Most of us enjoy that natural bronzy glow left on our skin after a few hours in the sun. But sometimes those same sunny days can also come packaged with less desirable skin effects like sunburns, dehydration and more.
Of course, we all know that using sun protection, which includes sunscreen, hats and appropriate clothing, is always a much-advised course for safeguarding our skin each summer. But beyond the basics of sun protection, what else do we need to know?
“There are two types of damaging sun rays: UVA, which are responsible for aging the skin, and UVB, which are responsible for burning it,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in New York. “The SPF number on a bottle of sunscreen only gives a guide for how much UVB protection the product offers. It doesn’t tell you whether or not the product protects from UVA rays (which are also responsible for melanoma).”
When hunting for the right sunscreen, Frank says to look for labels that say “broad spectrum,” which provides coverage for both UVB and UVA rays. Additionally, he suggests an SPF of 30 or more containing zinc or titanium oxide.
If you’re more prone to breakouts during the summer months, sunscreens can present you with more issues. Therefore, Frank suggests sampling various sunscreens to find thinner ones that leave minimal residue. For summer acne victims, he also advises routine exfoliation, using a wash containing glycolic or salicylic acid and switching to a lightweight gel moisturizer. For very oily skin types, he advises skipping moisturizer altogether, stating that the skin’s natural oils are usually enough.
Another common result of sun-soaked skin is dryness, which can lead to everything from shiny patches, flaky skin and redness to future wrinkles. Add in the risk for heat rash and heatstroke and it’s even more important to down your recommended 9 cups (or more) of water a day.
“Skin loses up to one cup of water every day, which is why we constantly need to worry about keeping it hydrated. For the best-looking skin, drink water and limit coffee and alcohol,” says Dr. Beverly Yates, a naturopathic doctor operating in California. She also suggests loading up on protein, fruit and vegetables with high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 such as fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, which can also increase the skin’s moisture. She also advises cooking with Malaysian red palm fruit oil, which she says is rich in vitamin E (to delay skin aging) and also likely to help protect your skin from UV damage.
Furthermore, Frank suggests factoring in more water during your summer travels.
“If you constantly have summer travel plans by plane, this can really cause the skin to freak out. Flying takes a toll on skin due to the recycled oxygen in planes, which dehydrates skin. The altitude also affects the skin’s barrier function. I suggest drinking a one-liter bottle of water in flight, but also prep before traveling and get a head start and begin hydrating the night before.”
So go ahead bask in the sun, and enjoy all that summer has to offer, including sexy, healthy skin.
–Nina Hemphill Reeder