For many of us, looking good is an important part of feeling good. As a nutritionist specialising in weight loss and skin health, Harley Street resident, Kim Pearson is particularly aware of the impact our appearance can have on our confidence.
But when it comes to lotions and treatments, could your cosmetics regime actually be having a negative effect on your health?
We are told time and again that when spending time in the sun, we need to protect our skin from harmful rays with sunscreen. But this protective action does have a negative impact too; in inhibiting our vitamin D production from the sun’s UVB rays.
Exposure to UVB rays provides more than 90% of our vitamin D production, but wearing a sunscreen as low as 8 SPF reduces the skin's production of vitamin D by an incredible 95%. Many foundations and tinted moisturisers include an SPF, so it’s worth being mindful of this even if you don’t wear sunscreen.
Fake tan can also have a similar effect, with the DHA contained in tanning products and professional spray tan solutions leading to the prevention of UVB absorption.
Kim’s solution: Take 10 to 15 minutes in the sunshine without sunscreen, exposing either the arms or legs if possible (avoiding the midday sun when the rays are at their most intense) and top up your vitamin D levels with a supplement.
In the UK, sunlight only contains enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D from April to September, so the government recommends that everybody take a daily supplement during autumn and winter months.
Consider your lifestyle and skin type, too. If you have darker skin your need for vitamin D will be higher, and if you are spending long periods of time indoors or covered up, it’s recommended to take a supplement all year round.
A lot of people don’t realise that unlike with the food industry, the regulations around what goes into our cosmetics are not as strict. Many of the products we apply on our skin are quickly absorbed into our body, so it’s important to be aware of the impact of the ingredients.
Luckily there are now many natural brands available with ingredients of a plant-based origin. Often these are not only better for our health, but for the environment too. The environmental impact of our skincare was highlighted recently with a ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products because of concern over their impact on marine life.
Kim’s solution: You can check the chemical safety scores of your cosmetics on the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s cosmetics database and find their recommendations for gentle products. Opt for natural and organic products and scrutinise ingredients lists just as you would do with foods. Also, take a ‘beauty from the inside out’ approach to your regime by focussing on a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of water to stay hydrated, and supplements to rectify and prevent nutritional deficiencies, if needed.
They’re billed as ‘low risk’, but the light lamps used in gel manicures utilise UVA rays to ‘cure’ the polish.
These are the same rays used on tanning beds, and while the exposure is short and the area of skin exposed small, the risks are still present. If you’re having a gel manicure once or twice a year before a big event it is not too much of a worry, but if it’s part of your weekly routine, there may be more of an issue.
Kim’s solution: Keep gel manicures to a once-in-a-while treat and strengthen your nails naturally by including enough protein in your diet. Brittle and flaking nails are a sign that you may not be getting enough protein so if this sounds like you, look at ways of introducing more high-quality protein into your diet.