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Sun-exposure vs. photo-aging prevention

Commented on July 23, 2014
Created July 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

As I'm about to turn 32 this question keeps coming up in my mind. How to balance good anti-aging strategy with a healthy natural lifestyle which would include sun exposure and natural Vitamin D production?

Dermatologists and aesthetitians seem to unanimously recommend daily sunscreen/avoidance of sun as the number one and most important way to prevent skin aging. But since I've come into the paleo-sphere I've discovered all sorts of opposing viewpoints on the matter. What I'm wondering is: I know sun exposure is good for body health (Vitamin D) and well-being (makes you feel happy) but is it at all good for skin itself? I know it can make skin look nice (tan), but is it inherently damaging for skin?

Is the healthy/natural/paleo way to live long and healthy but have wrinkled leathery skin? Or perhaps will a lifetime of paleo maintain the skin's youthful appearance despite sun exposure?

I need to get to the bottom of this because I feel I'm in a crucial period. In terms of skin aging, my family seems to fare pretty well (mom is 57 and has very few wrinkles, and she definitely got some sun back in the 70's) and as of now people usually think I'm 7-10 years younger, but I can't tell if thats good genes, good diet (been basically WAPF-esque since 22) or religious use of sunscreen in my early/mid 20s. So basically I want to maintain what I have.

CURRENT REGIMEN: These days I rarely wear sunscreen but avoid excessive sun by using umbrellas (I live in Taiwan so its not weird) or seeking shade. I also take vitamin D supplements, avoid sugar and try to eat tomato paste. I haven't used soap/facewash in almost a year, only hot water to melt and redistribute the sebum. For makeup I use Bare Minerals which I usually end up sweating off (Taiwan summer), and eye makeup I just remove using oil or a gentle eye-makeup remover.

Basically this is sunburn prevention, but is that enough for photo-aging prevention or do I really need to do as the dermos recommend and slather on chemical nonsense everyday for the rest of my life? I want to stay freakishly young-looking. What's a girl to do?

B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 23, 2014
at 07:53 AM

I was referring to direct sun exposure during spring and summer months and if I'm in and out of shade I can be outside for a reasonable amount of time like for an hour or longer. Sunburns don't seem to happen to me very often unless I'm getting a ridiculous amount of sun exposure.

Medium avatar

on July 23, 2014
at 06:06 AM

Aha, that would make sense. I think in your situation something like Fraxel laser or IPL treatment could help repair your skin. It not only evens texture and tone, but also gets rid of broken capillaries/spider veins and stimulates collagen production.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on July 23, 2014
at 04:01 AM

Eloborate please?

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on July 22, 2014
at 06:11 AM

Not Okinawan at all. Blonde (as a child) pale skinned military brat. I played outside all day long and remember bad sunburns on beach days. I remember my dad peeling sheet of skin the size of my back. In those days, if we used a thing at all it was suntan lotion (to help you tan) not sun block.

B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 21, 2014
at 09:02 AM

IME I can have about 10-40 mins and it seems indifferent.

Medium avatar

on July 19, 2014
at 03:02 PM

Glad I'm not part of your culture! I think you'll probably feel different about aging when it starts to happen. Where I'm from, being 18 isn't the be all end all of beauty. We get married much later if at all and we have other options other than marriage and babies. Some of us, as myself, for various reasons are unable to have kids and do not see marriage as a necessity. So may as well be beautiful forever.

0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on July 18, 2014
at 08:19 PM

The more research I do the more I begin to question the roll omega 6 (from natural sources) plays in disease. I am still not convinced saturated fat is any better.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 18, 2014
at 02:50 PM

PS. what is the rationale for using coconut oil to remediate collagen degradation? isn't it apples and oranges, or fats and proteins?

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 18, 2014
at 02:49 PM

why stress the Omega 6? If you eat avocado, or olive oil, or lard, or tallow, or grass fed beef, or pastured chicken, you intake too much of it already. It gets worse with CAFO meat.

