Summer may not be upon us just yet, but that doesn’t mean the weather isn’t heating up. And a change in the seasons means more and more outdoor activities to worry about sun skin damage.
While that’s certainly a cause for celebration (who doesn’t love a little fun in the sun?), it also means you’re facing more sun exposure than other times of the year. And sun damage on your skin goes far beyond a bad sun burn ruining your vacation.
Over time, high exposure to UV light from the sun can lead to your skin aging prematurely, including: dark spots, wrinkles, blistering, scarring, and other serious skin problems. Not to mention increasing your risk of skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.
So what are some measures you can take to ensure you’re getting the most from your long summer days in the sun without putting yourself in any long-term danger? Read on to see our 5 tips in preventing summer skin damage.
1. Cover Your Skin
If you know you might be spending the day in the sun and your activities don’t involve swimming or anything too physically intensive, don’t be afraid to cover up! Long sleeves and pants probably won’t be your first choice on a hot summer day, but they’re guaranteed to do the trick.
That doesn’t mean you need to wear a flannel and jeans. Just look for simple, tightly-knit clothing. There are even clothing companies dedicated to sun protection that produce clothing with a UPF (UV protection factor).
And if that sounds like a bit much for a day at the ballpark, then at least cover up with a nice wide-brimmed hat and some shades. A little protection goes a long way when it means putting an extra physical layer between the UV exposure of the sun and your skin.
2. Daily Sunscreen Use
Daily sunscreen use should already be a part of your skincare routine. But it’s especially true in Spring and Summer months, when our UV exposure is often at its highest.
Sun damage is cumulative, so even if you’ll only be outdoors for a few hours, it pays off to play it safe. The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher, with a broad spectrum protection against different types of UV rays.
Not sure what sunscreen is right for you? Check out our Sunscreen Checklist!
Use enough to cover any exposed areas of your skin. There’s no set amount necessarily, but the amount of a shot glass should suffice for most people. If you plan on swimming or spending long periods of time outdoors, be sure to reapply every two hours or so to account for sweating and water washing it away.
3. The Shade is Your Friend
Just because you’re enjoying summer activities outside, doesn’t mean you have to endure long hours of direct sun contact. Seek shade whenever possible as UV levels are much lower in shaded areas.
Think of it as adding yet another layer between you and the sun. And there’s more sun protection in darker shade, as you might imagine. That means bringing an umbrella or small tent with you for a day at the beach. Or taking the time to sit under a pavilion or large tree after a long hike at a national park.
4. Be Aware of Peak UV Times and Limit Sun Exposure
With risky sun damage, prevention is always the best means of protecting yourself. Just like you might seek shade, apply sunscreen, or cover up with layers of clothing, avoiding the sun altogether is simply another form of staying safe.
Now, you shouldn’t live in fear of the sun. Spring and summer are some of the most beautiful times of the year, filled with outdoor activities that make up the bulk of healthy lifestyles. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking hour sitting directly in the sun.
Be aware of when the sun is at its worst and understand that even on cloudy days, UV rays can still penetrate and damage your skin. And it might just be a matter of simply adjusting your schedule.
Understand that UV rays are at their highest in the middle of the day. So that means you may want to shift any outdoor activities or exercise, for example, a bike ride, to the morning or early evening rather than the middle of the afternoon. If a schedule shift isn’t always an option, just be mindful of how long you’re exposed and be sure to undertake the other preventative measures we’ve discussed.
5. Avoid Tanning Beds
Tanning beds aren’t necessarily limited to summer use. In fact, they’re probably more common in the offseason. But even in areas with yearlong sun and high temperatures, the trend is still alarmingly prevalent.
Tanning beds should always be avoided, but particularly in the summer time, when you’re more likely to face regular skin damage from the sun. Tanning beds themselves are responsible for severe skin damage and pose a significant risk of skin cancer.
However, many people strive for that seasonal, dark sun tan. And often turn towards tanning beds even in the summer. If you’re still fighting that bronze urge consider harmless alternative options like:
- Makeup bronzers
- Sunless tanning lotions
- Spray tans
Is Your Skin Already Damaged?
There’s a chance your skin already has noticeable damage. Perhaps you’re experiencing some signs of premature aging like facial wrinkles, scarring, or dark spots from cumulative sun damage after years of over-exposure.
Luckily, there may be options for you to improve how your skin looks. But noticeable damage means the harm goes beneath the top layers of your skin. Which means you’ll likely need to undergo a more serious treatment from a board certified dermatologist.
Possibilities of treatments for sun damage can include:
- Silkpeel Microdermabrasion
- Pico Genesis laser treatment for skin pigmentation and fine lines
- Laser Genesis treatment for mild redness and fine lines
- Excel V laser treatments for more severe redness
- Chemical peels
- Micro-needling for deeper wrinkles
- Botox or fillers for maintenance of fine lines and deeper folds
The road to better protection from sun damage starts with simply forming better habits. Be mindful of peak UV hours of the day, seek shade and shelter when necessary, and arm yourself with sunscreen and layers of clothing. Soon they’ll just become another part of your annual skincare routine and you can get back to having summer fun in the sun. And be sure to consult with your dermatologist.
Everyone’s skin type is different. At the Dermatology Center of Acadiana, we can help you find out what the best options for treating your skin for sun damage would be for your skin type and specific situation. Make an appointment today!