Hair, Skin, Nails : Nourish Skin from Within: Protect Against Photodamage

In addition to looking great on the outside, healthy skin has the ability to respond to challenges that would otherwise undermine its structure and function. One of the biggest everyday challenges, especially during the summer, is photodamage, or exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.

Some UV exposure is essential for good health -- UV light aids in vitamin D synthesis, and vitamin D is crucial for virtually all aspects of health. But while the skin has antioxidant systems to combat the free radicals produced by UV exposure, excessive exposure can lead to damage. Sunburn is the most common form of photodamage. Prolonged exposure may cause permanent damage, including wrinkles, sagging skin, changes in texture, skin discoloration, and even abnormal growths such as melanomas.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and the danger becomes greater during the long days of summer when you spend more time in the sun. Prevention is the first line of defense against melanomas and other types of photodamage. First and foremost, use a broad-spectrum (at least SPF 30) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it generously to the arms, legs, neck and face, and don't forget your ears, hands, and feet. Reapply every two hours or more often if you're in and out of the water.

Create healthy skin from within to help your body cope with external challenges that cause photodamage. A variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients will help enhance immune function and protect the cells. Selenium is a powerful free-radical scavenger that helps protect against UV damage. Vitamins A and C are also potent antioxidants, while vitamin E promotes healing and tissue repair. Essential fatty acids promote skin health and are essential for protecting the cells.

Sensible sun exposure combined with skin-protective supplements will help bolster your defenses against all types of photodamage, from a mild sunburn to more serious melanomas. To learn more about skin cancer and protecting your skin from the sun's rays, visit the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/sunsafety.
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