1c48e5e7a1d226bc6a5afab1aa91ce82

(0)

on July 18, 2014
at 01:18 PM

*In my culture (Arabic)

1c48e5e7a1d226bc6a5afab1aa91ce82

(0)

on July 18, 2014
at 01:17 PM

In our culture, beauty is only valuable when one is young (14-25). After 30 years old, no matter how good you look for your age, truth is you'll never be beautiful as a fresh faced 18 year old. I'm 22 and I'll never get botox or plastic surgery. I'll just age gracefully. Because, when I'm 30, I'm going to be intelligent, wise, and have a ton of life experience.Looks wouldn't matter to me - I'd focus on my family and career. Of course I'd stay healthy and fit and health is beauty, but we all age, and aging is normal and natural.

Medium avatar

on July 18, 2014
at 04:35 AM

I've found it to be quite valuable currency. Worth maintaining I'd say.

5c8849f93f97a042f246bfa3534f93c7

on July 17, 2014
at 09:40 PM

Ah, that's what I figured. In that case, do I need to absorb the sunlight with most of my body uncovered (like with a swimsuit) in order to receive my daily dosage of vitamin D, or can I get enough for my whole body with only my calves, arms, face, etc, uncovered?

Medium avatar

on July 17, 2014
at 04:40 PM

Are you native Okinawan? I'd assume people native to there would be adapted to that environment. But yes, I also love broths and I'm sure they are doing me only good as well!

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 17, 2014
at 02:50 PM

any uncovered skin will do, including the skin of your calves or the back of your arms if you are looking away. It has to be uncovered because it is pretty dark under clothing. Even a cotton T-shirt is too much cover, unless you are in the tropics.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 17, 2014
at 01:55 PM

maybe. certainly there is a strong statistical significance, but the practical significance is pretty low. From what I can tell, extremely low cholesterol would be a problem, but I doubt that many people have that low.

5c8849f93f97a042f246bfa3534f93c7

on July 17, 2014
at 04:14 AM

That's very interesting. I don't really get along with the sun, so the I want as least contact as possible; just enough to fill my quota and get out as soon as possible from that unbearable ball of fire.

A couple of questions though; would wearing thick clothes affect the vitamin D absorption in any way? And can you still get the full benefits from sun exposure if you look away from the sun? I'm kind of a newbie when it comes to practical stuff like that, so, sorry for the really basic questions.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 07:50 PM

excellent. so you say the evidence is for skin color to be a minimal or non-existent factor. Cholesterol is a factor. I have seen anedoctal evidence for magnesium, including my own, but would like to see a paper.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 07:47 PM

Eat lots of greens for magnesium. I prefer chard above all, because it is a top three magnesium food, but unlike spinach it has a lower oxalate load (beet greens also great, but not frost resistant). Plus it is easy to grow and far more productive (I grow 60 plants every year) per square foot. But they are all good sources, temperate greens like kale or semi-tropical greens like Malabar spinach. One pound per day is a good level to aim for. Brown rice is also much better than many other starches in this respect.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 06:00 PM

concur that sun's elevation is a far more dominant factor than the other three. Also, that means that here in Michigan it is impossible to get vitamin D between November and February by sun exposure. Russia and Alaska will be much worse.

To compute the attenuation of 330 nm light by the atmosphere, I used back then a 1959 paper which I had to use for other reasons, but I recall that it was in the hundreds of meters. Say it is 333m, or 3 attenuation lengths per km. So, the intensity of UV at zenith w.r.t. 30 degrees above the horizon

I(60)/I(0) =10^{-13}, 0.1 trillionth.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 16, 2014
at 05:57 PM

as far as skin pigmentation:

"The increase in 25(OH)D level after UVB exposure was negatively correlated with baseline 25(OH)D level (P<0.001) and positively correlated with baseline total cholesterol level (P=0.005), but no significant correlations were found with constitutive or facultative skin pigmentation. In addition, we paired a dark-skinned group with a fair-skinned group according to baseline 25(OH)D levels and found no differences in 25(OH)D increase after identical UVB exposure." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19812604

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 16, 2014
at 05:48 PM

Time of day is contained in the increase for location and time of year). Everything that I have read suggests that 10-15 minutes of mid day sun is more than enough regardless of the other three factors. If you have papers, I'd love to review them.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 04:30 PM

.. depending on skin color, time of day, cholesterol and magnesium levels. 10 minutes at 6pm provide no vitamin D. It has to be in the middle of the day.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 04:14 PM

good call on the collagen. In Taiwan it is not difficult to eat skin and tendons.

