Summer time is here and, for many, that includes increased time in the sun. It seems that everyone is chasing that elusive glow that comes from just the right amount in the sun. While a tan may provide temporary aesthetic pleasure, the sun can have many negative effects on your skin in the long run.
The most obvious negative effect of sunlight is sunburn, which most often occurs on light-skinned individuals. However, anyone who exposes themselves to the sun will find themselves with leather-like skin and wrinkles later in life as sun exposure effects everyone.
Sun spots are also another possible effect of spending too much time in the sun. The sunlight can literally cause discoloration of the skin, leaving permanent patches of skin discoloration.
The negative effects of sun exposure go far beyond wrinkles and sun spots. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with approximately 1.3 million new cases in the United States each year. UV ray exposure plays a very large role in the development of skin cancer, connecting increased sun exposure with skin cancer.
However, this is no reason to avoid the sunshine altogether and there are several things you can do today to reduce the effects of the sun on your skin.
1.) Reduce sun exposure between 10am and 2pm. The suns rays are the strongest during the hours of 10am and 2pm so the best thing to do during this time is to limit exposure as much as possible.
2.) Use sunscreen daily. Sunscreen with SPF 15 will block approximately 93% of UV rays, while SPF 30+ will block 96%. Look for a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” for the best protection. Sunscreen works the best when applied 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and when re-applied every two hours, more frequently if swimming or sweating a lot.
3.) Switch to a moisturizer with SPF. One of the most simple ways to protect yourself from the future effects of sun damage is to switch to a daily moisturizer with SPF. Our faces are exposed to the sun everyday and not only does moisturizing keep skin looking young, adding SPF can aid against future wrinkles and fine lines.
4.) Cover up. Less is not always better when it comes to clothes in the summer. Instead of going for the shortest shorts and strapless shirts with a strapless bra, opt for light-weight cotton or polyester/cotton skirts, dresses, and tops. Your skin will be better protected from the sun and the light fabric will still keep you cool.
5.) Reapply Sunscreen. Proper sunscreen use is so important that it deserves to be listed twice. Just because you applied sunscreen four hours ago, does not mean it’s still effective after spending four hours in the pool. Remember to reapply a minimum of every two hours – set an alarm on your phone to remember if necessary.
6.) Exfoliate Properly. Even after the sun has done some damage, there are ways to reverse the damage. First and foremost, exfoliate properly. Exfoliate with a product that has a concentration of 5-8% glycolic acid regularly will help remove the dead cells that are holding onto the damage from the sun. Always follow the directions on the package.
7.) Add antioxidants to your nightly routine. Antioxidants help protect against cancer but topical creams high in antioxidants with Vitamin C can also help reduce brown spots caused by sun damage.
8.) Bleach brown spots. Not with actual bleach, of course. Instead, find an over-the-counter skin lightener. While it does not literally lighten skin, it does help with the discoloration created by brown spots from sun exposure.
9.) Eat cherries. Cherries are super rich in an antioxidant that produces melatonin. In addition, the nutrients in cherries can help create new skin cells and may help reduce sun damage. The tarter the cherry, the better.
10.) Chemical peeling. When none of the other options are enough, there is one last option for repairing sun damage. Chemical peeling is a process of applying chemicals to the skin which, after allowed to set in, result in peeling the skin off. The process leaves skin smoother and evens out the color tone. Chemical peeling can be done by a doctor or you can do it yourself if you feel comfortable doing it. It’s best to consult your doctor or dermatologist before making the decision to try chemical acid peels.
It’s never too late to save your skin! While some sun exposure is good for you (it gives us vitamin D so we can better absorb calcium into our bodies for strong bones), too much of it can be detrimental to your health. Sun safety should be a year round concern and not only in the summertime. Use the above tips to ensure that you enjoy your time outdoors while protecting your skin and your health.
Test your Sun Safety IQ by taking the American Cancer Society’s 9-question quiz below.