Feeling the Burn: Naturally Support Skin Health & Repair

July 16, 2018 | Wellness Resources

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Feeling the Burn: Naturally Support Skin Health & Repair
Sunburn? Ouch. Even though we know we shouldn't let ourselves burn, occasionally it happens. If you went a little overboard in the sun or you are prone to the occasional burn, read on to discover natural ways to soothe the burn and help your skin heal.

An Ounce of Prevention

Prevention is the best measure when it comes to being in the sunshine, but there are several reasons why loading on the sunscreen from head to toe isn't the best way to prevent a burn. Recent research has shown that harsh chemicals in sunscreens have negative effects. Plus, a sun-fearing attitude can lead to a low vitamin D level which has major consequences of its own. Thankfully, your body has natural defenses that can help to prevent a burn in the first place.

Your skin has two built-in defense mechanisms to protect itself from radiation from the sun. Melanin is the first line of defense. This is what gives skin its color and causes a “tan” when in the sun. If melanin is insufficient or sun exposure is in excess, the body uses a complex antioxidant network to buffer the UV radiation. As part of this antioxidant system, the body also makes vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin, an important fat-soluble vitamin. 

Antioxidant stores decrease by 26-93 percent after UV exposure, so it is important to increase your intake of antioxidants after being in the sun for skin protection. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get antioxidants from your diet. High quality supplements can be helpful to boost your antioxidant stores. Some of the most beneficial skin antioxidants include: vitamin E, vitamin C, lycopene, astaxanthin, lutein, green tea extract (EGCG), and grape seed extract.

Feeling the Burn

If you happen to get too much sun and a burn does result, take care to nurse your skin back to health. After all, your skin is the largest organ in your body. Right away there are several things to remember: drink plenty of fluids as water may escape from the body quicker, wear loose fitting clothing, and never put fragrance from perfumes or lotions on skin which can increase inflammation and injure skin further. Cold compresses can be helpful to soothe the area and ease some of the pain. There are also specific nutritional needs that are especially high when the skin integrity has been compromised. Be sure to get plenty of these nutrients to help your skin heal as quickly as possible:

Vitamin E – Vitamin E is one of the most plentiful antioxidants in the skin and is used in the skin’s antioxidant network to shield your skin from UV radiation. If burned or compromised, vitamin E is important to the process of helping skin heal properly. The sun’s rays increase oxidative stress in the skin. The oxidative stress is visible as redness and inflammation. Vitamin E is one of the best antioxidants to offset the oxidative stress from the sun. One study also showed that vitamin E helped to increase skin thickness and rebuild the skin barrier that is compromised with a sunburn.

Vitamin C – Another important antioxidant highly concentrated in the skin is vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes skin repair and is needed for the production of new collagen. Ionizing radiation from the sun induces DNA damage to skin and fibroblasts. Vitamin C helps the body repair skin DNA and stimulate fibroblasts (carpenter cells of collagen) into action. If you are low in vitamin C, wounds may heal more slowly.

Whey Protein – After a burn you will have a higher need for protein because it acts as the building block for repairing body structure. Even minor sunburns will benefit from a higher protein intake to assist skin repair. Whey protein, in particular, is one of the best protein choices. High quality whey protein contains BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) that promote repair and anabolism (the process of building up body structures). Plus, whey protein is high in the amino acid cysteine which helps make glutathione, the “master antioxidant”. Glutathione depletion is greatly linked with UV sensitivity. If you have a sunburn, that is a sure sign you need more glutathione. Curcumin, resveratrol, silymarin, B vitamins, r-alpha lipoic acid, and NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) are other nutrients that help boost glutathione levels. 

Green Tea Extract – Green tea extract known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) deserves special mention as there are many human studies showing that green tea is an excellent antioxidant for the skin. EGCG helps offset inflammatory reactions in skin when exposed to UV radiation. Inflammation is what causes redresses and pain caused by a sunburn, so be sure to get plenty of anti-inflammatory antioxidants when you are healing from a burn. Studies also point to green tea extract as an effective anti-aging skin antioxidant capable of improving skin characteristics like elasticity, roughness, scaling, density, and water content.

Carotenoids –
Orange-red colored pigments from fruits and vegetables like astaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, and beta-carotene love the skin. They accumulate in the skin’s antioxidant network where they protect us from UV radiation and help support healthy skin structure. Remember that carotenoids work synergistically with vitamins A and D for complete skin protection. Never use synthetic forms of the carotenes or vitamin A as it may actually induce free radical damage and have the opposite effect. The source is always listed on the label of a high-quality dietary supplement, otherwise assume it is synthetic.

B Vitamins – B vitamins are extremely important for healthy skin structure and they are quickly used up when the body is under stress. We can help our skin cope with the stress of too much sun by replenishing depleted B vitamin stores. B vitamins are also critical to building glutathione levels in the body which will help manage stress and redness in the skin after a burn. Vitamin B2, biotin, and folate play important roles in skin health and are especially important to support skin healing and a healthy moisture barrier. Check the label of your B complex supplement. If the B12 is in the form of cycanocobalamin, it is synthetic and low-quality. Instead, be sure to buy B vitamins that use coenzyme forms of B12 like methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.

Grape Seed Extract – Grape seed extract is an important antioxidant that helps control inflammation in the skin and protect against UV sun rays. It has the advantage over other skin antioxidants because of its unique ability to attach itself to collagen strands and help repair broken structures. When skin has too much oxidative stress caused by the sun, grape seed extract can bind onto broken collagen strands and support the natural repair process.

Sun exposure is vital for health, but in excess it can also cause painful burns and DNA damage in skin. While preventing sunburns is best, if you do happen to overdo it you will want to boost your antioxidant stores. Support the natural healing process of the skin by ensuring you get plenty of these helpful skin nutrients.

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