Most women dread those all too well known ‘age spots’, or brown spots, which eventually begin to appear on the hands, neck and face..
These age spots can in fact appear at any age and also depend very much on how well we take care of our skin.
Article written by Ariane Monnami, nutritionist and micro-nutritionist.
What causes brown spots?
Brown spots, or age spots, are a concentration of melanin on the skin, usually linked to sun exposure but also to diet.
After years of exposing your skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, melanin can build up on certain areas of the skin, causing darker pigmentation.
Normally, brown spots appear on individuals of over 40 years old, however there are several factors which can cause brown spots to appear earlier:
- Genetics: blond or ginger haired individuals with fair skin are at a greater risk than those with olive/dark skin.
- Prolonged and regular exposure to sunlight, as well as frequent sun burn, can also significantly increase the risk of developing brown spots, especially on the shoulders.
2. Molecules found in food sources
There is also another, little known cause of brown spots: the accumulation of dietary melanoidins.
As sugars come into contact with proteins, this causes a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction or glycation reaction.
This reaction can happen in cases:
- In the human body, depending on the blood sugar level and proteins. The glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) used to follow the development of diabetes in an individual is an example of this reaction.
- When cooking foods containing sugars and proteins at a high temperature. This is whatcauses foods to ‘caramelise’ and gives all the taste..
There are three types of different glycation which correspond to the three advanced stages of the glycation process. The details are perhaps slightly dull but it’s just important to know that the molecules involved in the third stage, ‘AGE’ molecules, cannot be eliminated by the body and therefore begin to build up, causing all sorts of problems in our bodies and especially for our skin.
During the third stage, large brown molecules called melanoidins are produced. As evident from their name, these molecules have a very similar structure to melanin and the accumulation of these molecules in the skin are a second cause of brown spots, completely independent from sun exposure.
What to do?
1. Protection from the sun
This is essential to prevent brown spots, as well as skin cancers. The areas most affected by brown spots are those most exposed: face, hands, neck and shoulders. Sunscreen, parasols, hats, are all good ways of protecting yourself from ultraviolet rays.
2. Dietary changes
Beware of everything crispy and golden.. toast, roast chicken, baked cakes, gratins, pizza, doughnuts.. also try to avoid breaded or fried foods, crisps and instant coffee.
Anything crispy and golden is in fact proof of the Maillard reaction, causing molecules to build up inside our bodies and premature ageing.
Try to opt for raw foods, or those cooked at low temperatures. Steamed or braised foods are a great way to avoid excessive amounts of AGE molecules. Some foods can even fight against glycation due to their high antioxidant content: green tea, grapes, garlic and onion, cinnamon, curcuma, thyme and rosemary. Of course, all colourful fruits and vegetables are great for this as well! Whenever possible, try to opt for organic produce to be able to also eat the skin where most of the anti-oxidants are concentrated.
Extra tip: Cooking your tomatoes with olive oil enhances lycopene production, a powerful antioxidant.
3. Protect your skin from the inside
To increase your protection against free radicals and encourage even tanning, remember to prepare your skin for the skin by providing it with essential precursors.
Sun Prime is a nutritional supplement containing amino acids, vitamins and minerals to prime your skin to be summer-ready, ensuring a a beautiful and even tan as well as full, long-lasting protection and health. The combined ingredients contain copper which helps to balance skin pigmentation, Beta-Carotene to enhance tanned skin as well vitamin A, E and Selenium to protect skin cells from oxidative stress.