Medium avatar

on July 16, 2014
at 03:29 PM

Magnesium, check. Do you recommend supplementing? I've read in some places that eating lots of fruits could make one burn more easily because of the sugar content. Would this be balanced out by high fat/general paleo wellness?

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16 Answers

1
Be803dcde63e3cf5e21cc121097b8158

on July 18, 2014
at 05:59 AM

The skin on the face -- particularly around the eyes -- is thin and quite susceptible to Sun damage. I would wear a hat and large sunglasses to retain a youthful look as you age. Your arms and legs can handle a lot more Sun exposure.

It's known that professional drivers, like truckers, have a lot more photo aging on the window side of their face. So I'm bit skeptical that diet can protect you from that. I'd suspect genes play a greater role.

0
F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on July 21, 2014
at 07:25 AM

@huntergatherer

checkout @CDone answer...

vitamin D needs can be met in most regions of the world with very little sun exposure... the rest of the time the skin needs protection.

B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 21, 2014
at 09:02 AM

IME I can have about 10-40 mins and it seems indifferent.

0
B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 21, 2014
at 04:57 AM

I think all this obsession with beauty and flawless skin is resulting in people becoming vitamin D deficient. Theres a large body of evidence that this is making people sick, its an essential nutrient and it doesn't just affect bones and muscles it affects more things than I care to remember.

0
F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on July 20, 2014
at 06:18 PM

Lots of good answers about diet but unprotected sun exposure ages the skin.

Coconut oil and shade (wide brim hat & sunglasses).

Having the tan look now and having fantastic skin in your middle age and later......IMO, not compatible.

Tanned now>>>> wrinkled & dried out later.

White now >>>> great skin later.

You choose.

0
E3bf4144d93276ff13b4264af27eafd5

on July 18, 2014
at 09:17 PM

Women that I know with beautiful skin in their fifties do not use any sunscreen. But they do use vitamin based serums on their face. I hear vitamin c works great to both prevent collagen degradation and to help your skin build healthy collagen. And the occasional week or two with some vitamin a based serum can give you an extra boost. and help shed some skin if you do get some damage.

manuka honey masks and aloe vera gel are also great to heal redness and build healthy skin

I also like to do a tanaka massage in the shower as i cleanse with jojoba oil.

Plus, sure what you hear is always that as you age you stop making collagen and stop to store fat under you skin, but those same doctors and people who say that do not get much collagen from their diet, so of course it won't just magically appear on their face out of thin air if their reserve is progressively destroyed by the occasional ray of sunshine.

so gelatin-rich broths and piggie's feet all the way to replenish and replump. As for the sun, follow your sensations, know when you've had enough and find some shade, because that also feels oh so nice

0
B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 17, 2014
at 11:32 PM

Some say that beauty is overrated, the western world is obsessed with beauty and appearances. These people are less concerned about the way they look and just simply move on and not worry.

1c48e5e7a1d226bc6a5afab1aa91ce82

(0)

on July 18, 2014
at 01:18 PM

*In my culture (Arabic)

Medium avatar

on July 18, 2014
at 04:35 AM

I've found it to be quite valuable currency. Worth maintaining I'd say.

