UV generated free radicals in skin: Do you think your skin is safe with Self Tanning products?

Do you think you are safe from harmful UV rays and free radical damage when wearing Self Tanning products? Maybe not…….

Lets start at the beginning. What are Free Radicals?

We are exposed to trillions of FR’s every day and they are produced by the body to aid in many of our metabolic processes; such as digestion and conversion of food into energy. We need them for many of our body’s natural processes, however, when we are exposed to too many, they become an enemy to our health. This is how many diseases start and thrive, so it would be fair to say that if we were to reduce the amount we are exposed to, we would then be healthier and our skin would not age prematurely. Within the skin, FR’s breakdown our skins proteins and reduce the oxygen supply to our cells.

Think of a cut apple that is left for a period of time, it turns brown and this is a sign that the apple has oxidised – free radicals are at work.

In a lab study in Germany, it was found that skin exposed to UV radiation while wearing self tanning products were exposed to 180% additional free radicals causing accelerated skin ageing! (Gematria Test Lab, Berlin, Germany. 2008 Jung K, Seifert M, Herrling T, Fuchs J)

We have always known that skin exposed to large amounts of UV radiation induces structural and cellular changes in all skin tissue compartments. The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is the first consequence of UV exposure while the reaction of free radicals during sun exposure is crucial for us in understanding the effects of dermatological photo damage.

Self Tanning products contain an active agent known as; dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and is a colourless sugar that interacts with skin cells in the upper layers of the skin. As this sugar interacts with the amino acids in the skin cells, a colour change will occur and can last up to 7 days. This reaction is known as a Maillard Reaction and leads to the formation of Amadori Products that we now understand generate free radicals within the skin during sun exposure.

With tanned skin being a fashion statement with many cultures, we must understand that direct sun exposure with an unprotected skin will put the skin at risk of developing skin cancers and premature ageing. Now, with the popular use of topical Self Tanning products, we also put the skin at risk of accelerated ageing when exposed to the sun.

With this study demonstrating that we can prevent free radicals generation by using sunscreens and yet induce FR’s by wearing self tanning products, I would suggest that when using a self tanning product, it would also be wise to also use a sunscreen when exposed to the sun in the hottest part of the day.

Damage occurs even with incidental exposure which is the most common cause of sun damage on the skin. A good example of this is to take note of the side of your face that is exposed to the sun when driving your car or even as a passenger if you do this more often. Depending on where you reside, you will have one side of your face and one arm that shows accelerated ageing and damage due to the incidental exposure of driving in a car.

A sign of FR damage is skin texture that is rough, dry and a signs of pigmentation, or brown marks throughout the skin, and a compromised immune system. We normally associate these signs with ageing, however, with long term exposure this will occur in a younger age than normal.

With the coming summer months (Southern Hemisphere) it is time to start putting sun protection into practice to prevent the chances of skin cancers developing and allowing the skins immune system to work at protecting the skin.

Can you see signs of Free radical damage on your skin? Leave a comment and tell me what you see on your skin.