Daylight Savings signifies a change - this seasonal move from winter to spring may be a welcome relief for most of us. Unfortunately, it means one hour less in bed, but we do gain an extra hour of sunlight – hurrah! But as we start getting more sunlight and the temperatures begin to rise, we may want to pay attention to the effect that the extra ultraviolet (UV) exposure has on our health, and most importantly, our skin. Prolonged exposure to the UV rays can do significant sun damage to our skin, whilst causing premature ageing, wrinkles and fine lines to appear.
But did you know – your unique DNA can affect how quickly your skin ages? Knowing your genetic makeup can help you understand whether you’re at an increased risk of oxidative sun damage, so you can take precautions to protect your skin, boost your overall health, and improve your anti-ageing skincare routine.
Sun damage and genetic variation
If you’ve got certain variations of specific genes, you’re more likely to experience sun damage and associated ageing than others. Let’s take a look at these genes in more detail …
The MC1R gene plays a role in the pigmentation of skin. This allows a person to tan easily (check out our other blog on DNA and tanning here) and provides more protection from the sun while another genetic variation makes skin more sensitive to the sun. Increased sensitivity to the sun can result in UV-related skin ageing - otherwise known as photo-ageing.
The NQO1 gene is involved in energy use and oxidation in the skin cell, particularly when skin is exposed to the sun’s UV light. Variations in this gene have been associated with skin ageing as the gene is involved in the creation and reduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This is produced by a substance called hydrogen peroxide and causes oxidative sun damage, which ages our skin.
The SOD2 gene makes a tongue-twisting enzyme called manganese superoxide dismutase. This enzyme protects our mitochondria (the energy producing structures in our cells) from oxidative damage by detoxifying free radicals. When our skin cells are exposed to UV radiation from the sun, it generates these pesky free radicals which cause premature skin ageing. Your unique DNA determines the amount of enzyme activity, which in turn affects the level of skin cell sun damage.
Knowing your DNA
Understanding your specific genetic makeup can help you take the right steps to protecting your skin against sun damage, helping to minimise wrinkles and fine lines. So, knowing your DNA can allow you to create and optimise your own personal anti-ageing skincare routine.
Our top 5 anti-ageing skincare tips for sun damage
Knowing more about your skin DNA can help you understand if you have reduced natural protection from the sun’s UV rays, or an increased risk of accelerated skin ageing. To prolong the skin ageing process and protect against sun damage, you should
- Boost your vitamin C
We all know vitamin C can help boost immunity and stave off colds, but it’s even more beneficial for anti-ageing skincare. Not only does it encourage collagen production, improve visible signs of sun damage and scarring when applied topically, it’s also an antioxidant. As many studies have emphasised, its antioxidant properties help defend against environmental damage caused by free radicals (nasty things that damage our cells and could cause heart disease and cancer). To get your vitamin C fix, you don’t have to down pints of sugary orange juice – red bell peppers, kiwis and broccoli are actually better, nutrient-dense sources. You could also take a supplement or invest in some moisturising skin creams that contain vitamin C (look for magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, L-ascorbic acid or ascorbyl glucosamine on the label!).
- Oil it up with vitamin E
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is also an antioxidant, meaning it neutralises those troublesome free radicals. Basically, it can rejuvenate your skin and maintain your overall wellbeing. You can slather vitamin E oil directly onto your skin to reap its anti-ageing skincare benefits or swallow it in capsule form to moisturise yourself from within. If you’d prefer to get it from your diet, snack on a handful of almonds, slice half an avocado onto your spinach salad or top your porridge with vitamin E-rich pumpkin seeds.
- Supplement with alpha-lipoic acid
Alpha-lipoic acid may sound like it belongs in a laboratory, but actually it’s a natural powerhouse antioxidant for anti-ageing. It’s 400 times stronger than vitamins C and E combined, able to penetrate the skin’s surface and the skin cell membrane. This means it benefits both the inside and outside of the skin cell. Notably, it protects the skin from free radical inflammation, including sun exposure. Although many foods contain alpha-lipoic acid, like spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and beetroot, it’s typically very low amounts. Taking a 600-1,200mg supplement may help you to increase your intake and slow down the ageing process. Remember to consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, though.
- Wear sun cream and sun hats
When you go out in the sun, make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. If it’s set to be scorching, put on sun cream with a high SPF (30-50) and wear a sun hat to shield your scalp from the harmful UV rays. But remember – it doesn’t have to be hot outside for you to get sun damage – chances of winter sunburn are slim, but sun damage in colder temperatures should not be overlooked. You don’t even need to be outside to receive UV radiation – being by a window, in your car or in an aeroplane at 10,000 feet (when you’re closer to the sun) can lead to oxidative sun damage.
- Ease inflammation with omega-3
In order to reduce inflammation caused by sun damage, scientists advise striking the right balance with your omega-3 and -6 fatty acid intake. In short, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, whilst omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. You certainly shouldn't avoid omega-6s, because a balance of both reduces inflammation levels. Your omega-6:omega-3 ratio should aim to be 1:1, meaning you should consume roughly the same amount of both fatty acid types to stay healthy. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and pistachio nuts, whilst mackerel, salmon and walnuts are high in omega-3. If you don't eat a lot of fish or nuts, consider supplementing omega-3s into your diet.
Evergreen Life DNA – Discover the inner you
Do your skin a favour and discover more about how to protect your skin from sun-related ageing and UV damage – with an Evergreen Life DNA test. As well as telling you about your skin’s UV sensitivity, our DNA Skin Test can reveal your risk of developing stretch marks, cellulite and dry skin, and what steps to take to enhance the health of your skin.
Take control of your skincare and health today with an Evergreen Life DNA Test.