The secret to beautiful skin is healthy skin. So how do we make our skin healthier? How can we repair damage and protect our skin? Knowing one fact helps us find the answer. As we get older, most of the changes in our skin come from sun damage. Wrinkles, age spots, and loss of elasticity all come from the sun. Don’t believe me? First take a good look at the skin on your face. Then compare it to your skin on parts of your body where the sun don’t shine. Case closed.
Sunburns aren’t the only way that the sun causes skin damage. Every time the sun’s harmful UV rays reach your skin, they create free radicals in your skin. Another word for free radicals is oxidants, and oxidants cause the chemical reaction, oxidation. Oxidation damages your skin. The three steps to beautiful skin involve preventing the formation of free radicals, getting rid of the ones that form, and reversing the damage that they cause.
The best way to have beautiful skin is to completely avoid the sun. But that isn’t really practical. Many of us enjoy outdoor activities that make sun exposure inevitable. And remember, the sun’s rays travel right through glass. So when you’re sitting in a car or sitting near a window, even in January, the sun is hurting your skin. And there’s no doubt about it. The less sun you get, the better your skin will look and the healthier it will be.
Unless you are going to lock yourself in a closet, if you want healthy skin, you’ll need a plan to protect yourself. Any good skin care plan starts with avoiding as much sun as you reasonably can. When you need to be in the sun, wear a wide brimmed hat, wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection, and wear a good sunblock. Sunblock is like wearing shoes. You don’t have to wear it, but if you don’t, it won’t be long before you get hurt.
Some sunblocks are better than others. We all know that you need to use a sunblock with an SPF between 15 and 30. Sunblocks with lower SPF’s don’t give you enough protection. And sunblocks with higher SPF’s tend to cost more without really offering better protection. But the SPF number doesn’t tell you the whole story. You need to know about the two different types of sunblock: physical and chemical.
- Physical blocks contain Zinc or Titanium. These products put up a physical barrier, the way rubber gloves protect your hands from water. They actually block the sun’s harmful rays from getting to your skin.
- Chemical blocks have chemical names. They work by absorbing the sun’s harmful rays. The sunblock absorbs the rays to prevent free radicals from forming directly in your skin. The problem is that when the sunblock absorbs the sun’s rays, free radicals form in the sunblock. And these free radicals can also damage your skin.
So Step #1 to having great skin: use a physical sunblock (one with zinc or titanium) every day.
Okay, we are blocking most of the harmful rays with a physical sunblock. But nothing works 100%, and we can’t block all the rays. Some free radicals are still going to develop. What do we do with the free radicals that weren’t blocked by our sunblock? Remember, free radicals are also called oxidants. And you get rid of oxidants with anti-oxidants. One good way to get antioxidants is by eating the right food (like berries) and taking at the right supplements (like vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids.) But the best way to neutralize the free radicals in your skin is to apply an antioxidant directly to your skin. And the best topical antioxidant is Vitamin C. The most effective formulations are clear liquids that come in a brown bottle with a dropper, to prevent sunlight from changing them. So Step #2 on the road to great skin is to apply Vitamin C to your skin every day.
Sunblock and Vitamin C are an amazing team protecting your skin. But many of us already have some damage. And even when we use a great sunblock and apply Vitamin C, we still can’t prevent all damage. Some of those rays still manage to cause a little trouble. So our final step in great skin care is to reverse the damage that has already formed.
We can get rid of damage with lasers and peels, but we don’t have to be so aggressive. We can reverse damage and stimulate our skin to produce collagen fibers, elastic fibers, moisture, and new healthy cells with tretinoin. The best known brand of tretinoin is Retin-A. Tretinoin is a proven treatment to reverse sun damage, and it is FDA-approved. Because it stimulates collagen production, it helps get rid if wrinkles. Because it stimulates the production of elastic fibers, it improves your skin’s elasticity, making it tighter, less loose and saggy. It increases blood flow to your skin, increasing the nutrients and moisture in your skin. It stimulates the production of new, healthy cells and the shedding of old cells. It has even been proven to reverse skin cancers, but we usually treat skin cancers more aggressively. You need a doctor’s prescription and guidance so that you get the most benefit from tretinoin and avoid getting dry, red and flaky. We’ll talk about that more in future posts. So Step #3 is to use tretinoin to repair damaged skin. Let’s review the three steps:
- Avoid the sun and use a good physical sunblock.
- Use Vitamin C on your skin as an antioxidant.
- Use tretinoin with the supervision of your doctor.
There are plenty of other tricks that will keep your skin looking great. We’ll be talking about that in future posts.
To learn about our customized skin care line, Swan Skin Care, click here.