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Antioxidants - natural sun protection?

Learn more about antioxidants and how to best protect yourself naturally from the sun's rays. Plus, we'll show you which sunscreen is best to use and why.


Antioxidants - natural sun protection

Summer is almost over again. However, the sun's rays and the damage that UV rays can cause should not be underestimated, even in winter. This becomes clear at the latest when the sunscreen on your face is forgotten while skiing and you subsequently walk around with a nice red outline on your ski goggles.

This blog article is therefore about antioxidants and how you can best protect yourself naturally from the sun's rays. We'll also show you which sunscreen is best to use and why.

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Table of contents

• What are antioxidants?
• Why does solar radiation cause premature aging?
• Can antioxidants act as a natural sunscreen?
• Protect your skin with these foods and ingredients
• Here's what you should look for in sunscreens

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are certain vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytochemicals that can protect the body from free radicals. They neutralize free radicals inside and outside your cells and are therefore important for the health of tissues and cells.

Free radicals are molecules of your cells that are formed due to harmful external influences such as environmental toxins, cigarette smoke or UV radiation from the sun, or due to various metabolic processes. You could say that these are molecules that have to give up an electron due to metabolism or the environment and now urgently need a new one.

To a certain extent, free radicals are even useful, because they can help the body fight viruses and pathogens and are relevant, for example, in sperm maturation. However, these radicals attack other molecules in your cells and take electrons away from them, creating new radicals and rendering the molecules non-functional.

If the number of free radicals increases strongly, one speaks of the so-called "oxidative stress". This is said to be partly responsible for the development of various diseases such as arthritis, cancer, arteriosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. It is also said to cause the skin to age more quickly.

Antioxidants can therefore be helpful here by "capturing" and neutralizing these radicals. The antioxidants in lemon juice, for example, prevent an apple or banana from turning brown when cut open, i.e. from oxidizing. Antioxidants can either be produced by the body itself through enzymes, hormones and metabolic products, or they can be ingested with food. Vitamins and plant substances constitute antioxidants.

Why does solar radiation cause premature aging?

Surely you've heard that sunscreen not only prevents sunburn, but can also prevent wrinkles. What is it all about?

Our sun not only sends heat and light to the earth, but also radiation. The so-called UV radiation. This radiation has an impact on your skin and the corresponding skin cells. Here, free radicals are formed within the cells and oxidative stress occurs. Different radiation has different effects:

UV-A radiation: These rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause permanent damage. UV-A rays accelerate the formation of cell-damaging free radicals. They also destroy collagen fibers of the connective tissue, causing the skin to lose firmness and wrinkles to appear sooner. UV-A rays are often to blame for sun allergies. They can cause skin cancer and tan only superficially. Even when it is cloudy outside, they are present. Because even in autumn or winter, some UV-A radiation gets through to us.

UV-B radiation: The situation is different for UV-B rays. These penetrate only as far as the epidermis, but are responsible for the dreaded sunburn. Every sunburn leaves permanent damage in the skin, as it dries out the skin and alters the cell's genetic information. This is one of the main causes of skin cancer.

Our expert tip on sunscreens:
The sun protection factor (SPF) only indicates the degree to which the skin is protected from UV-B rays. Protection against UV-A rays must be only half as high, according to legal regulations. Good products block both UV rays equally, especially if they are skin-care sun creams that are also used as day creams for the face. So also look for a specification of the UV-A protection.

Can antioxidants act as a natural sunscreen?

Beforehand: Yes, they can!

We all know that sunscreens protect our skin from the sun's rays from the outside, and this is important. A little less known is that you can additionally protect your body from the inside with the help of antioxidants. Antioxidants can serve as a natural sunscreen, as they can neutralize the free radicals that are formed.

Of course, antioxidants do not replace sunscreen. That's not the goal either. Instead, try to see antioxidants as a way for your cells to live healthy lives without the penetrating radiation causing major damage. As long-term protection, antioxidants can contribute to cell health, including skin cells.

Where do you get your daily dose of antioxidants? Below we have a few tips and sources of antioxidants that can help you incorporate antioxidants into your daily routine.

Protect your skin with these foods and ingredients

There are many micronutrients that have antioxidant potential. Vitamins, for example vitamins A, C and E, are probably particularly well known here. Another group of micronutrients are so-called polyphenols or secondary plant compounds.

These are substances that are produced by plants and that are not directly necessary for their survival, but are certainly beneficial. For example, many plants contain secondary plant substances that make the leaves more impermeable to UV radiation. This also happens in the plant by means of the antioxidant properties of polyphenols.

