Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer and the Sunscreen: A Tale of Healthy Skin

Protect your skin with the right kind of sunscreen!
Protect your skin with the right kind of sunscreen!
Image: Shutterstock
Welcome to the first day of summer, lovelies! The summer solstice is today, and if you’re like me, you’re welcoming back that skirt-worthy, posicle-needing, Vitamin-D-rich weather with open arms. One thing I love about living in Seattle is that summers aren’t just two months of scorching-hot 95-105 degree weather. Instead, we sit at a completely bearable 80-90 degrees most of the time, with a few scorchers and a few cooler days in between.

But whether the sun’s out or not, there’s one thing that is necessary for any summer day—sunscreen. Particularly for pale-skinned people like me, protecting your skin from the sun is a must if you don’t want to endup with a nasty sunburn and potential cancer down the road. But sunscreen guidelines have recently been updated by the FDA, after the latest research revealed lots of new information on what’s actually effective against the sun—and what’s not.

I suppose this doesn’t really come as a “shocker” to me, since just a few summers ago I spent two days at a lake, slathering on 30 SPF sunscreen multiple times throughout the day—and still ended up with blisters all over my legs. Understandably, I was more than a little irked. I thought I had gone through all the necessary steps to avoid frying my skin, but it happened anyway. What went wrong?

I don’t remember the exact brand, or the exact ingredients in the sunscreen I used that day, but I have a sinking suspicion that the reason I burned was because the sunscreen wasn’t as up to snuff as the FDA is now saying it ought to be. Check out these suggestions, from an article in Women’s Health:
Summertime: Popsicles, sunglasses, fresh fruit, cocktails, the sea, ice cream, and everything wonderful.
Summertime: Popsicles, sunglasses, fresh fruit, cocktails,
the sea, ice cream, and everything wonderful.
Image: Shutterstock

Put antioxidants on your skin every morning before using sunscreen. Serums with ingredients like Vitamin C, green tea, and resveratrol will help protect your skin from “free radicals,” which are produced by UV rays, among others. These free radicals damage your skin’s DNA and can even be produced by some sunscreens (zinc oxide does, though it’s far less harmful than the free radicals produced by straight UV rays). A few sunscreens even come with antioxidants built in, like Supergoop! SPF 30 Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C.

Use two coats instead of one to ensure that you get full coverage. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen, so applying multiple layers essentially just gets you up to par.

Expired? Don’t use it! Just like medication that’s expired, sunscreen that’s expired isn’t guaranteed to work. Besides, with your new “two layer” rule, you should be going through an entire bottle of sunscreen each year. You should use about an ounce per application, and should reapply every two hours you’re out. Also be sure to keep your sunscreen in a cool, dark place, as allowing it to heat can make it go bad faster.
Wonder what happened to “waterproof” sunscreen? Yeah, it’s gone—because the FDA prohibited the claim. No sunscreen can actually be waterproof or sweatproof; they can only be water resistant for up to an hour and a half. To maximize sunscreen effectiveness while taking a dip, let yourself air-dry instead of using a towel to dry (and in the process wiping all your sunscreen off).

Enjoy your summer in the sun - once you're all protected!
Enjoy your summer in the sun - once you're all protected!
Image: Shutterstock
Less than 15 SPF does next to nothing when it comes to protecting your skin. Even if you’re not burning, you are still damaging your skin with those free radicals and UVA exposure. That means you’re raising your risk of skin cancer and signs of aging, even if you don’t turn a nasty shade of pink. Oh, and the less you protect from UVA, the more damaged your skin’s immune system becomes—making it less able to protect from skin cancer down the road.

As I learned that day by the lake, sometimes sunscreen isn’t enough. I now have a nice wide-brimmed hat that I’m planning on wearing all summer to give extra protection. You can also invest in antioxidant pills, sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection, and other UVA/UVB protection gear. Also, don’t be afraid to stay inside during the hottest part of the day!
Dress for the occasion—and not just with your clothes. 

Use different sunscreens for different occasions. There are multiple types of sunscreen available, from ultra-strong 50 SPF to all-natural to sports sunscreen. You can also use a makeup primer that will help protect your face without having to goop oily sunscreen on.

Now that you’re all primed and ready, go get ‘em! Enjoy those summer rays, soak up the Vitamin-D, and stay protected while you do it!