5 Steps to a Healthy Glow
via Sue Van Raes
It’s that time of year again—when the living is easy—when we strive to achieve those radiant summer glows. This summer, you may want to think twice before plunging into the rays with too much confidence. As we know, the sun is something that can accentuate our overall health…but when we overdo exposure, the effects are detrimental. It’s no myth that what we put on and in our bodies is directly reflected in the quality of our skin health, both short- and long term.
How can we enjoy the summer lifestyle, while still taking care to keep balanced, healthy, and glowing skin?
Step one: drink up.
Because our skin is our largest detoxifying organ, it is most radiant when all cells in every layer of the skin are properly nourished and hydrated. There’s a simple equation to gauge how much water you need to drink every day:
Take your body weight, divide by two, and convert that number to ounces.
That will give you the minimal amount of water your body needs to stay sufficiently hydrated, but increased physical activity or being in the sun all day will require more. Water is also the most natural detoxifying agent, which is why juices and sodas are no substitute. Water will keep the liver and the related organs (ie skin) flushed and fresh!
Step two: Get Balanced, Regular Sun Exposure
Although we tend to jump at the first opportunity of the season to get outside, gradual exposure to the sun is key to allowing the body to adapt and protect itself against harmful radiation. Believe it or not, our bodies actually absorb vital nutrient energy from the sun in the form of Vitamin D. Abrupt exposure will prevent this from effectively happening.
Just as your muscles need a warm-up before performing an intense athletic activity, your skin needs to ease into sun exposure before it can efficiently reap the benefits. The best times of day to be in the sun are before 10 am and after 3 pm, in order to minimize damage while still getting healthy Vitamin D exposure.
Why do we need Vitamin D? Our bodies convert Vitamin D into calcitriol, resulting in a net increase of bone calcium. Without it, calcium may not be effectively stored in the body. Even with Colorado sun, Vitamin D deficiency is still a prominent and growing problem, especially among women, which can result in heart disease, arthritis, depression, autoimmune diseases, and many other imbalances. Alternatively, the daily recommendation of Vitamin D intake has been raised by the FDA to 1,000 to 2,000 IUs, which can be obtained most effectively through sun exposure, combined with high potency supplements if needed. It can be difficult to gauge the necessary amount within generic supplements, but pharmaceutical grade supplements, such as a high potency Multi Vitamin, Cod Liver oil, or a Vitamin D synergy blend will add great dietary support for Vitamin D absorption.
Step 3: Protect ~ choosing your sunscreen
As we know in Colorado, with our active outdoor lifestyles, it is hard to avoid the mid-day sun. When searching for the right sunscreen, it is important to use an eco-friendly, biodegradable product, so read the ingredients before you buy!
Topical antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and green tea extract help to increase absorption directly into skin cells, concentrating the skin’s continual repairing process. They also fight free radical damage from the sun and environmental pollution and stress. The gradual buildup of these antioxidants on the skin can provide protection for up to a few days at a time. Also, minerals such as zinc and titanium dioxide are extremely beneficial in protecting the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays when applied topically. And we all know that aloe vera is the perfect solution to a bad burn; as a natural moisturizer and hydrator, aloe’s highly anti-inflammatory properties not only reduce redness, but also actually accelerate the healing time of the skin. Using skin-friendly oils as full-body moisturizers, such as coconut, almond, and olive oil, will enhance the skin’s overall appearance. Red Palm Fruit oil, which can be found in your grocery store, is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the form of carotenoids, tocopherols and tocotrienols, all of which replenish the skin with essential nutrients. Red palm fruit oil can be applied topically during sun exposure or shortly after.
Remember: “organics” doesn’t mean the product is truly organic, usually: since the FDA doesn’t regulate bodycare like they do food, you’ll need to read the ingredients. Ingredients to avoid when buying a sunscreen include paba: a chemical used in sunscreens since the 1950s that is now showing an increase in free radical damage; parabens: a pertrolium-based preservative that never leaves the blood stream and has been shown in studies to have a direct link to breast tumors and sperm count reduction; triethanolamine (TEA): which may cause the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines when combined with nitrite (another preservative); and benzophenome: one of the most powerful known free radical generators. DEET is also a highly toxic ingredient, often found in sunscreen/bug repelant blends, that should be avoided as it increases oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Step 4: Eating For Beauty
As I mentioned earlier, diet is a major factor in maintaining a radiant glow and preventing free radical damage. Because skin is the body’s largest organ, it requires a lot of resources and energy to stay healthy. Some general rules of thumb for eating a skin-friendly diet:
1. Eat a diet based in whole foods, based on your metabolic type, and most importantly, loaded up with phytochemicals (superfoods), such as berries, coconut, avocados, dark leafy greens, and sea vegetables. Eat fresh, local produce in a rainbow of colors, ensuring that you get all of the essential nutrients and enzymes.
2. Eating foods that are rich in Omega 3’s will aid in the skin’s ability to fight free radical damage, and are abundant in foods such as wild salmon, walnuts and ground flax seeds. In maintaining healthy, youthful skin it is crucial to avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and processed carbohydrates.
3. Cleanse with the seasons. Allowing your body a chance to cleanse at least twice per year will not only cleanse various organ systems in the body, such as the liver, colon, and gall bladder, but will also be visible in your clear bright skin, free from age spots, blemishes and unwanted toxins.
Step 5: Lifestyle and Self Care
How do you walk through your life day to day? Do you get hung up on the little stressors during the day, or can you go with the flow so to speak? A very important practice for overall health and beautiful skin is sleep, overall emotional health, and stress management techniques.
The saying “getting my beauty sleep” is really no myth at all. Sleep helps you regenerate the skin as well as the rest of the body. Sleep also can help release negative emotions, as well give you the emotional strength to manage stressful situations. The resilience of your emotional state after a good night sleep will reflect the resilience of your of your skin. For most of us, it is optimal to get to bed by 10:00 pm. The earlier you can get to bed, the better. In many eastern traditions it is said that each hour before midnight is worth 2 hours of sleep after midnight.
In addition to sleep, it is important to have a relaxation practice, spiritual practice, such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or journaling. These types of practice bring us to a centered, grounded place and support us in moving through negative emotions with a lot more ease. Anger, resentment, hostility and grief over a long period of time take a serious toll on our overall health. They will show up as wrinkles, worry lines, and even blemishes. Your skin health will benefit from a peaceful, rested, and relaxed day-to-day existence that revolves around balance, nourishment, and overall centeredness.
Sue Van Raes is a longtime friend of elephant, and a passionate Nutritional Therapist in Boulder, Colorado. Committed to educating her clients on whole body health, balanced and intentional living, Sue’s private practice focuses on education and life coaching through diet, nutrition, and holistic health counseling, yoga and cleansing. Sue is the skin care Nutritionist for 4 seasons Skin Care in Boulder and leads wellness retreats and groups both locally and internationally for women of all ages. Sue practices at the Mandala Integrative Clinic in Boulder Colorado.
“As we bring alignment, awareness, and balance to our lives, we are able to manifest our dreams and live a life of passion, joy, and optimal health. “