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Skin Care

The 5 habits of healthy skin

  1. Protection, protection, protection - Be sun-wise and wear protective clothing, use a broad-screen sun-protection cream and say out of the sun between 10am and 3pm.
  2. Don’t worry, be happy - People who believe they look good have a strong sense of self-esteem, are freed of anxiety and enjoy high energy levels. Stress and anxiety cause accelerated free-radical activity and restricted blood and oxygen flow to the cells. Try multi-beneficial activities like yoga, dancing and walking.
  3. Where’s there’s smoke there are wrinkles - Aside from those tell-tale lines around your mouth, smoking robs the skin of oxygen and precious vitamin C, doubling the rate at which it ages. It is also extremely bad for your health and that of those around you.
  4. Sleep well - Sleep is the foundation of your well-being. Human growth hormone is released to revitalise your body and regenerate cells. The way you sleep also determines your wrinkle pattern. If you favour one side, your face may end up more pleated on that side.
  5. Eat well - Your fork could be your best weapon against skin ageing. Think of it as a two-pronged attack – your skin creams do the work on the surface and your diet tackles the task from the inside. Eating the right foods gives the skin the nutrients it needs to be healthier, brighter, smoother and less wrinkled.

The importance of vitamin D supplementation

Dr Des Fernandes

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is similar to vitamin A in that it is actually a hormone and activates many genes in combination with vitamin A. I think this vitamin has been sadly neglected, because people think it is so easy to get adequate amounts of it every day. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People need between five and 15 minutes of direct sun exposure to their face, neck and arms in near-midday sun on most days in summer to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D. I know that sounds crazy and you are probably wondering if I am really serious about skin care! But that’s the truth! Tests have shown that you don’t even need to go pink in order to make vitamin D, but you have to expose your skin to sunlight when UV-B rays are available. What is even crazier is that you should not wear any strong sunscreen at that time so that you don’t block out the UV-B rays. Before 10-11am there are not enough UV-B rays and you’ll get mainly ageing effects from UV-A exposure, and again after about 3 pm there are too few UV-B rays, but abundant UV-A rays. Even in sunny areas of the world, outside the tropics, it is useless exposing yourself to the sun in autumn, winter and early spring, because only UV-B rays can make vitamin D. Most of the people in the world live outside the tropics and from mid-autumn to about mid-spring, UV rays have to pass obliquely through the atmosphere and the UV-B rays are filtered out. UV-A rays are virtually unaffected. That means that we do not make vitamin D for about six months of the year and everyone runs on low levels, which has pernicious consequences. Add to this the fact that many people are using high-level SPF sunscreens that block out a significant amount of UV-B rays.

We then have to question whether in the summer months we can make enough vitamin D. Especially when TV, skin care therapists and doctors are advising people to stay out of the sun! Over the last 20 years or so there has been a concerted effort internationally to curb the incidence of skin cancers and in particular malignant melanoma, without apparent in-depth consideration of the possible negative consequences of limiting sun exposure.

We need to look at the problems associated with lower levels of vitamin D in our bodies. I am not talking about vitamin D deficiency, which is rare. I am talking about less than ideal levels of vitamin D. To avoid clinical vitamin D deficiency you only need to take about 400 i.u.’s of vitamin D daily, whereas to achieve good protective levels of vitamin D you need about 2000 to 2500 i.u.’s every day.

We know that vitamin D is important for bones and teeth and may cause severe deformities in children suffering from a condition called rickets, but few seem to realise that it is such an important molecule in the general health of people. Vitamin D bolsters the immune system against infections such as influenza and pneumonia and has many other direct and indirect positive functions in the human immune system. It may well be that, when our vitamin D levels are low in winter, we get flu. Vitamin D also elevates our mood and seasonal deficiency may also be the explanation for why people become depressed in winter. A lot of good research is now suggesting that just like vitamin A, vitamin D is a vital link in the body's innate ability to prevent cancers from starting up.

It is actually a little frightening to realise that a lack of vitamin D may have a hand in the higher incidences of all kinds of cancer like breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, bowel cancer and even skin cancer.

It is a known fact that vitamin A induces proteins that suppress cancers (the p53 suppressor gene). Vitamin D also has similar actions, which inhibit the growth of a variety of cancers. Vitamin D helps to cause the programmed death of cancer cells directly and this includes the cells of non-melanoma skin cancers. Suppressor genes prevent so-called oncogenes or cancer-causing genes from becoming active and promoting cancer formation. Both these vitamins stimulate healthy cells to specialise to their best potential, which is the exact opposite behaviour found in cells undergoing cancerous changes.

A little simple logic then suggests that if people lack sufficient quantities of these two vitamins, the risk of oncogenes becoming active and causing cancer will increase. Add to this dilemma the fact that ultraviolet A light is not sufficiently screened out by most commercially available protective lotions, no matter how high the SPF rating, and that means that the cutaneous levels of vitamin A drop significantly when they are out in the sun. It becomes obvious that the damage caused by excess free radicals and UVA light will lead to an increase in skin cancers in the absence of sufficient amounts of the protective vitamins A and D.

The situation is complicated by the fact that vitamin D is destroyed by UV-A! It takes about 20 minutes to manufacture Vitamin D in the skin, and then UV-A rays, before it is absorbed into the blood stream, could destroy that vitamin D. Nature seems to be telling us that we should not stay as long as 20 minutes in the sun! We need to balance our lives – have enough sun to make vitamin D and not too much, so that we can save ourselves from skin cancers and aged skin.

We know that the numbers of melanomas and other skin cancers are ironically, still rising today, in spite of an anti-tan culture and very widespread use of predominantly UVB-absorbing sunscreens. Most of these sunscreens carry the now well-known SPF ratings and people feel safe using these whilst they go out to enjoy sunny weather. Most of the sunscreens contain chemicals that are converted into free radicals when exposed to sunlight. The campaigns to reduce the incidence of skin cancer have not been as successful as expected and the really troubling part is that no one seems to be able or willing to explain why they have failed.

One cannot escape the paradox that we need sunlight to make vitamin D and yet sunlight also destroys the vitamin A in the skin so we get photoageing. I believe this is where sensible skin care solves the dilemma. If one nourishes the skin with vitamin A, such as retinyl palmitate, both orally and topically, then the retinyl palmitate acts as a natural sunscreen shielding us from the ageing rays and allowing us to make vitamin D. In addition, the retinyl palmitate is constantly converted into retinoic acid, which maintains the normal healthy cellular activity.

Naturally, after sun exposure to make vitamin D, people should apply topical vitamin A and a sensible sunscreen with antioxidants to mop up any excessive free radicals and wear comfortable protective clothing. Reapply topical vitamin A and antioxidants in the evening. These three steps form a solid safe programme to ensure the production and preservation of vitamins A and D, whilst protecting and promoting the delicate cell health of the skin.

A health-promoting balance, I believe, can be promoted by taking supplements of vitamin D and A every day. Even in summer!\

Young children should be taught the value of short, sensible sun-exposure and the preventative effects of clothing. Finally, they should understand that topical as well as oral advanced vitamin skin therapy would be the most effective strategy to keep them safe and healthy. Prevention is always better than cure and I believe we have to start very young.

Never forget vitamin D. Make sure everyone has enough of it and together with vitamin A, procure the best quality skin to reduce the ever present ogre of skin- and other cancers.