From the moment the sun comes through the clouds it is heavenly to go out. It is great to go for a walk, exercise, work in the garden or just enjoy the sunshine. Sunlight can make you feel cheerful and is important for the production of vitamin D, but be careful, it can also cause damage.
The skin is the largest organ of our body and protects us every day from various negative external influences. In this way, it forms our first line of defense against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, among others. Therefore, our skin deserves special attention and optimal support against these harmful UV rays.
Skin damage caused by sunburn
UV rays from the sun provide, among other things, a nice tan to the skin and the production of vitamin D in the body. But in addition, they can also cause a lot of damage. Sunlight consists of a spectrum of rays including UV light. UV light in turn consists of 3 types of radiation, namely ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC).
Not all UV radiation from the sun reaches us, some of it is absorbed by the ozone layer like UVC rays. UVB rays, on the other hand, can cause sunburn because they are able to burn the superficial layers of the skin and, in addition, can cause DNA damage. UVA rays are linked to accelerated skin aging because they penetrate deeper into the skin and begin to damage the elastic fibers, elastin and collagen there, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines. Moreover, they also promote the formation of free radicals inside the cells. If these free radicals are not immediately neutralized, they also begin to attack DNA molecules. The damage can accumulate at that level and eventually turn into skin cancer. Beware, exposure to UV rays damages the DNA of skin cells regardless of whether you burn, get a tan or see no visible changes to your skin.
What skin type do you have?
How our skin responds to exposure to UV radiation varies from person to person. Consequently, how sensitive you are to UV radiation, and thus specifically to sunburn, is determined by your skin type. In general, there are 6 different skin types, classified according to the degree of burning and tanning.
- If you have skin type 1, then your skin is very sensitive to sunlight damage, you probably burn very quickly, but you do not tan. People with this skin type are characterized by very light skin, often with many freckles in sun-exposed areas and in combination with red or light-blond hair.
- If you have skin type 2, then your skin is fairly sensitive to sunlight damage, you burn quickly and tan slowly. People with skin type 2 often have light skin with blond hair and with gray, green or light brown eyes.
- If you have skin type 3, your skin is less sensitive to sunlight damage, you don’t burn as easily and you also tan easily. This skin type is characterized by slightly tinted skin and dark blond to brown hair with (dark) brown eyes.
- If you have skin type 4, then your skin is the least sensitive to sunlight damage, you almost never burn and tan very well. This type is also called the Mediterranean type, because mostly people in subtropical countries and in combination with the Mediterranean Sea have this skin type. The skin is more tinted and people also have dark hair and dark eyes.
- If you have skin type 5, you burn harder and turn a deep tan. Also called the Asian skin type, this type is characterized by dark tan or brownish-yellow skin combined with black hair and dark eyes.
- If you have skin type 6, you burn very rarely and turn very dark brown or black. People with skin type 6 have natural protection against sunburn. They have better protection from UV radiation because there is a greater amount of melanin present in the skin.
Skin types 1, 2 and 3 are the most sensitive to the effects of ultraviolet rays. While for skin types 5 and 6 UV rays are especially important because they are less likely to produce vitamin D (due to darker skin).
Antioxidants: natural protective mechanism of the skin
Radiation on the skin causes the activation of free radicals, these unstable, highly active molecules can cause damage to the skin, among other things, and accelerate signs of skin aging. The skin has a natural protective mechanism against this, namely antioxidants. Antioxidants are going to neutralize these free radicals, thereby protecting tissue and cells from oxidative stress and damage. So it is important to keep your skin healthy by getting enough antioxidants. In fact, for almost every part of your body, antioxidants have important benefits to offer.
Preparing our skin for the sun
So if you want to enjoy the sunshine, it is important to minimize the risk of getting sunburned by getting out in the sun wisely. Therefore, protect yourself with the help of clothing or a cap and protect your skin not only with sunscreen, but also from the inside with antioxidants.
Antioxidants can be found mainly in fruits and vegetables. So the more different fruits and vegetables you take in daily, the stronger the protection is for your body. However, consuming many different fruits and vegetables daily is not always easy, which is why it is easier to supplement with antioxidants using a supplement.
Antioxidants can be classified according to their solubility, and this also determines in which area of the body they work. Water-soluble antioxidants perform their function outside the cells, while fat-soluble antioxidants actually target the free radicals in the membrane surrounding your cells. Antioxidants can include vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes and phytonutrients. Below is a list of the most important antioxidants in each category.
An important water-soluble antioxidant is vitamin C. Moreover, it is also responsible for the skin’s repair capacity by contributing to the formation of collagen (provides elasticity to the skin). In turn, an important fat-soluble antioxidant is vitamin E, so it will in this way be able to support the fats in the skin among other things during sunny periods.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is good for the hair, nails and skin. However, zinc cannot be produced by the body itself so therefore it must be absorbed through the diet. Another mineral that acts as an antioxidant is selenium. In addition, it has a positive effect on the hair, nails, thyroid and immune system.
Coenzyme Q10 is a body’s own antioxidant whose production in the skin decreases due to exposure to UV rays and aging. In addition, it is also important in the energy production of cells.
Phytonutrients are plant nutrients found only in plants. Plants produce these substances for protection and they are also responsible for a number of external characteristics, such as the plant’s color. Some important phytonutrients known to act as antioxidants are carotenoids, resveratrol and ellagic acid.
- There are several types of carotenoids, the best known of which are beta-carotene, lutein, astaxanthin and lycopene. Lycopene, for example, is present in tomatoes. Astaxanthin is even known for its very high antioxidant capacity and practical structure. Because it is both water and fat soluble, as an antioxidant it offers unique protection (both at the cell membrane and inside the cell) against oxidative stress.
- Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant present in grapes, blueberries and cocoa, among others.
- Ellagic acid is found in various fruits, vegetables and nuts, but especially in raspberries and pomegranate. It is widely used as an active ingredient in the cosmetic industry.
In addition to antioxidants, there are other important substances that are important in supporting the skin. One example is copper. Copper is a mineral that is involved in multiple body functions, including the overall health of the skin. It contributes to the pigmentation of the skin and hair.