Sunscreen Isn’t the Only Way to Keep Your Skin Safe This Summer

Get ready for the sun with these skin-saving tips.
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Get ready for the sun with these skin-saving tips.

Every summer we see the signs coming—those first days of sweaty commutes, the first instance of red shoulders just from running errands. We know that with the summer season comes more sun exposure, but most of us don't do much to alter our routine accordingly.

While an extra dose of vitamin D can be beneficial (such as decreasing women’s chances of getting breast cancer), too much sun can lead to excess oil production, increase in acne, sunburn, and, ultimately, permanent skin damage (or worse, cancer). “Summer sun is different because the sun is more intense during this time of year given the earth's closer proximity to the sun,” explains Emily Dothard, MD. Of course we know we should be wearing sunscreen, but there are other things to keep in mind as we approach swimsuit and shorts season. Get your skin summer-safe with these easy tips.

01. Stop Summer Breakouts Before They Happen

When temperatures reach their peak and the humidity levels make the outdoors feel like a sauna, our body's natural way of cooling down is to sweat. Excess sweat can end up clogging pores and leading to breakouts—especially if you're using a heavy moisturizer.

Unlike during the dry winter months, your skin doesn’t need an intense moisturizer to keep it feeling fresh. Choose a lightweight oil-free moisturizer instead. “It is a good idea to use at least 30 SPF if you are going to be out in the sun for any prolonged amount of time,” Dothard says.

It’s also important to exfoliate your skin to clear out your pores from any of your winter skin layers. Verily contributor Jen Navaro suggests exfoliating twice a week with a DIY formula of 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon coconut oil, which is a natural antimicrobial and moisturizer. All the skin defense you need without the clog. Bring on the heat!

02. Change Your Food Choices with the Changing Season

Knowing what foods directly impact your skin can also help combat the summer sun. Refresh your diet with foods rich in Omega-3, which help protect your skin by making it more difficult for your skin to burn. Foods such as flaxseed oil, salmon, and walnuts are packed with this nutrient.

It’s also no coincidence that fruits and veggies like watermelon and tomatoes are in season during the summer months. These foods are loaded with lycopene, which helps fight skin damage by reducing UV light effects on the skin and increasing skin’s collagen level, which in turn reduces UV aging effects. Salmon for dinner; watermelon for dessert? Sounds like the perfect summertime meal–and your skin will thank you.

03. Treat Sun Damage

Prevention is key when it comes to sun safety. But did you know that it's possible to reversal skin damage? “Treating prior skin damage usually involves topical medications that lighten hyper-pigmentation or treat precancerous cells,” Dothard says. Products containing glycolic acid help reduce signs of aging, increase dermal thickness, and decrease your chances of acquiring squamous-cell cancers.

“Glycolic acid helps regularize damaged cells and gets rid of abnormal ones,” says dermatologist Neal Schultz. He suggests applying 8 percent glycolic acid every other day. While it's best to treat damage during the winter when the sun is less intense, summer isn't the time to forget your preexisting damage altogether.

To help treat skin after sun exposure the AAD recommends using aloe to relieve skin, but avoiding anything with petroleum in it as that can trap the heat. One study has found that cancer-causing mutations in skin cells continue to grow even hours after sun exposure. So whether the damage is from last summer or yesterday afternoon, it’s important to treat it before going back into the sun.

04. And of Course . . . Use Sunscreen

Applying sunscreen is often equivalent to eating broccoli as a child; you really don’t want to do it, but you know it’s good for you. It can be hard finding the right sunscreen when they all offer so many different SPFs and benefits. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests a few things when looking for sunscreen: Purchase broad-spectrum sunscreen because it protects against both UVB and UVA rays, make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and lastly ensure that it’s waterproof for at least forty minutes. The AAD also points out that SPF 30 covers 97 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 covers 98 percent, so though you may think SPF 50 is much more protective than SPF 30, it’s really not.

We suggest trying Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Spray SPF 45—you won't even notice you're wearing sunblock, it's so light. Dothard also suggests Elta MD UV Daily SPF 40. “It is a physical block, meaning the sunscreen blocks the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them like most chemical sunscreens,” she says.

And don't forget the small parts. The skin around your eyes is the thinnest, most fragile on your entire body, so consider applying a gentle, waterproof sunblock around your eyes or wear sunglasses that provide UV protection. Your lips are also one of the most exposed areas of skin and contain no melanin, which helps protect skin from UV exposure. Apply sunscreen or lotions with SPF to your hands and feet, and use a lip balm with SPF in it.

A little summer glow and some warm weather are certainly perks, but keeping your skin healthy and safe this summer is key.

Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh Photography