It is a common myth out there that the sun is hazardous to your skin! However, this is not entirely correct, the sun provides the body with the vital vitamin D which gives your skin a glow.The bad news is, the sun emits harmful ultraviolet rays that can be damaging, especially to the skin. Think about sunburns—painful and horrid! Right?
What are Ultraviolet Radiations?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiations are types of radiations produced by the sun and some superficial sources such as solariums. These radiations are the number one cause of eye damage, premature aging, sunburn, and other skin damages that lead to skin cancers, both melanoma and non-melanoma. Ultraviolet rays that reach the earth's surface are in the form of Long Wave Ultraviolet (UVA) and Short Wave Ultraviolet (UVB). UVA attacks the thickest layer of the skin (dermis) causing photoaging and skin aging. Photoaging manifests itself through skin thinning, leathery skin, loss of elasticity and skin wrinkling among others (1). UVB rays, on the other hand, attack the superficial epidermal layer of the skin causing skin reddening, sunburns and more worryingly, skin cancer (2).
So, how do you protect yourself from these harmful ultraviolet rays?
The theories on how to protect yourself against ultraviolet rays are endless. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the beauty industry is blossoming with each passing day as people are constantly looking for solutions to "sun's protection." Sorry to burst your bubble but majority of sun care products in the market today are chemically processed, and this makes them more likely to have adverse side effects on the skin. Truth be told, it is really disappointing to pin your hopes on a product that has been highly advertised only to find out it was just a marketing hype as the product does not live up to its expectations. Which path do you take? The answer is never simple, but we believe in taking natural supplements that are chemical-free! There are plenty of nutrients out there that have been proven to offer numerous health benefits, one amongst them being protection against the harmful ultraviolet rays. Let’s look at one of such products—Silymarin.
What is Silymarin?
Silymarin is a single constituent of Silybummarianum (milk thistle).It is also found in different species of the Aster family of plants. It is a polyphenolic flavonoid that possesses a white to slightly yellow plant pigment. White thistle gets its name from the white fluid that comes out of it when any its parts are cut. Nowadays the plant can be found in almost all areas across the globe with a warm climate, although it's native to the Mediterranean. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it has been used medically for decades to treat various ailments such as gall bladder disorders and liver problems. Recent research has proven that Silymarin has the potential to protect the skin from the adverse effects of UV radiation (2).
How Does Silymarin Protect against UV Radiations?
The three phytochemicals found in Silymarin include the silicristin, silidianin, and silybin(the most active of the phytochemical) (2). As aforementioned, UVA and UVB rays cause skin aging and photoaging. Photoaging comes as a result of premature wrinkling of the skin, loss of skin elasticity, discoloration, lines, and dark spots. Once the dermis is attacked, elastin's and collagen (primary proteins for skin firmness) become decomposed, and their production becomes abnormal. In an effort to curb this, the body produces enzymes to rebuild the damaged proteins, but due to malfunctioning, the enzymes end up initiating the decomposition reaction causing a saggy, wrinkly skin. The good news is that the compounds found in Silymarin may have the capability of preventing and undoing the damage inflicted upon by those rays (3). When the skin cells are protected against UV radiation, they will not lose their elasticity thereby delaying premature aging and formation of wrinkles.
Silymarin may also protect against skin cancer caused by UV radiations (4). UVB rays are the chief instigators of skin cancer as they attack the skin superficial layer. First, they cause sunburns (a clear sign that the skin's DNA has been damaged). Also, exposure to UV radiation causes acute inflammation, and as the skin cells try to repair the damaged tissues, chronic inflammation occurs (due to the release of enzymes). Continued DNA and skin cells damage cause skin cancers (melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer). Recent studies have shown that the compounds found in Silymarin have impressive steroidal efficacy against skin inflammation (5). Silymarin reduces the UV-induced sunburn cell formation that leads to the development of skin cancer. Also, Silymarin inhibits ultraviolet radiation and blocks DNA skin damage caused by UVB rays. It is proven to curb UVB-induced oxidative stress and immune suppression that leads to continued DNA damage. All these have been attributed to the inhibitory, anti-inflammation, and antioxidant properties of Silymarin.
For those already suffering from skin cancer, Silymarin is may just be an ideal herb. Scientists have indeed proved that Silymarin has a remarkable antitumor effect. Based on these studies, the number of tumors as a result of skin cancer reduces significantly when using Silymarin as it may protect against skin tumor promotion (5). In doing so, it may impede cancer cell growth thus ensuring that cancer does not develop in other areas. Besides, by repairing the DNA damage caused by UVB radiation, it may speed up your recovery process.
Even though protecting yourself from excessive sunlight is crucial, you shouldn’t limit your outdoor activities for fears of sunburn. Research has shown that milk thistle and Silymarin may be able to safeguard you from Long Wave Ultraviolet (UVA) and Short Wave Ultraviolet (UVB) and their detrimental effects on the skin such as skin aging, photoaging and skin cancers. As seen, Silymarin has antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-ageing properties and anti-cancerous properties that may protect you against the harmful effects of UV radiation.