Summer is here, and boy has it been a hot one! I’ve been trying to stick to the AC as much as possible, but it’s undeniable that the sunlight is good for the soul and for our vitamin D supplies. However, as life-giving as the sun may be, it can also be very destructive, especially if we neglect to protect ourselves. I’m here to help you protect yourself during this summer!
Sun exposure is risky because of the damage Ultra Violet lights A and B cause. In the short term UV rays can cause painful sunburn, whereas in the long term they are responsible for premature skin aging as well as skin cancer. According to the US Department of Health, UV radiation is likely responsible for most cases of skin cancer in the United States, and it follows that it is also responsible for the bulk of skin cancer cases worldwide. My family has a history of skin cancer (unsurprising – my pale great grandparents immigrated from dark Slavic countries to the sunny Middle East in the 1930’s) so my mother has always instilled in me proper respect for sunscreen, and taught me how to wear it properly.
Before I start talking sunscreen, some obvious ways to avoid sun damage include: staying out of the sun, and wearing hats, sunglasses, hats, and long sleeves on sunny days. However, being a cosmetician, I want to talk about the products we can put on our skin to protect ourselves.
1) Choosing a sunscreen
First, it is important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen, one that will protect from both UVA and UVB rays. Scientists only recently learned that UVA rays can also cause skin cancer, so for a very long time sunscreens were only effective at blocking UVB rays. Thankfully, UVA-blocking sunscreens are now becoming more available. To find out if a sunscreen will protect you from UVA, search the ingredients list for the following ingredients: stabilized avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.
Personally, my skin finds chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and oxybenzone irritating, and I prefer to stick to physical ones like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. One of the big benefits of physical sunscreen is that there is no wait time, they are effective the second they are applied. Chemical sunscreens only start protecting your skin 15 minutes after they have been applied. Additionally, some chemical sunscreen ingredients are considered harmful to marine life, so they should absolutely be avoided if you intend to go swimming in the ocean. Those include oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been recently banned in Hawaii.
2) How much sunscreen to apply?
For the face, the commonly recommended amount of sunscreen is a ¼ teaspoon. Have you ever measured out a ¼ teaspoon? It’s the equivalent of 1.2 mL – probably a lot more than what you would normally imagine (and probably more than what you normally apply). It’s also important not to neglect the hands, neck, and any other visible body parts.
3) How often?
Sunscreen should be reapplied after every two hours of exposure. This means that if you work outside, you should reapply every two hours, but if you work in an office chances are that one application in the morning is enough.
Every waterproof sunscreen will lose some of its efficacy after time spent in water (doesn’t matter if you had a dip in the pool, or just worked up a sweat), so on days spent on the beach it should be reapplied every 40 minutes to an hour.
In the evenings you want to load your skin up with antioxidant ingredients, like those found in the natural oils in Nairian’s moisturizers. Antioxidants help stop the free radical damage that the sun causes, so it is very possible they can keep the skin looking youthful in the long term and to support the action of a great sunscreen.
So by all means, go out and enjoy the lovely weather. Just make sure to protect yourself!