental factors.

UVB rays are shorter than UVA rays, and cause the burn or tan effect in the skin. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause cancer, so wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with antioxidants is absolutely essential!

Damage to the Epidermis

The skin’s response to the sun can be seen initially as erythema (redness of the skin). This is a result of the inflammatory response and dilation of the blood vessels in the dermis. This is due to the cell damage and the repair process.

Erythema generally appears two to six hours after you’ve exposed your skin. The redder your skin gets the more damage you’ve inflicted on your skin.

UVB rays are the most effective at generating erythema, that is why they are often referred to as the burning rays.

The sun and daylight also increase:

  • Cell proliferation and thickening of the stratum corneum
  • Dehydration as the lack of moisture in the stratum corneum leads to gaps in the skin’s barrier, leaking moisture and causing skin to flake.
  • Sun exposure decreases the skin’s Hyaluronic acid content which can lead to a lack of volume in the skin.
  • Hyper or Hypo pigmentation can also result.
  • Following the initial erethema or sunburn, the skin responds by producing Melanin, which gives the tan appearance. Your tan is a sign of skin damage.

Collagen Breakdown and changes to Elastin

In the dermis, UV radiation causes Collagen to breakdown at a higher rate than with just chronological ageing. Sunlight damages collagen fibres and causes the accumulation of abnormal elastin. When this sun induced elastin accumulates, enzymes called Matrix Metalloproteinase’s are produced in large quantities.

Changes in the Dermal Blood Vessels

UV radiation causes the walls of blood vessels to become thinner leading to minor trauma in sun-exposed areas. Venous lakes can result on the lips and broken capillaries on the face and chest area.

Free Radicals generated

UV radiation is one of the major creators of Free Radicals. Always make sure the sun protection you have chosen contains Antioxidants in its formulation, they greatly enhance the protection against sun damage.
DNA Repair Inhibited

UV radiation affects the repair of damaged DNA. UVB is thought to cause the damage and UVA inhibits the repair process. So it is a double hit on the repair ability of the DNA in our cells.

Immune System Affected

The body has a defence system to attack developing cancer cells. These immune system factors include white blood cells, the T Lymphocytes and specialised skin cells called Langherhan cells. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, certain chemicals are released that suppress these immune cells and UVB is known to destroy Langerhan cells. An SPF 15 is proven to protect the Langherhan cells, that is why it is always recommended as a minimum.

Cell Death Prevention

The last line of defence of the immune system is a process called Apoptosis. Apoptosis is a process of cell suicide that kills severely damaged cells so they cannot become cancerous. This cell suicide is seen when you peel after a sunburn. There are certain factors, including UV exposure, that prevent this cell death allowing cells to continue to divide and possibly become cancerous.

The Carcinogenic Effects

The carcinogenic effect of ultraviolet exposure may be diagnosed as various forms of skin cancer. Skin cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up the skin. Normally, skin cells grow and divide to form new cells. Every day skin cells grow old and die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the skin does not need them and old cells do not die when they should. The DNA is also effected and these extra cells form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumour. Growth or tumours can be benign or malignant. If you notice any suspicious lesion or skin disorder, you should immediately seek a doctors attention for a diagnosis.

Checking Moles

Melanomas start from moles so it’s a good idea to check for any changes in your moles. Any mole that bleeds, changes its size, shape, colour, texture or sensation should be checked out by a doctor.

Smart Sun Sense and Prevention
The best way to prevent skin cancer and sun damage is to protect skin from the daylight and direct sun. UV radiation can penetrate through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds. Also, protecting children from an early age is so important, as most of the damage is done when we are young. Sunscreens can be used on babies over the age of six months. keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid the midday sun
  • There is as much UVA in the winter as in the summer
  • One burn doubles your risk of melanoma
  • Protect from UV reflection from sand, water, snow and ice – 90% bounces back
  • Give yourself a yearly examination for skin cancer and changes in moles

Tomatoes could be the key to sun care!
Lycopene is being added to the list of antioxidants that could potentially protect skin suffering substantial sun damage. Lycopene is found in tomatoes and other red fruits. Its concentration is particularly high in cooked tomatoes and tomato paste. In a small, controlled study carried out by Newcastle and Manchester Universities, women were given 55g of tomato paste each day (to eat) for 12 weeks. The skin protection against sunburn increased by 30% in the women. So combined with topical UVA and UVB protection it could offer greater benefits for your skin while in the sun.

How SPF’s Work

The SPF represents the ability of a sunscreen to delay sun-induced burning or erythema. It is important to realise that an SPF is only a measure of how much UVB protection provides. Unfortunately, a similar system of denoting sunscreen protection for UVA radiation has not been universally recognised. Always look for broad spectrum sun products.

sunbathing-fi-600x300Sunscreens work by two mechanisms:

Chemical Sunscreens – Absorb UV rays, lowering the energy level and releasing energy as heat. This type needs to be applied to the skin before any other product, and normally 20 minutes before sun exposure.
Physical Sunscreens – Reflect or scatter the energy rays. They are mineral based so therefore less irritating. They need to be applied last as they bounce the rays off the skin. You will also find physical sunscreens in mineral make-up, which is normally SPF 20-26, depending on brand.
It is important to understand that, even though you may be using a sunscreen, some UVB rays will still penetrate through your skin, you cannot filter out 100% of the sun’s rays.

