Today’s article is compliments of Dr. Keira L. Barr, MD, of Resilient Health Institute, and author of the #1 international bestselling book, The Skin Whisperer: A Dermatologist Reveals How to Look Younger, Radiate Beauty and Create the Life You Crave. For better or for worse, in our modern society, there is a tremendous emphasis on aging and beauty. So it begs the question of how many times have you heard the cliché, “Aged like a fine wine?” Plenty, right? But what does that really mean? And how is your skin like a fine wine? Is your skin a raisin or a grape?
The Analogy Begins – How Wine is Made
What makes a bottle of wine so fine (aside from my rhyming ability)? As with many things, success is achieved through the collaboration of multiple factors to produce a better end product. The same principle applies to winemaking. The creation of a fine wine rests upon factors including the varietal of grapes used, the light, temperature and soil conditions affecting the grapes and vines respectively, the length of the fermentation process and yes, you guessed it …the skin (this is written by a dermatologist after all). Wine grapes, compared to table grapes, have thicker skin; a desirable quality as the skin imparts the aroma to wine. Grape skin also contains tannins which produce the color of the wine. These tannins found in the skin help to preserve the wine for a longer period. Recently, it has been found that the skin of black grapes (used to make red wine, a personal favorite) contains the potent antioxidant called resveratrol. It’s what provides cardio and chemo-protective health benefits of red wine and the reason why resveratrol has become a more common ingredient in skin care products.
For those of you who love wine, these tidbits are good fodder to raise your glass, yes? Salut! But the point of all this information is not really about the wine of course. It’s about skin. Your skin. Like the creation of fine wine, the health of your skin is a significant contributing factor to the end product of your overall well-being.
Your Skin 101
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. As such, it is constantly exposed to the elements just like wine grapes, and light, in the form of UV-rays have a significant impact on the quality and appearance of your skin and your health. With regards to appearance, prolonged exposure to UV-radiation directly affects the color and texture of your skin. The acute changes may be a sunburn, followed by a tanned appearance. But what about the chronic changes? Those brown spots on your arms and hands that folks refer to as “liver spots” or “age spots” are in actuality the manifestations of chronic sun exposure and resultant sun-damage. While certain skin care products and laser procedures can minimize their appearance and help rejuvenate your skin, they can’t return your skin to its original undamaged state.
Raisin or Grape?
For a grape, dried by the sun, the texture and quality of the skin transform to a wrinkled, flaccid and shriveled form which we call a raisin. Our skin is very similar to the grape. Premature wrinkling, loss of elasticity and leathery feel to the skin are direct by-products of extensive sun exposure. So which would you rather be, a grape or a raisin? In a society where people are paying a premium for a youthful appearance with products like Botox, dermal fillers, laser procedures, and plastic surgery, why not save money and be pro-active: protect your skin from the sun every day! Even when it is overcast, up to 80% of UV rays are penetrating through the clouds.
With regards to health, it is known that UV-radiation suppresses the immune system. Suppression of the immune system contributes to infection, chronic disease, and cancer. It has been reported that 90% of skin cancers are induced by UV-radiation exposure. 90%! This statistic is a vital reason that I encourage you to protect your skin. Every. Single. Day.
Now some of you may be thinking, what? How can that be? Maybe Dr. Barr (that’s me) has been drinking too much of that red wine because I know that phototherapy, which is the delivery of UVB rays in a very controlled and time-limited setting, is used to make psoriasis and other dermatologic conditions better! Psoriasis, an autoimmune skin disease with or without joint involvement, is known to be driven by an up-regulation of aspects of the immune system…so suppression of these “jazzed up” factors so to speak, is the desired end result. This principle applies to several conditions in dermatology, but these are the exceptions, not the rule, and most importantly, the exposure to UV-radiation administered in a dermatologist’s office is tightly regulated and controlled to minimize adverse effects of said exposure.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
So how can you protect yourself from the sun? Consider this…sun protection it’s not a pick or choose activity, you truly need a comprehensive approach with lots of tools in your toolbag to ensure appropriate protection.
From the inside out: to combat the free radicals and oxidative stress created by UV exposure you need to build a strong foundation of health which hinges on the four pillars of nutrition, sleep, movement, and emotional well being. Eating a diverse and colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables to boost your supply of antioxidants, coupled with quality sleep of adequate quantity (on average 7 to 9 hours) to allow your body to rest, repair and generate melatonin which is one of the most potent antioxidants your body makes is vital. Pair these with consistent moderate exercise, like walking briskly and taking time out to just breathe and be in the moment are key parts of your sun-protective strategy.
From the outside in: minimize sun exposure when the sun is most intense between 10a-2pm, seek shade, accessorize with a wide-brim hat and sunglasses, wear clothing that provides maximum coverage and ideally offers a UPF rating of 50. UPF is the equivalent of SPF for clothing. To put this into context the average cotton t-shirt offers a UPF of 5 to 10 which decreases when the material is wet or stretched out.
Lastly, wear sunscreen. I am a firm believer that everyone should wear a moisturizer with sunscreen daily. That said I am also a firm believer that sunscreen should be your last line of defense, not your first and most definitely not your only. Why you ask? Because most people use only 25 to 50% of the recommended amount which means the full level of protection is rarely realized. Moreover, to provide sustained protection, sunscreen needs to be reapplied at a minimum of every 2 hours which may not be happening on a consistent basis. Bottom line, sunscreen is very useful but can’t be relied upon as your only line of defense. So when you choose a sunscreen, make sure it is broad-spectrum and a minimum of SPF 30 which is what the American Academy of Dermatology recommends. There are plenty of elegant non-nano zinc oxide based moisturizers on the market that fit the bill and work well for sensitive skin.
Which Would You Rather Be?
Like a fine wine, your skin will age, but there’s a big difference between chronologic aging and physiologic aging. The latter of which is accelerated significantly by extensive sun-exposure. So the choice is yours, grape or raisin…which would you rather be?
Exploring the reality that true health begins by taking notice of what’s on the skin’s surface and addressing what’s happening beneath it, my #1 International Bestseller, The Skin Whisperer: A Dermatologist Reveals How to Look Younger, Radiate Beauty and Create the Life You Crave is redefining skincare. The Skin Whisperer teaches women to understand and interpret the skin’s ability to communicate the body’s needs and desires. Written with the wisdom of a top physician but the candor and warmth of a close friend, The Skin Whisperer is a compelling and life-changing work that delivers advice, knowledge, and evidence on how to live a life that is fulfilling, healthy and vibrant.
About Dr. Keira L. Barr, MD
Keira L. Barr, MD, is a #1 International Bestselling author, inspirational global speaker, consultant, and physician. A cutting-edge dermatologist known as an innovative thinker, Dr. Barr has shared her life-changing ideas in business, education, health, and professional forums teaching how to rejuvenate and amplify skin health naturally; reverse sun damage, prevent and manage skin cancer; and build confidence, self-awareness, self-esteem and resilience. As the Chief Wellness Officer of Resilient Health Institute, by embracing what is on the surface as well as what’s below it, she is redefining the delivery of skincare. You can follow her on social media: @resiliencyblueprint
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