Look on the bright side

The sun is the source of energy that sustains life, but accumulated exposure without proper protection has negative consequences. The main types of rays that damage our skin are UVA and UVB. This damage manifests itself in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, laxity, and discoloration, but the most dangerous consequence is a higher risk of skin cancer. According to various studies, 90% of premature aging is caused by environmental damage.

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To adequately shield skin from the sun, sunscreen needs to be a part of every daily skincare routine. Options include physical UV-reflecting ingredients, chemical UV-absorbing ingredients, or a combination of both. The most important thing to look for on a label is the term “broad spectrum” which indicates full coverage from the entire spectrum of UVA and UVB radiation, whereas SPF only measures the length of time one is protected from the UVB rays responsible for sunburn.

Research has shown that sunscreen alone may not provide adequate protection from environmental damage. A key finding shows that sunscreens may only block 55% of the free radicals generated by UV exposure. Pollution depletes natural antioxidants and exhausts natural antioxidant defenses in the stratum corneum (the outer most layer of skin) by creating free radicals, which damage vital cell structures, essential in maintaining skin elasticity. Free radicals disrupt the natural cycle of collagen and elastin production in the dermis to cause fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, environmental offenders activate inflammatory pathways in the epidermis which can lead to inflammatory skin diseases and cancer.

Good vs bad ozone?

Interestingly, ozone is both protective and detrimental to humans. Ozone (O3) is a gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. Ozone occurs naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere – 10 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface – where it forms a protective shield against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (good ozone). However, near ground level, ozone is created when volatile pollutants emitted by cars, industrial refineries, and chemical plants, react chemically with sunlight. Ground level ozone, also known as “smog”, is carcinogenic and aggressively attacks tissue on contact. Ozone depletes natural antioxidant defenses, oxidizes cell lipids and proteins causing accelerated skin aging and increase in skin pathology.

For broad range protection against all sources of environmental skin aggressors, it’s imperative to use a topical antioxidant in conjunction with a daily sunscreen. Medical grade skin care products containing antioxidants, such as active vitamin C offer a range of antioxidant products that have been clinically proven to neutralize damaging free radicals induced by UV radiation and pollution. It is recommended that mechanical protection of daily sun screen containing either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide be combined with a daily antioxidant treatment that does not only protect against environmental skin injury but can also reverse signs of aging restoring skin glow, reducing wrinkles, and improving skin elasticity.

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