December 1999 Ageless herbal newsletter
It is strange that we have such conflicting needs in life – on the one hand we wish to have sun bronzed bodies, while on the other hand we wish to be without wrinkles and lines – the telltale signs of aging. Unfortunately these two needs are not always compatible, since the sunrays, although assisting in the manufacture of important nutrients, also age the skin, and are a major cause of skin cancers.
In European countries people in general have better skin than in warmer sunnier climates, such as Australia, California or South Africa, where people are far more exposed to the damaging rays of the sun.
A fact that people have to accept is that not everybody tans at the same rate – unfortunately genetics have a deciding factor, since the melanocytes in the skin determine the amount and speed at which melanin, our skin color, is manufactured.
Some people are of the idea that darker skin, skin with more melanin in it, ages far slower thanfairer skin – one explanation for this belief would be that darker skin is far better protected from the sun’s damaging rays than fair skin.
In saying this, please note that dark skinned people can pick up just as much sun damage from sun tanning as fair skinned people, and for this reason, all people must take ample precaution when sun tanning.
These “old age spots” or "liver spots" often found on the back of hands and the cleavage in women are the bane of many people, with cures offered at every turn. Some drugs have been used with certain levels of success to stimulate the production of melanin in these sluggish melanocytes, but they can have some side effects.
Castor oil - folk remedy
A folk remedy often turned to, to help with liver spots, is to rub castor oil onto these spots every night before retiring and in the morning when getting up.
One very important aspect while having a suntan is to keep in mind the fact that tanning in the sun damages the collagen in your skin. It causes loss of elasticity and the fibers in your skin also start to deteriorate. This damage is caused in the dermis of the skin, where the connective skin tissue resides, but the devastating effect will soon be evident on the epidermis as well.
The only cure for keeping the collagen in good nick is to keep your skin out of harms way, out of the rays of the sun.
Collagen and Vitamin C
While on the subject of collagen, one factor often ignored, is that collagen needs an ample supply of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to be manufactured. With vitamin C in short supply collagen cannot be formed – and no matter what type of skin care product is used – collagen will not be formed.
Most people think that taking the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C will protect them from all ills – but beware – the RDA will only protect you from a disease such as beriberi, but at such a low intake will do little else.
Skin cancer caused by ultra violet radiation can happen to anybody, but people with blond hair, red hair or blue eyes seem to be more at risk than others – but please don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with this piece of information – all people can get it.
All three layers of the skin, the hypodermis, dermis and the epidermis absorb ultra violet rays. If the melanocytes immediately started manufacturing melanin, the damage might be contained to some degree, but it can take up to three days to get the melanin rising to the skin, to form the bronzing protective layer.
Although using a sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all, it is not the panacea for keeping a youthful looking skin. A person must keep in mind than even indirect sun tanning – for instance - when driving your car or sitting on the patio under a cover, also damages the skin.
Sunscreens come in many forms and fashions, but ensure that you use a stable sunscreen when tanning to prevent damage to your skin – it should also be free of fragrances and be hypo-allergenic tested to ensure that you minimize the risk of being allergic to it.
People on medication – like a birth control pill, or acne treatment, should be extremely careful of tanning, as some medications can have an extremely adverse effect on the skin when exposed to sunlight. It is also best to avoid perfumes and after shaves when tanning.
After sun tanning it is best to have a good shower or bath to remove all the oils and lotions and any perspiration and salts that may have formed on your skin. The shower should not be too hot, and after toweling dry, use a good moisturizing lotion on all areas to prevent dryness.
A good gentle but effective soap agent should be used.
PABA - para-aminobenzoic acid
A supplement that you may consider taking when sun tanning is PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). This ingredient is naturally in your system, and is also manufactured by your intestinal bacteria, and is of benefit when tanning, since it also assists in protecting your skin. PABA is naturally found in liver, yeast, molasses etc.
Some sunscreens are actually manufactured using PABA. Although a single concentrated PABA supplement may not be available in your country (since certain countries prohibit the sale of pure PABA). Have a look at supplements on sale, as many of them do contain PABA as one of the ingredients.
Some tips on sun tanning:
If you find that your skin is becoming very dry and flaky after some time tanning, rather suspend tanning for a bit. To remove dead cells from your skin, look at using a natural exfoliating product, to gently help scrub and remove dead cells, without damaging your skin.
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