1c48e5e7a1d226bc6a5afab1aa91ce82

(0)

on July 18, 2014
at 01:17 PM

In our culture, beauty is only valuable when one is young (14-25). After 30 years old, no matter how good you look for your age, truth is you'll never be beautiful as a fresh faced 18 year old. I'm 22 and I'll never get botox or plastic surgery. I'll just age gracefully. Because, when I'm 30, I'm going to be intelligent, wise, and have a ton of life experience.Looks wouldn't matter to me - I'd focus on my family and career. Of course I'd stay healthy and fit and health is beauty, but we all age, and aging is normal and natural.

0
0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on July 17, 2014
at 05:49 PM

I hate to break it to you but you are going to have to use sunscreen if you want to keep your youthful appearance. There is a ton of evidence linking sun exposure to photo aging, and collagen degradation. I agree with many people here that eating healthy (collagen rich foods, fruits and veggies, omega 6 - yes in studies it has shown to be good for the skin, and grass fed meats,) are sure to help, but that won't completely nullify all the damage. Have you seen native people? As much as I hate to admit it, they are not our typical idea of beauty.

Look for a natural sunscreen, high in UVA and preferably with zinc oxide. Burnout is a pretty good one.

0adda19045a3641edac0008364b91110

(1146)

on July 18, 2014
at 08:19 PM

The more research I do the more I begin to question the roll omega 6 (from natural sources) plays in disease. I am still not convinced saturated fat is any better.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 18, 2014
at 02:49 PM

why stress the Omega 6? If you eat avocado, or olive oil, or lard, or tallow, or grass fed beef, or pastured chicken, you intake too much of it already. It gets worse with CAFO meat.

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on July 17, 2014
at 03:22 PM

Interesting question as I am on the other side of it. I have damage to my collagen already (see my question re solar purpura). I'm trying to figure out if all the damage was done decades ago during my childhood on Okinawa where I spent most of every day outside in the sun and whether careful sun exposure now continues to cause damage or not.

I'm hoping good diet can help (lots of good collagen foods like broth and gelatin, plus vitamin C and D supplements), because I'd like to avoid sunscreen if possible--allergic to the added fragrances!

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on July 22, 2014
at 06:11 AM

Not Okinawan at all. Blonde (as a child) pale skinned military brat. I played outside all day long and remember bad sunburns on beach days. I remember my dad peeling sheet of skin the size of my back. In those days, if we used a thing at all it was suntan lotion (to help you tan) not sun block.

Medium avatar

on July 17, 2014
at 04:40 PM

Are you native Okinawan? I'd assume people native to there would be adapted to that environment. But yes, I also love broths and I'm sure they are doing me only good as well!

0
47cbd166d262925037bc6f9a9265eb20

(55)

on July 17, 2014
at 11:03 AM

I consider buying a UVB lamp, UVC lamps are also sold but I'm a bit skeptic with them as none reaches us from the sun. With such a lamp you avoid UVA and can make the same vitamin D with less UVB exposure as UVA counteracts this.

Infrared radiation and intense light from the sun also have benefits but on the other side any type of glass filters UVB...

Many antioxidants may help protect the skin from the Sun and one especially promoted for this purpose is astaxanthin, when I find some shrimp with shells I will boil the shells in some liquid to get more of it, but some gac fruit might be even better, and sesame seeds can make your skin accumulate more tocopherols and tocotrienols for example...

0
B8139a868ab2e819ca6e582f1f064426

on July 17, 2014
at 07:44 AM

I've heard that eating coconut products on a regular basis can help lower sunburn risk, whats your take on this? Is there something about coconut that acts like sunscreen?

0
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on July 17, 2014
at 06:32 AM

I'm 62 and have almost no wrinkles at all and a very smooth skin. I have NEVER used soap on my face since I was about 25. And no moisturiser. I was told years ago that the most unnatural thing to do to your skin was to intentionally remove the natural moisturisers by washing them out and then attempting to replace them with artificial ones which are only on the surface. Makes a lot of sense to me - and it is a triumph of commercial advertising to persuade anyone otherwise!!

