Last week, I showed you how antioxidants can offer significant protection from the sun. Taking these antioxidants will allow you to spend more time in the sun, soaking up its nourishing rays, while avoiding its damaging effect.
But I have even more great news for you about antioxidants and sun damage. There’s a particular antioxidant that works even better than the ones I told you about last week. It will let you stay in the sun nearly twice as long without getting sunburned.
As I mentioned last week, collagen is the key structural substance that holds your skin and other tissues together. And in order for your body to make collagen, you must have the right balance of the enzyme collagenase. Unfortunately, the sun throws this balance out of whack – it produces too much collagenase. The excess collagenase breaks down our collagen – and our skin suffers as a result.
I also showed you last week how antioxidants can help your body keep the production of collagenase in balance. While all antioxidants will help keep this balance, some are much more effective than others.
One of the most effective is a patented extract of the bark of the French maritime pine called Pinus pinaster Ait. You probably know the extract by the name Pycnogenol.
Pycnogenol contains a class of antioxidants known as procyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These potent antioxidant molecules also are in grape seed, grape skin, bilberry, cranberry, black currant, green tea, black tea, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, black cherry, red wine, and red cabbage.
But Pycnogenol is particularly interesting because it is also anti-inflammatory.
And this characteristic does more than just decrease collagenase production. It also prevents sunburn.
In one experiment published in 2004, researchers applied Pycnogenol to the skin of mice after the researchers exposed them to increasing doses of solar-simulated UV radiation (SSUV). SSUV radiation is a simulated form of ultraviolet radiation that’s identical to what the sun produces. Each time, after they exposed the mice, the researchers immediately applied either a strong or a weak topical solution of Pycnogenol to half of them. Then they measured how much sunburn and edema (swelling due to inflammation) the mice developed. Here’s what they found.
The treated mice had less sunburn and edema in a dose-related fashion. That means that the stronger the Pycnogenol solution, the less sunburn and swelling they had. But the mice also had a protective effect on their immune system from the Pycnogenol solution.
When the researchers exposed the mice to slight burning for three consecutive days, it suppressed their immune systems by 54%. But the mice receiving the weaker solution of Pycnogenol had an immune suppression of 22%. And the ones receiving the stronger solution had immune suppression of only 13%.
Can Pycnogenol Stop Skin Cancer?
The researchers then looked at the effect of Pycnogenol on cancer formation. To do this they exposed the mice to excessive levels of SSUV five days a week for 10 weeks. The mice receiving the lower concentration of Pycnogenol had the same cancer rate as the mice that didn’t get any — 100%! They all got cancer. That shows you just how significant sunburn is to skin cancer development.
However, the mice treated with the higher concentration fared much better. They had 15% fewer tumors. And a few of them actually remained cancer free. So let’s add it up.
Protect Yourself From the Damage of Sunburn
What’s really important about this information is that you can apply the Pycnogenol after you get sunburned. How many times have you been unexpectedly over exposed to the sun? Wouldn’t it be nice if when that happens, you can reduce the negative effects by simply applying some topical Pycnogenol?
But what about taking it orally? Will that work too?
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley wanted to find out. They looked at the effects of orally administered Pycnogenol on 21 volunteers. First, they determined the minimal dose of solar radiation required to induce sunburn on each person. Then they gave all the volunteers a daily dose of Pycnogenol according to their weight. The initial dose was 1.10 mg per kilogram daily. For a 150-pound person, this would amount to about 70 mg per day.
After four weeks, they increased the dose to 1.66 mg/kg each day. For our 150-pound person, this is 112 mg per day. They rechecked the minimal dose of solar radiation required to induce sunburn at the four-week point and again at the eight-week point.
The results showed that taking the lower dose over the first four weeks allowed the subjects to sit in the sun 40% longer before it burned their skin. This improved to 84% longer after four weeks on the higher dose. That’s the rough equivalence of a factor two sunscreen. Unpublished data I uncovered asserts that taking 400 mg of Pycnogenol will give you factor six sunscreen protection.
The researchers were able to determine that the results were not simply to the antioxidant effect of Pycnogenol. They also were related to its anti-inflammatory effects.
If you want to protect yourself from the damage the sun can cause, but still want to get its benefits, here’s what you should do: Take 100 mg of Pycnogenol in the morning and before bed. Apply Pycnogenol cream to your skin each morning, and immediately after any excessive sunlight exposure, such as a bike ride.
Pycnogenol is not expensive. A 100 mg dose goes for about nine cents. The topical Pycnogenol that I recommend is from Derma E. The product is Pycnogenol Moisturizing Cream. It sells for $18 for two ounces. This amount will last you about two months at a twice-a-day dose if you restrict it to your face, neck, and hands. You can find both of these products on the Internet.
Will Other Antioxidants Protect Your Skin From the Sun?
Now that you know the right nutrients will protect you from the sun, what about that multivitamin you’re already taking? Is it helping? Fortunately, we do have some information on that.
Researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany reported on a product called Seresis. Seresis is an antioxidant combination that contains betacarotene, lycopene (from a tomato extract), vitamins C and E, selenium (from yeast), and proanthocyanidins (from grape seed extract). All of the ingredients in this product are in very moderate doses.
The researchers took two groups of young women with type-2 skin. One group took the supplement every day, and the other group had a placebo. There was no difference between the two groups in their tolerance to sunlight dose. Taking the supplement did not help reduce the tendency to sunburn. And it was only slightly helpful in reducing the amount of collagenase that the burn produced.
Might the results have been better with higher doses or with a broader combination of antioxidants?
Researchers at Duke University looked at how well a topical solution of vitamin C (15%) and vitamin E (1%) prevented sunburn. They found that applying the solution before the exposure prevented sunburn by a factor of four. Then they added ferulic acid to the combination and tested it again. Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant that’s in most vegetables. The researchers found that the addition of ferulic acid improved the chemical stability of the vitamins, and doubled the ability of the vitamins to prevent sunburn.
The lead author of the study suggested that combinations of various antioxidants may have synergistic effects. That means they work better together than all by themselves. So, yes, a high-dose multivitamin does offer some protection. This information shows why you shouldn’t waste your money on low-dose multis. They just don’t offer enough protection. In addition to taking a high-dose multi, such as my Super Immune QuickStart every day, make sure your diet focuses heavily on fresh vegetables and berries.
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