Rich in antioxidants are especially plant foods such as vegetables and fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and high-quality vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil. Apples, blueberries, broccoli, millet, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and citrus fruits, for example, contain particularly high levels of antioxidants. But pure cocoa powder is also an antioxidant food.

Polyphenols in detail:
Along with phenolic acids, flavonoids are a subgroup of polyphenols and belong to the secondary plant substances. They are found in fruits, vegetables and cereals and have an antioxidant effect. Similarly, carotenoids are secondary plant compounds that the body converts into vitamin A. They are found in almost all fruits and vegetables and are important radical scavengers. The trace elements zinc, selenium, copper and manganese also play a role in the body's defense against free radicals. Trace elements such as selenium, iron and zinc only have an antioxidant effect when they can act as components of enzymes.

As you can see, antioxidants are in many of our foods. It's not for nothing that they say you should eat all the colors of the rainbow. The colors of fruits and vegetables represent the different polyphenols they contain. So try to eat as varied as possible and to integrate all colors.

To give you a few more tips, we also have a small list of important antioxidants and their sources:

Vitamin C is important when it comes to promoting the skin's own sun protection. Vitamin C is said to have an antioxidant effect and is found in citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, but also in peppers, potatoes and fennel. It is also found in strawberries, cherries and sea buckthorn. Vitamin C also promotes the immune system and is a helpful companion in energy metabolism.

Glutathione is one of the body's strongest antioxidants and is composed of 3 amino acids - L-cysteine, glycine and L-glutamate. L-cysteine is particularly important and is the reason why glutathione can have an antioxidant effect. Fish, meat, lentils, soybeans, nuts and some mushrooms are particularly rich in L-cysteine.

B vitamins, especially vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is important for energy metabolism and helps reduce oxidative stress. Sources are dairy products, eggs, soy, fish, whole grains, nuts, mushrooms, legumes, broccoli, kale and spinach.

Vitamin E is one of the few fat-soluble antioxidants. This is particularly important when it comes to overcoming cell membranes, most of which are fat-soluble. Vitamin E is mainly of plant origin and is found in vegetable seeds, nuts and oils, as well as in peppers, eggs and whole grain products.

Selenium and zinc are two minerals that are particularly important in the context of the immune system. Here they support among other things as antioxidants. While selenium is primarily found in meat, fish and eggs as well as in mushrooms, cabbage and onion vegetables, lentils, asparagus and nuts, zinc can be found in meat, eggs, dairy products and cereals, especially whole grain products.

Unser Fazit:
Antioxidantien stellen einen guten zusätzlichen Schutz dar, um die Zellen auch von innen vor den Folgen der Sonne zu bewahren. Ohne Sonnenschutz solltest du trotzdem nicht aus dem Haus gehen. Damit dir auch die Wahl der Sonnencreme leichter fällt, haben wir gleich noch ein paar wichtige Punkte, auf die du achten solltest:

Darauf solltest du bei Sonnencremes achten

1. Die Sonnencreme sollte – gerade bei einer Tagescreme – angeben, wie hoch der UV-A-Schutz ist. Der normale Lichtschutzfaktor (LSF) gilt für den UV-B-Schutz.
2. Achte auf die Verwendung von hochwertigen Ölen wie Sheabutter oder Jojobaöl, sodass die Creme deine Haut pflegt, nicht stattdessen austrocknet.
3. Meide Sonnencremes mit Inhaltsstoffen wie Oxybenzon. Diese schaden den Meerestieren und Korallenriffen.
4. Eine gute Sonnencreme ist frei von Mikroplastik, Parabenen und Silikonen.

Kennst du mineralische Sonnencremes?
Diese verzichten im Gegensatz zu herkömmlicher Sonnencreme auf unerwünschte Chemie. Die Cremes wirken mittels Titandioxid und Zinkoxid, den beiden mineralischen Mikropartikeln, die die UV-Strahlung wie kleine Filter reflektieren und die Haut vor Sonneneinstrahlung abschirmen. Die mineralischen Mikropartikel legen sich in Form von weißen Farbpigmenten auf die Haut, dringen aber nicht in sie hinein. Mineralische Sonnencremes wirken also oberflächlich und physikalisch, sie lassen die UV-Strahlen sozusagen an der Haut abprallen.

Achte bei mineralischer Sonnencreme auf eine Bio-Qualität und auf die Angabe, dass keine Nanopartikel eingesetzt werden. Diese werden nämlich manchmal eingesetzt, um die Creme feiner zu machen.

Jetzt hast du einen Leitfaden, um dich vor der täglichen Sonneneinstrahlung zu schützen und so pathologischen Veränderungen wie Hautkrebs, aber auch vorzeitigen Alterserscheinungen vorzubeugen.

Also viel Spaß in der Sonne – gut geschützt natürlich!