Lots of saturated fat and gelatine carrying foods (stock, pork fat, Great Lakes gelatine in coffee etc etc). I start to get into the sun early in the spring and increase gradually my sun exposure until I am reasonably tanned. And keep all your vitamin and minerals high through good eating. And especially silica - it is so important for skin structure and smoothness. Nettle tea is good and I drink a little Diaotomaceous earth suspended in water.

0
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on July 17, 2014
at 06:32 AM

I'm 62 and have almost no wrinkles at all and a very smooth skin. I have NEVER used soap on my face since I was about 25. And no moisturiser. I was told years ago that the most unnatural thing to do to your skin was to intentionally remove the natural moisturisers by washing them out and then attempting to replace them with artificial ones which are only on the surface. Makes a lot of sense to me - and it is a triumph of commercial advertising to persuade anyone otherwise!!

Lots of saturated fat and gelatine carrying foods (stock, pork fat, Great Lakes gelatine in coffee etc etc). I start to get into the sun early in the spring and increase gradually my sun exposure until I am reasonably tanned. And keep all your vitamin and minerals high through good eating. And especially silica - it is so important for skin structure and smoothness. Nettle tea is good and I drink a little Diaotomaceous earth suspended in water.

0
Be157308a0438e382b88d9db4c12ab30

on July 16, 2014
at 07:16 PM

Eat salmon. No skin cancer risk, plenty of Vitamin D, bonus omega-3 if you care about that and most importantly, very tasty.

Pink salmon: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-sh...

Sockeye salmon: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-sh...

Enjoy!

0
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 16, 2014
at 04:17 PM

To get your Vitamin D levels topped off you need ~10 minutes of sun exposure (increase based on location and time of year). Beyond that excess sun exposure provides minimal benefit (except for some non-validated mood studies).

So get your 10-15 minutes of sun exposure, then use other strategies (natural sun blocks, shade, umbrellas, hats, etc).

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 04:30 PM

.. depending on skin color, time of day, cholesterol and magnesium levels. 10 minutes at 6pm provide no vitamin D. It has to be in the middle of the day.

0
Medium avatar

on July 16, 2014
at 03:54 PM

I understand your dilemma. I'm about to turn 36 and I live in southern CA where it sunny and beach weather year round. I agree with @glib to avoid sunscreen. It amazes me that these industries continue to make money with such terrible and dangerous misinformation. The popular consensus is that sun exposure causes wrinkles by breaking down collagen fibers in the skin. I have no evidence to support or refute this theory, but it seems to make sense. However we all know that there are other major causes of wrinkles: sugar, dehydration, stress, lack of sleep, deficient diets, etc. If you are doing all the paleo/innate lifestyle the right way, and it sounds like you are, I think you'll be just fine.

My biggest recommendation for keeping skin youthful is to use the best possible moisturizer. I've tried them all and by far my favorite is plain old coconut oil. I use it as a face and body moisturizer, make up remover, tooth cleaner, hair styling aid, and of course I eat it.

I also agree with @glib about keeping the doses of sun exposure limited - I usually opt for 10-15 minute doses a few times a day or a longer dose in the early evening.

Finally: make sure to protect your neck and hands. We tend to take extra care with facial moisturizers and neglect the neck and hands. I'm sure you've seen women in their forties who look great for their age until you look at their leathery neck/upper chest area or their dried out looking hands. I'd keep those areas covered when possible and be extra diligent with moisturizer.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 18, 2014
at 02:50 PM

PS. what is the rationale for using coconut oil to remediate collagen degradation? isn't it apples and oranges, or fats and proteins?

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 04:14 PM

good call on the collagen. In Taiwan it is not difficult to eat skin and tendons.

0
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 16, 2014
at 03:19 PM

keep your magnesium up, use no sunscreen, and get smaller, more frequent exposures to the midday sun. Also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and natto, for general skin health.

Medium avatar

on July 16, 2014
at 03:29 PM

Magnesium, check. Do you recommend supplementing? I've read in some places that eating lots of fruits could make one burn more easily because of the sugar content. Would this be balanced out by high fat/general paleo wellness?

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