The hotter months are when our skin is most vulnerable to potential threats. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the most preventable cause of early skin aging.
The bigger threat, however, is skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetimes. A significant percentage of our UV exposure takes place, of course, during the summer, when we’re swimming, hiking or puttering outside. All the while, we’re wearing less clothing and often forget to apply sunscreen to important spots like the nose, back of the legs, hands or chest.
It’s important to remember that everyone – even babies, children and teens – need good skin protection. In fact, young people may need even more protection from the sun. The AAD has also estimated that children receive 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by the time they turn 18.
Here are a few tips for keeping your skin healthy all summer long and beyond:
Slather the sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection and a minimum SPF of 30 at least 15 minutes before you go outside, and reapply every 60 to 90 minutes. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin cancer. You may also consider spraying the part of your hair with a sunscreen product; your scalp is also prone to sunburn.
Drink lots of water. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times during the summer. Your goal should be to increase your intake during these warmer months. Water helps keep the skin well-hydrated.
Don’t forget the lip balm. A lot of people forget about the lips, which is why they’re one of the more frequent spots for skin cancer. Find yourself a lip balm with sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, and reapply it every couple of hours.
Exfoliate. Exfoliating products help wipe away dirt, grime and oil from your face and prepare it to absorb your moisturizer and skin care products.
Moisturize. A good moisturizer can help protect your skin from dryness, which leaves it more susceptible to sun damage. Moisturizers with sunscreen are helpful, but shouldn’t replace your sunscreen.
Cover up. The AAD states that even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate the skin. Grab a large-brimmed hat, get yourself some big sunglasses, and find the shade. You can also find clothing with added sun protection.
Pay attention to your diet. “Super foods” containing antioxidants can help combat the signs of aging brought on by free radicals. Great choices include blueberries, kale, spinach, strawberries, raspberries, broccoli, kidney and pinto beans, artichokes, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts.
One final note on sunscreen: The FDA requires that sunscreens be able to retain their strength for three years. If the expiration date on the bottle has already passed, throw it out. If the bottle doesn’t have an expiration date, write the date you bought the sunscreen on the bottle. After three years, toss it. If you’re not sure how old the product is, pay attention to its color and consistency. If something looks off, the sunscreen probably has lost some of its potency, and it’s time to throw it away.
Your skin is your largest organ, so you need to take care of it! If you follow these tips, you can end your summer with skin as healthy as it was at the start. Best of all, you’ll be creating a foundation for healthy skin all year long.