Protect your skin from the summer sun 07/22/2011 The dog days of summer are here. Besides air conditioning, your skin is the first defense against the sun, heat, and wind. Protecting your skin from the environment is critical, and should be a lifelong process that begins at a young age.
Chronic exposure to the sun is harmful to our skin. It puts us at increased risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (the most common forms of skin cancer), melanoma (the most dangerous kind of skin cancer), and premature aging and wrinkling. In fact, one blistering sunburn in childhood is estimated to double the risk of getting melanoma later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
In the last twenty years, the incidence of melanoma has tripled among Caucasians. While anyone can develop skin cancer, your risk increases if you are a Caucasian with fair skin, or if you are a redhead or blonde. Family history and exposure to the sun are also risk factors.
Sunscreen is a crucial part of skin care. Anyone older than 6 months of age should use sunscreen whenever they are outdoors. Many dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 45. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. For those worried about exposure to chemicals, products with natural ingredients are available with SPF up to 32. However, even wearing a high SPF sunscreen will give you some exposure.
UV rays can penetrate windows, reflect off sand, and penetrate protection from a sun umbrella. Even if you are just driving in a car, you are exposed to UV rays that can damage your skin.
Before going outside, apply a generous amount of sunscreen to any area of your body that will be exposed, including your face, neck, and the tips of your ears, feet and hands. Assist children with applying sunscreen so it gets evenly distributed. Sunscreen wears off with perspiration and over time. Be sure to reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or any activity that causes perspiration.
The sun’s UV rays are the most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Schedule your activities so that you minimize your exposure to the sun, or have shade available during these hours. Wear sunglasses and wide brim hats to help you escape some of the extreme sunlight.
If you experience a blistering sunburn or other skin damage from sun exposure, there is really no treatment that can reverse the damage. To prevent blisters from becoming infected, use soap and water, followed by moisturizer. Avoid ointments because they may retain moisture into the skin, which can contribute to an infection.
Once you’re inside and out of the sun, always take time to properly cleanse your face. Exfoliating and using moisturizers are important for maintaining healthy skin. As dead layers of skin accumulate and cell turnover slows down, your skin will lack luster and lose its healthy pink-color. When your skin is well-cleansed, you will notice better results from skin care products such as chemical peels, scrubs (with grit), concentrated masques and toners.
When choosing skin care products, look for those containing SPF, antioxidants, and Vitamins A, C and E. Many products are available to treat a variety of skin conditions and skin types. Consult a professional for the proper products for your skin.
Above anything else, know your skin. Everyone should look at their skin and be aware of spots or moles that are unusual in color or shape. If you notice an obvious change in an existing mole or freckle on your skin – especially one that has changed in size or color – schedule a skin screening with a dermatologist or your family physician. Skin screenings are valuable tools for individuals with a family history of melanoma or for individuals who have had sunburns or extreme exposure to the sun in their lifetime.
More than ever before, there are many ways to maintain healthy, youthful looking skin. Seek out information and professional advice about the products and technologies that are available so that you put them to the best possible use. We can all enjoy the benefits of healthy skin and help younger generations to become even more aware about preventing sunburns and skin cancer.
The Edward Spa at Seven Bridges has a variety of skin care services including organic skin care. Services to help hyperpigmentation, rosacea, acne, and anti-aging are available. The Spa also carries a variety of skin care products with SPF, including organic SPF products. The Edward Spa at Seven Bridges is located inside the Edward Health and Fitness Center at 6600 Route 53 in Woodridge, and is open to the public. For more information or to book an appointment call (630) 646-7980.