A Breakdown On Why Antioxidants Are a Must With Sun Protection
The word “antioxidant” gets tossed around so much, it’s like a magical frisbee that can cure anything from wrinkles to cancer. By the way, if you’re not completely sure what an antioxidant is, you’re not alone. An antioxidant is what it sounds like: a substance that prevents oxidation (damage created by free radicals). So what do antioxidants have to do with sun protection? Sun exposure is a leading cause of free radicals. These free radicals are incomplete atoms and molecules searching for a partner that steal healthy electrons from your body; this process damages cells and creates oxidative stress. Antioxidants help by substituting their own electrons and sparing you potential effects from free radical damage, such as premature aging, and various diseases, including cancer. In a way, antioxidants are nature’s little cell-savers, keeping you healthy.
Sun wellness is tricky, mainly because UV rays do much more than just cause sunburn. You might think because you don’t see sunlight you don’t need to watch out. Not so… Even when you’re inside your home, driving your car, daylight seeps through the windows. And throughout the year on the chillest gray days, UV rays are still present. So don’t forget to apply sunblock. Always opt for mineral based physical vs chemical sunscreen ingredients; chemical sunscreens can pass into your bloodstream and disrupt your endocrine system’s function. And at the beach, these chemicals wash off and enter the ocean, doing serious harm to sea life. For a list of safe sunscreen ingredients check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens.
Assuming you’re diligent and reapply sunscreen often, that still doesn’t mean you’re safe from oxidative stress. No sunblock offers 100% protection against UV rays, even if the label reads 150%. UV fragments rays still sneak through and create free radicals. So as an everyday wellness precaution, it’s essential to arm yourself with antioxidants. The more, the better.
Mindful Eating & Antioxidants
Eating healthy is crucial to mind/body wellness. Steer clear of sugar and processed foods in favor of deeply colored fruits and veggies, rich in polyphenols (micronutrients in plants, packed with antioxidants). Foods especially rich in antioxidants include: black beans, blackberries/blueberries, pomegranates, turmeric, parsley, basil, and dark leafy greens. And walnuts have almost twice as much antioxidants as other nuts, so snack away. For an extensive list of the antioxidant content of 3100 foods, check out this list from the National Library of Medicine.
Drink your antioxidants: Matcha powder contains catechins, special plant antioxidants, and more than 100 times the antioxidants of traditional green tea. Although, with all that good stuff comes significantly more caffeine so be sure it’s safe for you. Try Rooibos tea. This lovely deep burgundy tea is packed with antioxidants, minus the caffeine. Or take the traditional route with coffee; either with caffeine or decaf, both have a significant amount of antioxidants. Raw cacao powder - mix this luscious antioxidant powerhouse in your daily smoothie, or sip hot with dairy-free or cow’s milk and a little honey.
Antioxidants on Skin
Choose natural creams and serums that contain antioxidants, or mix and match essential oils and create your own skin wellness products. Try this DIY herbal hydrosol for an antioxidant skin refresher throughout the day.
*Before using a topical antioxidant, always check side effects and make sure it is safe for you. And be extra cautious if you have sensitive skin, as some can be strong and cause redness.
Depending on which you choose, certain oils can be in danger of oxidizing quickly. So… store oil in a dark glass bottle that doesn’t allow light in, and keep it in a cool dark place. However, some essential oils are more resilient than others so select a long lasting oil, or mix with a carrier oil that acts as a natural preservative. Essential oils high in antioxidants include: Lemon, grapefruit, rosehip seed, lavender, coriander, clove, pomegranate, prickly pear, oregano, thyme, sage, lemon balm, basil.
Apply directly, if you’re certain your skin can tolerate the oil. Otherwise add a few drops of one or more essential oils, in a carrier oil of almond (vitamins A, D, E) or Apricot kernel oil (A, E, and gamma linoleic acid, firms & tones), Jojoba, (vitamin E, copper and zinc) or coconut, and apply to your skin as needed.
A super antioxidant that stimulates collagen production and helps prevent premature aging. However, C can spoil extremely fast. For that reason, many products won’t be effective. So how can you trust C in skincare? Unless you’re certain of the brand you choose, another way to safeguard against spoilage, is to get C in powdered form (ascorbic acid). Then add your preferred amount to a facial oil or cream and dissolve. You’ll get a fresh boost of C each time you use it, and your supply will last.
*Be careful, topical C is not to be used in combination with retinol products. It can also be irritating on sensitive skin, so make sure you can tolerate it. Begin with very small amounts at first, and increase over time.
For a list of additional antioxidants that also contain anti-aging benefits, check out: Holistic Anti-Aging Remedies