Can You Absorb Nutrients Through Your Skin?

New evidence shows that it may not be long before you can take your vitamins through a skin patch, not quite unlike estrogen, nicotine or pain medication transdermal patches currently being used for various health problems. According to nutritionist Monica Reinagel, who writes on QuickandDirtyTips.com, these nutrition patches, along with gels, lotions and bath salts may be the wave of the future. But she cautions that before you run right out and buy these products, you need to be aware that not every product will do what it says it will; plus, many aren’t tested for safety, either.

With summer upon us, this commentary brings to mind a skin lotion that many of you may already have in your cupboard. It’s a product that many buy without looking beyond the front label, even though if you read the backside ingredients label, you’ll find it’s not quite what you’d want to apply willy-nilly on your body. That product is sunscreen.

Unfortunately, most commercial sunscreens contain many potentially hazardous chemicals — some of which are killing coral reefs as they leach from your body into coastal waters, to the tune of 14,000 metric tons of product every year! Yet, what most of us look at is that little “SPF” number on the front, instinctively reaching for the highest number we can find.

And just as unfortunately, most sunscreens offer protection only from UVB rays, which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your skin to produce vitamin D — when the most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are UVA rays. In other words, these sunscreens are “protecting” you from the only transdermal vitamin patch you need — the healthful rays of the sun.

As you know, I recommend spending time in the sun regularly — ideally daily. Sunshine is an all-over skin “patch” that offers substantial health benefits, provided you take a few simple precautions to protect yourself from overexposure. That said, here are my top five safe “transdermal” sunning tips:

1. Give your body a chance to produce vitamin D before you apply sunscreen. Expose large amounts of your skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily. Optimizing your vitamin D levels may reduce your risk of many internal cancers, and actually reduces your risk of melanoma as well.

2. Stay out just long enough for your skin to turn the very lightest shade of pink. Shield your face from the sun using a safe sunscreen or hat, as your facial skin is thin and more prone to sun damage, such as premature wrinkling.

3. When you'll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat or shade (either natural or shade you create using an umbrella). A safe sunscreen can be applied after you've optimized your skin's daily vitamin D production, although clothing is your safest option to prevent burning and skin damage. Keep in mind that in order for sunscreen to be effective, you must apply large amounts over all exposed areas of your skin. This means the product should not trigger skin allergies and must provide good protection against UVA and UVB radiation. It also should not be absorbed into your skin, as the most effective sunscreen acts as a topical barrier.

4. Consider the use of an "internal sunscreen" like astaxanthin to gain additional sun protection. Typically, it takes several weeks of daily supplementation to saturate your body's tissues enough to provide protection. Astaxanthin can also be applied topically, which is why it's now being incorporated into a number of topical sunscreen products.

5. Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another highly useful strategy to help avoid sun damage. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and animal-based DHA omega-3 oils in your skin, which are your first lines of defense against sunburn.

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