Ask the Aesthetician

Our skin is the first line of defense for the rest of our body, and applying sunscreen or sunblock on a daily basis is necessary for defending it against harmful ultraviolet rays. In this day and age, pollution and toxins are challenging our environment, and we experience the consequences as holes in our ozone layer let more UV rays in. Regardless, people will start absorbing the sun's rays as winter comes to an end. Unfortunately, some may get burned.

There is a limit to how much sun our body needs. Fifteen to 20 minutes of exposure a day, when the sun is not at its peak, is beneficial for producing vitamin D for strong bones. In the morning or evening hours, the sun also elevates mood. When the sun is at its peak, it is important to properly cover skin and use sunglasses to protect the eyes.

Most sun damage is acquired by the time we reach our 20s. Once the melanin in our skin is damaged, it will never rejuvenate. Signs of sun- and free-radical damage are obvious, and include brown sun spots, premature wrinkles and disintegration of elastin, which causes sagging. Skin cancers and melanomas are also directly linked to sun overexposure.

In order to prevent the breakdown of the skin's hydro-lipid barrier functions, have your customers take a holistic approach to post-sun care. Here are some tips for your customers who have been overexposed to sun.

Protect skin from the inside out
Start by increasing consumption of vitamin E, antioxidants, beta-carotene and unsaturated fatty acids. All can be achieved by supplements or food sources. A healthy diet for the skin includes greens, carrots, berries, pomegranate, sweet pota?toes, salmon, green peppers, oranges, wheat grass, green tea and squash. Drinking plenty of water is also essential for healthy, hydrated skin.

"Once the melanin in our skin is damaged, it will never rejuvenate."

Fair complexions may burn after a short period of time in the sun, while darker skin tones contain more melanin and can tolerate more sun exposure. After a sunburn, post-sun care begins by avoiding further sun exposure. If the sunburn is not too severe, the customer may feel better with a soothing bath filled with tepid water and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar. The old-fashioned remedy of cucumber slices over the eyes is refreshing and reduces swelling. Aloe vera is cooling, and sea buckthorn, a vegetarian source of omega-7 fatty acid, will speed healing. Both are safe for sensitive skin.

There are many lotions out there for sun-exposed skin. Most have aloe and vitamin E. I encourage my customers to purchase these products. But take caution with any products that contain alcohol because it may irritate the condition even further. There are also lotions with substantial quantities of topical antioxidants such as green tea and even coffee. Caffeine's natural acids work great for softening skin by encouraging circulation. The acids can also neutralize free-radical damage caused by the sun.

For peeling, customers can use a heavy moisturizer. In my previous sun-worshipping days, cocoa butter was very popular for post-sun care. We used it to extend the length of a tan—but eventually the burn will peel, regardless. Today I prefer a less pore-clogging moisturizer, shea butter. Even in the peeling stage, aloe vera can continually be used for itching.

The effect of the sun on our skin is overwhelming. Nobody wants to have dry, cracked skin. Protection against photosensitivity is the best anti-aging defense. When it comes to choosing sunblocks, concerns about SPF and numbers have no meaning to me; I care about the ingredients. My customers go for zinc oxide in their sunblocks. It's chemical-free protection that the whole family can use—nice and simple.


Ashley Scroggins is a licensed aesthetician working with Boulder, Colo.-based Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy.

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