Imagine your ideal summer afternoon. Perhaps it involves time at the beach, a ride along your favorite bike trail, a neighborhood cookout, or a day spent mostly indoors soaking up the natural light coming in from the window. No matter what your perfect day looks like, it is essential to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun that plays a huge part in premature aging. Long term exposure can also result in genetic mutations, increasing the risk of skin cancer and other complications. Fortunately, UV damage is highly preventable.
Tips on how to protect your skin this summer:
1. Look for sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30 or higher.
There are two wavelengths of UV radiation that are primarily responsible for sun damage: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are the less intense, but more prevalent, rays that penetrate the deep layers of the skin, damaging collagen and elastin fibers. They are present during every hour of even the cloudiest of days, no matter the season, and contribute to deep wrinkles and sunspots. Not even glass can stop them from reaching your skin, meaning that you are not necessarily safe from these rays even if you are indoors.
UVB rays, on the other hand, damage the skin’s more superficial dermis layers. They are responsible for sunburns, sun spots, pigmentation issues, and thinning skin. Because their intensity can vary depending on the time of day and forecast, UVB exposure can be minimized by avoiding direct sunlight between 10AM- 4PM from April to October.
Ninety-nine percent of wrinkles and signs of premature aging are caused by UVA and UVB rays, and both types of rays increase the risk of skin cancer. No sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays, but a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will block 97% percent. Be sure to apply it at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours to ensure that your skin is getting the protection it needs.
2. Protect all areas of your skin, not just the obvious places.
Sometimes it’s tempting to lather the highlights with sunscreen and call it good. But it is important to remember to apply it everywhere. The neck, chest, hands and feet are areas that receive a tremendous amount of sun exposure and are very susceptible to sunburns. Often, these parts of the body can give away age if precaution is not taken.
3. Remember that your lips need protection too.
Melanin, the pigment that gives skin color, plays a part in inhibiting UV radiation from damaging DNA. Because your lips do not contain melanin, they are extra susceptible to sun damage. Excess UV exposure can damage the collagen in your lips and result in extra wrinkles around the mouth area. If you plan on spending time outdoors, apply lip balm with an SPH of at least 15. And as with sunscreen, be sure it offers broad-spectrum coverage to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.
4. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Eyelids are composed of thin tissue that is extra sensitive to sun exposure. Over time, sun exposure can increase signs of aging in the form of increased wrinkles and crow’s feet. Yet, UV rays can also harm sensitive eye cells and eventually damage vision. In order to provide the best protection for your eyes, wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. You may also consider a wide brimmed hat to further shield your eyes and eyelids.
5. Consider clothing designed to ward off the sun.
The right clothing can help shield the sun too. On a hot day a spaghetti strap tank may sound more appealing than a shirt that offers fuller coverage, but the more coverage, the better. The less space between the fibers of your clothing the less access the sun has to you, so a tighter knit is recommended too. Clothing made of polyester, nylon, acrylic, and lycra are effective options in providing UV radiation protection, while light, sheer clothing will be less effective.
Everyone enjoys soaking up the warmth of the sun once in a while and participating in summer activities. It is unrealistic to avoid the sun altogether, and you shouldn’t have to! But before you head out for the day, remember how essential it is to protect and shield your skin from harm. You deserve healthy, vibrant skin that you can take pride in.