Summer Holidays, Sunshine, Free Radicals and your Skin

Your skin needs sunlight to make vitamin D. But, excessive exposure to the sun results in inflammation, collagen destruction, and acceleration of the skin’s aging process.
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What we call “sunshine” or “solar radiation” is in fact the incoming flow of photons, tiny packs of condensed energy produced and emitted by the sun. Because of their high energy content, photons can easily destabilize the things they hit and turn what has been hit into a free radical. This makes the sun the major source of free radicals in your skin. Think about it when you’re spending your holidays “under the sun.”

Other than the skin and the eyes’ lens and retina, no organ of the body comes in direct contact with the light of the sun. Thus, no other organ of the body is more exposed to the sun’s free radical producing radiation. While a normal dosis of sunshine is absolutely vital for the production of vitamin D in your skin, excessive exposure to the sun ‒ long hours on the holiday beach ‒ results in inflammation, collagen destruction, and acceleration of the skin’s aging process. The extremely wrinkled skin of elderly people who have been constantly exposed to sunshine ‒ whether as sailors, farmers, obsessive sunbathers, or just residents of the sunnier parts of the world ‒ bear witness to this process. Undeniably, antioxidant protection of the skin by way of creams, lotions and by eating plenty of foods high in antioxidants will help inhibit its premature aging due to overexposure to sunlight.

In one of his lectures, professor Jack Masquelier addressed the use of antioxidants, such as the vitamins E and C, to protect the skin against solar radiation. “Surely,” he said, these vitamins “are antioxidants that play a role in our natural defence system. They do indeed, but only if we eat food that contains enough of them ! And we cannot always check the doses of vitamin C and E we consume in a day. And then, there is the extremely unhealthy modern practice of strict dieting that often causes a highly insufficient vitamin consumption. The result is that many people produce an excess of free radicals. We can thank our lucky stars for the existence of radical scavengers, substances that help us fight free radicals. These substances are OPCs.” [i]

In his lecture, Dr. Masquelier underscored the protective effects of his OPCs on human skin that is exposed to free radicals by explaining to the audience: “I have already demonstrated that OPCs are bioavailable and are absorbed into our tissues. So I carried out an experiment, using myself as a guinea pig. I applied some dithranol ‒ a substance that produces free radicals ‒ on my arm. Forty-eight hours later, the skin of my arm showed the lesions characteristic of the action of free radicals, unless applied a small quantity of a cream based on OPCs derived from grape seeds five minutes after applying the dithranol. You see here [see photo above] that the reaction to the radicals is much weaker. This proves that the antiradical action also occurs in living tissue.”

Another reason OPCs’ antioxidant effect works so well in the skin is that OPCs impede the oxidation of lipids in the cell membranes. The cell’s membrane is composed of combinations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with phosphoric acid, forming phospholipids. The cell’s membrane consists of two layers of phospholipids. The phosphate end of the phospholipid is attracted to water. The fatty acid (lipid) end is repelled by water. Because the lipid sides of the layers also attract each other, the lipid sides of the layers face each other, and the phosphate sides that are attracted to water face the outside and the inside of this bilayer. The combination of water-friendly and water-resistant layers permits the control of the passing of water- and fat-soluble particles through the membrane. A special feature of the membrane is that it is a fluid and not a solid. Parts of the membrane can literally flow from one point to another along the surface. The membrane also contains cholesterol, which helps to determine the degree of permeability to water-soluble substances. The cholesterol also controls the fluidity of the membrane.

Protecting the skin against radiation is obviously relevant when you’re passing your holidays at the beach or in the mountains. But there’s another less friendly environment where you expose your skin to intense radiation. The radiation therapy that many cancer patients undergo blemishes the skin just as intense sunlight does. Skin injury as a result of radiation therapy can range from a mild sunburnlike reddening of the skin to blisters and ulcers. Like sunlight, radiation blows the skin’s cells apart, and the skin reacts with an inflammation. In radiation therapy, it seems wise to use a cream that contains 0.5 percent by weight of Masquelier’s OPCs right after each exposure. In addition to this, the aggressive effect of radiotherapy on the body should also be mitigated by an appropriate ingestion of OPCs, and physicians should automatically administer Masquelier’s OPCs, if not concurrently with the radiation treatment, then at least immediately after radiation to avoid radiation-induced damage in the healthy organs.

The cosmetic and dermatological indications of OPCs are obvious. After all, the word cosmetic comes from old Greek kosmetos, which means well ordered or well arranged. Kosmetikos means skilled in ordering and arranging. Needless to say, OPCs is the number 1 kosmetikos because apart from scavenging free radicals, it is also supremely skilled in keeping in order the connective tissue, the collagen that forms the constructive element of the skin. As with all organs, the skin must be nourished and waste materials must be carried away, which is why the corium, the dermis layer of the skin, contains a fine network of vascular vessels. OPCs positively affect skin disorders of the allergic type, disorders that result from vascular insufficiencies (rosacea, spider veins, etc.), or damage from sun exposure. By the way, their affinity for collagen is the reason why OPCs also protect the vascular system, which depends for its functioning on the collagen that gives the vascular wall its structure. OPCs’ stimulating role in the biosynthesis and maintenance of healthy collagen make Masquelier’s OPCs a prime constituent of skin-care and cardiovascular health products.

[i] Dr. Masquelier’s Premier Scientific Addres; Baltimore; 16 October 1996. Published in A Life time devoted to OPC and Pycnogenols; Alfa Omega Editrice; Rome; Italy. 1997.