“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
We feel the same way, Fitzgerald. All we can think about this summer is relaxing by the beach and getting that beautiful, golden brown skin. But it’s important to remember that while we all love the sun, too much of anything can be bad for us. Over exposure can have many consequences including sunburn, ageing of the skin- and more seriously, skin cancer including melanoma.
But we get Vitamin D from the sun. How can it be harmful for us?
Sunlight is made up of ultraviolet (UVA, UVB and UVC) rays.
UVA rays (Expert tip: think A for Ageing) are associated with skin ageing, wrinkles, and skin cancer. They account for up to 95% of UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface and can penetrate the skin even in cloudy, rainy weather.
UVB rays (Expert tip: think B for Burn) are responsible for sunburn and can be linked to malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma risk (types of skin cancer). UVB rays are the strongest from 10am-4pm so if you can, avoid direct sun exposure during these times and wear wide-brimmed hats, loose protective clothing and sunglasses.
UVC does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere so we don’t really need protection from it.
Ok, is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?
Of course! It’s essential to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or higher. Many sunscreens mainly protect against UVB rays, so make sure to look for one with UVA protection as well. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UVB radiation. Click here to read more on the importance of SPF.
Tips for choosing a sunscreen that best suits you
- If you swim or sweat a lot, pick one which is waterproof.
- Acne-prone, oily skin? Pick an SPF which is water-based. These are lightweight and many have antioxidants to boost the skin’s collagen.
- Avoid products with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) in them if you are sensitive to it.
- If you notice that the sunscreen reacts with your skin, note the ingredients and choose another- they are often made from different ingredients.
- Always check the expiration date- it’s possible for ingredients to deteriorate over time and stop working!
- Don’t like to be bare-faced on the beach? Try a tinted SPF.
- Chemical or physical sunscreen? Chemical sunscreens act as a filter to inhibit UV radiation penetration and need to be absorbed 30 minutes before sun exposure. It is more difficult to have broad spectrum protection with this type of sunscreens. Physical sunscreen blocks UV radiation immediately. They usually contain titanium or zinc oxide and work by reflecting the sun rays. This is the preferred protection for younger children.
For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and don’t forget to re-apply after swimming/exercise or if you’ve been in the sun for over 2 hours. Make sure to apply to ears, lips, back, shoulders, back of the knees, legs, and scalp (especially for men who are bald – this area burns very easily!).
I managed to get sunburnt despite applying sunscreen. What do I do now?
Sunburn can still happen despite using sunscreen and usually it is because one has not used enough SPF, or one has not re-applied as often as one should. Remember if you are in direct sunlight, sweating, water sports and swimming can remove the much needed sunscreen. Not applying enough sunscreen often enough is usually the culprit. The process for treating the face is same as for the entire body.
Best treatment for sunburn is prevention. To stop a patch of sunburn from getting worse
- Stay away from the sun in peak hours, wear protective clothing to prevent further burning of the skin
- Use a moisturizer with aloe vera to soothe sunburn
- Take cool showers or baths to relieve pain and do not rub the skin dry, best to keep a bit of moisture in the skin when applying moisturizer
- Ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce swelling and discomfort
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
- If you experience blistering, do NOT pop the blisters but let them heal on their own
Some other ingredients you should be looking for in your products that will help with sunburn
- Aloe vera and soy: to soothe
- Avoid soaps or perfumes
- Yogurt or milk : to soothe skin
- Vitamin E: to reduce inflammation caused by sunburns
- Cucumbers: antioxidants help soothe skin
- The length of the healing process depends on the extent of the burn. Without blistering, if you stay out of the sun you will be able to see dramatic improvements within 3-7 days. Blistering implies a second degree burn and can take longer to heal. Peeling in either scenario can take from days to several weeks depending on the extent of the burn. Be extra vigilant with new skin after sunburns. It is also good to keep your skin care routine basic by using gentle cleaners and products for sensitive skin. Avoid face masks, acne medication and any products with acids, retinols, fragrance, lidocaine. Also avoid tight clothing which can trigger and chafe the skin.
Armed with all this great info, you are now ready to go out and conquer the world with summer ready skin to die for! Happy July everyone!