Author: Leo Akin
The skin covers every part of your body and is, therefore, the largest organ you have. It serves a primary purpose of keeping out toxins, foreign substances and also protecting your inner organs from extreme temperature. However, the skin is more than a simple physical barrier. Its complex network of cells, glands and nerves also serve different purposes. For example, the nerves in the skin are needed for your sense of touch and they allow you to feel your immediate environment. Perhaps the most important function of the skin is its central role in the synthesis of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that humans produce in appreciable quantity and this production proceeds in the skin after it has been exposed to ultraviolet light of certain wavelengths. To ensure that your skin continues to fulfil its physical, metabolic, hormonal and sensory roles, you should take good care of it. In fact, the skincare industry is a massive, competitive market that rivals the drug industry. Unfortunately, this industry is barely regulated, filled with pseudoscience and is fueled by a number of myths about how you should take care of your skin. Discussed below are the 5 major skin care myths that may be harming your health.
Myth 1: Avoid Sun Exposure
It is true that excessive exposure to sunlight can get you sunburned and long-term exposure to harsh sunlight may increase your risk of skin cancer but totally avoiding sun exposure is even more dangerous. Your skin needs the sun to make vitamin D. Without this exposure, your vitamin D level dwindles and you lose all the benefits of the “sunshine vitamin”. While there are vitamin D supplements and foods rich in the vitamin, they are poor substitutes. Research shows that the kind of vitamin D synthesized in the skin from sun exposure is easily bioavailable and is the most effective vitamer (D3) of vitamin D.
Therefore, foods and supplements cannot fully make up for your dislike and avoidance of sun exposure. Rather than following the wrong advice to shun direct sunlight, you should actually get some sun exposure every day. All you need to do is limit your exposure time to avoid getting sunburn or suffering photo damage. Ironically, the vitamin D to be gained from doing this can lower your risks of cancers including skin cancer. Vitamin D can also improve your cardiovascular health and is central to the functions of the kidney, bones, muscles and immune system.
Myth 2: Tanning is Bad for Your Skin
Acquiring a tan is desirable cosmetic result of sensible sun exposure especially for people with pale skin. And contrary to popular advice, tanning is not bad for your skin and it is not a sign of sun damage. The key to safely acquiring a tan is to limit your exposure to sunlight in the first few days. Then you should protect your face from direct sunlight because the skin around this area is most susceptible to sunburn. Besides its cosmetic benefits, tanning helps you raise your vitamin D level. Even the special UV lamps used with tanning beds have been shown to also improve vitamin D status.
Myth 3: Sunless Tanning Sprays Are Safe
Sunless tanning is a misnomer because it has more to do with costume painting than real tanning. Unfortunately, sunless tanners are not simple harmless fun. They do contain a long list of poorly regulated ingredients. Because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate personal care products as strictly as drugs, spray tanning products commonly contain questionable ingredients. Take for example, dihydroacetone. It is usually listed as DHA and most consumers confuse it with docosahexaenoic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid. However, the DHA in spray tanning solutions is a color additive suspected to be a carcinogen and now linked to skin cancer and early aging. A closer look at the ingredient lists of sunless tanning sprays will reveal that they are far from the harmless skincare products many believe they are. Therefore, if you do have to acquire a tan, get some real sun exposure.
Myth 4: More SPF Means Safer Sunscreen
The higher the SPF (Sun Protection Factor), the better the sunscreen? Not really. Increasing the SPF of a sunscreen only offers more protection against the ultraviolet rays of sunlight up to a point. Beyond that point, there is very little benefit and possible greater harm. You do not need a skincare product that offers more than SPF 50. The SPF rating system does not use a linear scale. Therefore, SPF 100 does not necessarily mean double the protection of SPF 50. You should avoid applying sunscreens with very high SPF on your skin because they do nothing to block the more dangerous UVA rays and only block the UVB needed to produce vitamin D. Furthermore, the ingredients thrown in to achieve higher SPF values can be toxic. One commonly used ingredient of high-SPF skincare product is oxybenzone.
Myth 5: All Skincare Products are Harmless
Because the skin looks impervious to creams and lotions, many believe that skincare products are quite harmless. However, these products can do more than injure your skin. With thousands of ingredients and poor regulation of skincare products, quite a lot of harmful ingredients find their ways into the cosmetic products we use. The truth is that the skin does not always keep these toxic ingredients out. These ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream in varying quantities and because they are taken up directly into the blood, skincare products can have profound effects on your health.
The parabens, triclosan, benzones found in skincare products have been variously linked with hormone disruption, cancer, reproductive diseases and autoimmune disorders. Slathering them on your skin every day and leaving them on can deliver these toxic ingredients into your bloodstream. And while they seep in, they slowly accumulate and progressively raise your risk of certain chronic diseases. Therefore, make sure to read the labels on your skincare products carefully and choose natural products whenever you can.
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