The sun is finally out (here, anyway). Time to tune up our skin protection IQ!
I am so grateful to finally be enjoying some sunshine -- and even some warmth -- here in Chicago. After 75 days spent almost exclusively inside, it's tempting to want to bask in these golden rays indefinitely. I wouldn't be surprised if you're feeling the same. So let's do our level best to enjoy it, but also to protect any progress we made while cocooning.
We all know that sun exposure is a primary cause of the visible signs of skin decline. For that reason -- not to mention the added risk of skin cancers associated with sun exposure -- I **know** you're using SPF daily. (Right?!?) But, this is also the time of year to focus especially carefully on feeding your skin good vitamins.
When skin is exposed to UV rays, all the stored vitamins go into their free-radical-fighting mode -- and get too busy or depleted to also feed your skin and keep it looking fresh and vibrant. We apply a cocktail of topical antioxidants to the skin in order to have a full tank of resources always at the ready.
As for my skin, I'm a year-round serum addict. And I invite you to join me on these sunny days in particular! So that first of all, you have a store of vitamins to protect from the natural depletion caused by the sun and other environmental stressors, and second, you still have some left over to nourish your skin cells and help you radiate out.
Vitamin A has been shown to be particularly prone to sun-triggered depletion, which is why summer is a great time to focus on this nutrient. Further, studies have shown that skin with plenty of vitamin A is better equipped to ward off sun damage. I'm not suggesting we ignore our C, D, E, and CoQ10. Rather, given vitamin A's fragility in the face of the sun, I suggest we afford it some extra care. Vitamin A is crucial to your skin's health and outward appearance. It speeds up healing, helps to balance oil production (and is therefore great for many types of acne), reduces the appearance of pigmentation, and helps strengthen collagen and elastin. Sound like something you might want?!
Our advice is to give your spring and summer skin some extra support in two ways:
First, up your intake of vitamin A-rich foods like carrots, orange squashes, sweet potatoes, and dark, leafy greens. If those don't sound summery enough to you, how about some mango and cantaloupe? Now, no need to go crazy on this advice. If you start to get a nice orange-yellow glow on your skin, that's a pretty good sign you're overdoing it! (True story -- it happens. Great alternative to tanning :) Everything in balance, beauties.) See below for a delicious vitamin-A-rich smoothie made with simple ingredients you likely have on hand. Most of them are shelf stable, making it especially suitable right now when we're looking at well-stocked pantries.
Second, apply vitamin A externally with plant oils rich in naturally occurring A, such as sunflower, sea buckthorn berry, pumpkin seed, and rosehip. These should be used daily, and are safe to use day and night. And, they can be used on your entire body, especially areas that are exposed to the sun regularly. Think arms, hands, shoulders, throat and decolette, and then adjust for your lifestyle. Note: if you're using derivatives of vitamin A like retinols or retinoids, make sure you save those for nighttime only, as they can promote photosensitivity. (Just to make the relationship between the sun and vitamin A more complicated for you!)
__Boosting vitamin A through topical treatments__
For face: Some of my favorite topicals for anytime use are the Beauty Elixirs from Kypris. Each of these facial oils contains pumpkin seed oil and rosehip seed extract, both rich in vitamin A to feed and repair your skin. Another source that I love is the Barbary Fig Renewal Serum from La Bella Figura. This serum is designed for nighttime use. All of these options absorb best when applied to skin still slightly damp from toner or water-based serum.
For body: Applying a palmful of body oil is my favorite post-shower ritual. What a sensorial delight! To ensure your body oil absorbs fully, always apply to damp skin. I take a small puddle of oil, divide between my two hands, pat on my limbs and torso to distribute well, and *then* massage into my skin. Maya Chia's The Revitalizer offers a beautiful combo of vitamin-A-rich pumpkin and cranberry seed oils. And Naked Body Oil from Osmia includes kukui nut, rosehip, and sweet almond oils -- all rich in vitamin A.
Eating our way to healthy, nourished skin
Great skin, of course, comes not just from what you put on it, but from how you choose to feed your body every meal of every day. This delicious recipe, courtesy of whole foods chef Suzanne Perry, makes use of shelf-stable canned pumpkin to deliver a potent dose vitamin A. I love to eat it at room temperature, more like a pudding, as I shy away from cold foods most of the year. I haven't tried it myself, but something tells me this would be delicious warmed, as well!
Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl
- 1 cup organic pumpkin purée - either from a can or roasting it yourself
- 1 large organic banana
- 1/2 cup organic coconut milk
- 1 TB raw honey
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you want a thinner consistency, add more coconut milk.
Pour into a bowl and then add the toppings of your choice. Topping ideas: dried cranberries, nuts, raw pumpkin seeds, chia or hemp seeds or coconut whipped cream (recipe below).
Coconut Whipped Cream
- 1 14 oz can of unsweetened organic coconut milk
- 2 TB coconut oil - gently melted
- 1 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup or raw honey
Blend all these ingredients together and chill before whipping or putting into a whipped cream dispenser. If you don't have a whipped cream dispenser, it won't be as thick, but it will still be very creamy and airy.
How will you take in a little more vitamin A? Are you spending more or less time outdoors while safer-at-home?