Caring For Your Skin During The Summer (And All Year Long)
This post will give you some simple tips on how to protect yourself from the danger of the sun's rays.
We've all been there before, out at the beach or pool, getting a tan and forgetting the sunscreen. This sunburn can be one of the most painful burns you'll get and last days afterward. Not to mention the risk of skin cancer later on down the line. We understand that there are still many questions; But what if you don’t know which sunscreen to choose? How do you know what a safe amount of sun exposure is? Does sunscreen really work? Read on to find out.
How does the sun damage skin? The sun gives off rays of light that can help and harm us. These are known as ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are three different types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays are the most common form of sun exposure. UVB rays make up less sun exposure but are more intense. UVC rays are the worst. Luckily, we are not at risk of UVC rays. The earth’s ozone layer blocks these rays. Even though you can’t see UV rays, they can go through your skin. The outer layer of skin is the epidermis. The inner layer is called the dermis. Your nerves and blood vessels are located in the dermis. Epidermis cells contain a pigment (or dye) called melanin. People with light skin have less melanin than dark-skinned people. This is why very fair-skinned people burn easier. Melanin protects our skin and also creates vitamin D. When your body defends itself against UV rays, your skin tans or darkens. Too much sun exposure allows UV rays to reach your inner skin layers. You know this as sunburn. This can cause skin cells to die, damage, or develop cancer.
What are the signs of sun damage?
Redness. Your skin will turn red due to an increase in blood flow. It can happen right away or over time. You might not know you are burnt until you go back inside.
Hot skin. You also can get goosebumps or chills.
Itchy or tight skin.
Peeling. This is your body’s way of shedding the dead cells.
Sunspots (Localized darker pigmented areas)
How do I protect my skin from sun damage?
Stay in the shade. Limit sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when sunlight is most intense.
Use sunscreen. Get sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. If you have very light skin, use SPF 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside. Reapply often, at least every 2 hours. Don’t skimp.
Protect your eyes. Choose sunglasses that protect the sides of your eyes and that are labeled to guard against both UVA and UVB.
Cover your skin. Protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat can help reduce sun exposure.
Avoid indoor tanning. Tanning beds and sun lamps use special light bulbs that speed up tanning but also deliver harmful UV rays, increasing your risk for skin damage and cancer.
What is SPF sunscreen? SPF stands for sun protection factor. Simply put, an SPF rating tells you how long you can stay in the sun without getting burned while wearing that sunscreen, compared with how long you can stay in the sun before you burn without wearing that sunscreen. For example, if it typically takes you 15 minutes to burn without sunscreen and you apply an SPF 10, it will take 10 times longer (2.5 hours) to burn in the sun.
The reality is that most of us aren't applying enough sunscreen, and then most of us are not reapplying as often as we should. If you aren't using the right amount of product, you aren't getting as much protection as you might think—if you only apply half as much SPF 30 as you need, you're really only getting SPF 15 protection. To cover your body, use the amount of product you'd need to fill a shot glass, and for your face, make a peace sign and draw lines of product over two of your fingers.
No matter how much sunscreen you're applying in the a.m., you also need to reapply regularly. You should reapply every two to four hours, depending on your outdoor exposure. Reapply more frequently if you're sweating, in and out of the water, or near reflective surfaces like snow or sand. UVA vs. UVB Rays The SPF only indicates the level of protection against the sun's ultraviolet B rays, which are called UVBs for short. Initially, UVB rays were thought to be the only UV rays to worry about, since they are shorter in length and cause sunburn. However, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays also pose risks. They age the skin and contribute to skin cancer. SPF alone does not protect against UVA rays. In order to get the best sun protection possible, look for a sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection.
Can skin damage be reversed? While it’s not possible to erase 100% of the damage, experts do have some tips to reverse some of the tolls it has taken on your skin. Treatment depends on the type of damage you have.
Dry Skin: Skin loses oils and moisture causing dry, flaky, and wrinkled skin.
Sunburn: Immediate injury after sun exposure. Mild cases result in red skin. More extreme cases can result in blisters.
Actinic Keratosis: A tiny, scaly patch or bump. They usually have a pink, yellow, or brown tint and have to be removed by a doctor.
Photoaging: Skin prematurely ages due to excess sun exposure
Actinic Purpura: Blood vessels become fragile, rupture, and bleed.
Treatments for sun-damaged skin Retinoids These compounds, chemically derived from vitamin A, encourage skin cells to slough off and renew themselves, improving skin cell turnover cycles. They also stimulate collagen production, lighten brown spots and, in theory, reduce the size of pores. Vitamin C and other antioxidants These substances slow the skin’s degeneration due to the production of rogue chemicals, such as free radicals, that cause visible signs of damage. Antioxidants can slow the signs of aging, reduce UV damage to skin and help reduce the breakdown of collagen. Exfoliants Sun damage slows the rate at which skin cells turn over or replace themselves. This causes dull, dry skin, uneven skin tone, and even blemishes and clogged pores. Chemical exfoliants can stimulate faster skin cell turnover. Lightening agents Whitening or brightening cosmetics typically include hydroquinone, an ingredient shown to have skin-lightening properties. Used in conjunction with a retinoid, these can lighten but not completely remove superficial blemishes, uneven pigmentation and sunspots. Chemical peels A chemical peel is a non-surgical procedure performed by a dermatologist using various solutions to improve skin appearance. The depth of treatment varies. It can be superficial, medium or deep depending on skin type and the cosmetic and therapeutic goal. Peels are used to remove the outermost layers of the skin so new, clear skin can come to the surface. In many cases, removal will take with it areas of uneven pigmentation, precancerous lesions and fine lines.
Although these treatments can improve the look of superficial skin changes (for example, fine wrinkles, irregular pigmentation, yellowish or brownish discoloration, and roughness), they have much less of an effect on deeper wrinkles and substantial skin damage.
These days, it's easier than ever to protect yourself from the sun's rays. Keep in mind that UV exposure can't be avoided completely. You could have a beautiful tan, but if you have too much exposure to ultraviolet light, you're still at risk for skin extensive skin damage. Protect yourself with habits like those above, and use effective sunscreen every day. Remember your face, fingers and toes—high-risk spots are high-risk spots no matter what area of your body they're on.