Blocking out dangerous rays
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Keeping skin healthy can be difficult when we are constantly exposed to harsh sunlight and cold air conditioning, pollution and stressful days, where eating on the go often involves unhealthy fast food - all factors of which contribute to unhealthy skin and premature ageing.
Having healthy skin, however, doesn't need to be complicated. Simple changes in our daily habits can be effective, such as avoiding the sun when it's at its strongest between 10am and 4pm. During these hours, the sun's rays can penetrate deep into the skin, breaking down the collagen structure which results in wrinkles.
Overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation can induce sunburn and skin damage, resulting in freckles, sun spots and, even worse, skin cancer. UVB light can even cause DNA damage. It is a good idea to apply generous amounts of sunscreen to the exposed areas of the skin before going out and then reapply every few hours. When buying sunscreen, read the label carefully to make sure that the product protects from UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF 15+ or above. The United States Food and Drug Administration has limited the maximum SPF to 50+, which reflects the protection factor more accurately.
Wearing protective clothing made from light, cool fabrics, such as linen and cotton covering most of your arms and legs, is also recommended. There is even clothing, especially swimwear and T-shirts, designed to block UV rays.
For those work days when you don't want to smother your face in sunscreen, there are cosmetics and skincare products that can protect your skin from UV rays and premature ageing. It's recommended that moisturisers containing broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB 15+), with ingredients such as zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) or ecamsule (Mexoryl), combined with octocrylene and avobenzone, should be applied before foundation and other make-up that contains elements of sun protection. Some popular whitening creams also contain sunblock that not only helps minimise the appearance of imperfections, but also blocks UV and prevents the deposit of melanin and pigmentation, according to Letty Leung, assistant marketing manager at Belle Cosmetic.
Besides skincare products that shield you from the unforgiving sunlight, vitamin E and vitamin C can be consumed for healthier skin. According to Vita Green Health Products, vitamin E neutralises free radicals in the body and prevents the ageing process by stopping oxygen from damaging cells. It is also known to aid the body's natural immune response by increasing levels of substances released into the bloodstream to fight disease. Vitamin E can also boost the body's ability to fight ailments caused by micro-organisms. It also fights free radicals to keep skin radiant and supple by preventing the signs of ageing.
'Vitamin C is an excellent water-soluble antioxidant, which is able to prevent the consequences of prolonged sun exposure that can lead to skin cancer,' Leung says. 'Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, such as berries, currants, grapefruit, kiwifruit, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens.'
According to Vita Green, procyanidolic oligomers, the active substance in grape seed, is more effective than vitamin E and vitamin C at neutralising free radicals, the substances that damage our cells and trigger the ageing process. It is famed for its ability to strengthen connective tissue to make the skin more supple, boost the skin's metabolism and bolster the immune system. Grape seed extract contains one of nature's most powerful antioxidants. It is 50 times stronger than vitamin E and has 20 times the power of vitamin C, making it an effective supplement for skin health and symptoms of ageing.
Many of us think that cleansing our skin often during the hot and humid summer will make our skin look flawless. However, frequent cleansing can break down the skin's protective barrier, inducing excessive dryness and irritation, and can worsen its condition, but washing your face with a foaming cleanser twice a day will keep oiliness at bay.
According to Vita Green, letting the cleanser sit on the skin for a few seconds before rinsing well, and using rehydrating masks a few times every week, will help your skin attain a state of perfection.
For those who have oily skin, especially during summer, there are oil-free products available that do not leave a heavy, greasy feel to the skin. Non-comedogenic products are much less likely to clog the pores and cause breakouts. Vita Green suggests choosing a moisturiser labelled oil-free and non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic.
Applying detoxifying masks is also good for the skin where toxins accumulate from pollutants, eating too much processed food and refined sugar. A good detoxifier is also good for acne and oily skin as it helps unclog the pores and remove blackheads, and can leave the skin healthier with a brighter complexion, Leung says.