For example – SPF 2 products protects your skin from 50% of the UVB rays, so you can stay in the sun twice as long as you would be able to without protection. So you may burn after 5 minutes without protection, once this SPF is applied you could stay out for 10 minutes without burning. (this is just an example as this SPF is far too low)

SPF 8 blocks 87.5 % of UVB rays.

SPF 15 blocks 93.33 % of UVB and some UVA rays.

SPF 30 blocks 96.6 % of UVB and some UVA rays.

SPF 60 blocks 97.98 of UVB and some UVA rays.

While it may seem that a product with an SPF 50 or higher would offer a full percentage rate of protection, it is mostly comprised of an increased level of chemicals, which can cause a higher rate of irritation in skin. Also look out for fragrance in sunscreens as these would be photo-toxic and can give you a reaction or pigmentation problems.

If you have a sunscreen sensitivity then look for mineral based products which contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, and can have an anti-inflammatory effect on damaged skin.

Application of Sunscreen
Most importantly, when you use a sunscreen, make sure you apply an adequate amount to ensure you are getting the desired SPF. That’s generally about one teaspoon for the face and about on eighth of a cup for complete body coverage. Unless you are using a waterproof formulation, reapply sunscreen whenever you swim, exercise or sweat profusely. The national cancer society recommends re-application every 2 hours.

Vitamin D Production

Known as the sunshine vitamin, this nutrient is essential for healthy bones and is produced in the body when exposed to sunlight, it is also found in oily fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and margarine. Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from their diet and by getting a little sun, I know this may seem a bit ironic, but a little sun is good for us, just be careful!

If you are lacking in vitamin D for a long time then your bones may soften. In serious cases this leads to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

By enjoying the sun sensibly, it is possible to make enough vitamin D while not increasing your risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. The amount of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D varies from person to person, it depends on things like skin type, time of day and year, and where you are in the world.

The amount of time needed to make enough vitamin D is always less than the high amounts that cause tanning or sunburn. You don’t need to spend hours in the sun to feel the benefits of sunlight. In fact extra time in the sun doesn’t mean you keep on producing more vitamin D. When your body has a healthy level of the vitamin, the excess is broken down. From October to March our skin cannot make vitamin D as there is a low level of UVB in winter sunlight. Fortunately, health benefits of vitamin D do not need to be traded off for skin protection. You can get adequate amounts from your diet/supplements. Cod Liver Oil seems to contain the highest units of vitamin D.

Say NO to Sunbeds!!

While it is true that UV radiation of most sun beds do not cause erythema (redness) – although I have known very fair skinned people to burn – there is still damage being caused at a cellular level, and for some individuals this can lead to melanomas and skin cancer. Sun beds are definitely not safer than the sun! Beware of the coin operated sun beds, they may be quite old and you have no way of knowing if the tubes have been changed.

UVA is the primary wavelength used in sun bed because it causes the tanning reaction without the burning reaction of UVB. The long term effects on your skin will be premature ageing and pigmentation, I like to think of them as “Time Machines” as they definitely accelerate the ageing process – forward in time! making your skin look 10 – 15 years older.

Try some of the excellent Self Tanning products on the market instead, you will thank yourself for it later! I like Fake Bake and Liz Earle’s Face Self Tan Spritz, they don’t clog my pores and look very natural.

Topical Sun Care Products
As consumers we are demanding more from sunscreen products and has fuelled research into new technology in sunscreen ingredients. New types of dispersions of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide allow the formulation of products that no longer require the use of iron oxides to overcome the intense whiteness of these physical sunscreens. In addition, improvements to chemical sunscreens have enabled formulas that have a more elegant feel and texture to them. Sunscreen products can finally be made more like skin care products, that accommodate different skin types.

Antioxidants in Sun Care are Essential

On the research front, scientists have discovered ways to enhance sun protection for skin without the use of additional sunscreens. These studies indicate that when antioxidants (vitamins C and E) are formulated with sunscreen agents, protection against both UV-induced sunburn and free radicals in the epidermis and dermis is enhanced, but these vitamins need to be in a stable form to actually provide an antioxidant effect.

Dermalogica’s Daylight Defence System with UV Smart Booster Technology

These are very effective sun care products that provide enhanced photo protection by incorporating antioxidants into the product via a unique Smart Booster Technology, a customised micro-capsule technology that safe guards active vitamins, then releases them upon contact with UV rays (anytime the skin is exposed to daylight) for maximum free radical protection. All products in this range are broad spectrum and protect against UVA and UVB rays. You can also choose sun care for specific skin type – oily, dry and sensitive, as they have different formulations.

If you are actually going to sun bathe, then you do need specific sun care products as above, not a tinted moisturiser or your make-up with SPF, these are OK for every day wear if you are out of the sun, but you cannot rely on them for proper sun protection.

Product Recommendations for every day protection: