Your Guide to Healthy Summer Skin

For most of us, summertime means more free time and better weather for enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, or simply relaxing at the beach with family and friends. For those same reasons, however, summer is also the most crucial season in which to pay attention to good skin care and protect against elements that can harm your skin. Having a good skin care regimen can go a long way to protect against premature aging of the skin and to ensure a healthy and happy summer.

Sunlight produces UV rays that penetrate to the deep layers of your skin, damaging or killing cells. Though strongest during spring and summer and in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak, UV rays are always present, even through windows and on overcast days. The most obvious result of prolonged exposure to UV rays is sunburn, but habitual overexposure contributes to other conditions such as premature aging, wrinkles, sunspots, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. The best way to protect yourself is to limit your sun exposure and to regularly wear sunscreen.

Here are some helpful tips for buying and applying sunscreen:

  • Use sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher and both UVA (ultraviolet radiation of relatively long wavelengths) and UVB (ultraviolet radiation of relatively short wavelengths) radiation protection. SPF 30 filters out 97% of harmful rays, so there is no compelling reason to use a stronger one. For daily sun protection, apply it every morning.
  • Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside and after every two hours in the sun following the initial application, ensuring that it covers all exposed skin.
  • Take special care with sunscreen for days at the beach or during strenuous activity. It is important to use “water resistant” cream, which will prevent it from wearing off entirely during heavy sweating or a dip in the ocean. Despite the water resistance, however, you should reapply after swimming, toweling off, or pronounced sweating. During a long beach day, you should use between a quarter and a half of an 8oz bottle of sunscreen.
  • Children over six months of age should wear sunscreen regularly, but it should not be used for children under six months of age. Such young children should not be exposed to the sun at all. If you do take them in the sun, dress them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs, along with a wide-brimmed hat to protect their face.
  • “Homemade sunscreens” might not protect you. Many websites advertise all-natural sunscreen recipes for followers to make at home. Those sunscreens may be ineffective, typically do not contain the minimum SPF (30) recommended by most dermatologists, and are not subject to the FDA regulations intended to protect your health. There is no way to verify the effectiveness of homemade sunscreen: even if you think it works, you have no way of knowing if your homemade sunscreen is protecting you from UVA rays, which can cause invisible damage impossible to distinguish at a glance.