Summer is here and with July 4th coming up here are 4 tips to keep your skin healthy and protected in the hot, summer sun!
1. Sunscreen – Multiple sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancers. What many people don’t realize is that even if you have mildly pink skin after sun exposure, this is still a sunburn, though mild. Regular sunscreen use helps to prevent these sunburns and therefore, decreases the risk of skin cancer as well as premature aging of the skin.
I recommend to all my patients to use sunscreen daily with a minimum SPF 30 on the face, neck, chest and hands – areas that are constantly exposed to the sun. Even if you’re not going to be outdoors all day, sun exposure from windows, driving in your car, etc can add up over time especially since in Southern California we get sun almost all year round. Many people tend to burn on cloudy days because we have the misconception that cloudy days means we are protected from the sun but there are still certain rays that come through the clouds which can cause sunburns. If you’re going to be outdoors all day, make sure to reapply every 1-2 hours as the sunscreen stops being very effective after that especially if swimming and/or sweating.
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Previous thoughts were that above an SPF 50, there was not a lot of added benefit. However, recent studies are showing that most people don’t use sunscreen correctly and apply less than they should, therefore, getting a lower SPF than what’s written on the bottle. Because of this, sunscreens with high SPF such as 100 actually do provide significantly more protection. So, in general, the higher the SPF the better; however, higher SPF sunscreens tend to be thicker and may be more uncomfortable to wear. If a thicker sunscreen prevents you from being able to use it daily, then use a lower SPF sunscreen that you can tolerate well.
Any brand and type of sunscreen is safe and effective as long as it’s a minimum SPF 30. Though, people with sensitive skin or very young children might want to use mineral sunscreens with active ingredients of only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as these are less irritating to the skin.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on the feet too especially if you like wearing sandals in the summer!
2. Protective clothing – Although clothing may have a lower SPF than the sunscreen you’re using – typical white t-shirts have an SPF of about 7 – this is still helpful because it’s a constant SPF throughout the day unlike sunscreen which starts breaking down after 1-2 hours. If possible, it’s best to cover up when exposed to the sun. Clothing with higher SPFs are also available by various clothing companies. These clothing items can have SPF 50+.
Hats are also important to wear when outdoors if possible especially if you have thinning hair. The scalp is an area where I commonly see skin cancer. It’s harder to put on sunscreen on the scalp especially if you have some hair so it’s important to wear a tight weave hat preferably with a wide brim to cover the ears as well as the back of the neck and partially the face.
3. Topical vitamin C – If you’re looking to do something extra for your skin, I like recommending topical vitamin C on the face in the morning. When your skin is exposed to sun and environmental pollutants, free radicals are generated on the skin. Free radicals contribute to aging skin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin from the damage caused by free radicals.
4. Avoid sun in the middle of the day – Lastly, if you can, try to avoid being out in direct sunlight from 10a to 4pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. The sun can still be pretty hot prior to and after this time period so it’s still important to take the above measures during those times as well.
If you take the above precautions to protect your skin from the sun, you should be able to enjoy the nice, hot weather during the summer without having to deal with sunburns and the bad consequences of sun exposure. Have a wonderful summer!