After another long winter, we eagerly anticipate summer days under the sun. Whether you’re playing ball or lounging by the pool, you’ll probably be spending way more time outdoors. This means more exposure to potentially harmful UV rays. This week we’re highlighting summer skin care so you can get the most out of each sunny day.
Three Categories of Sunlight
On Earth, we experience sunlight in three ways. The sunlight arrives as heat, or infrared light, visible light and ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light is further divided into three categories of UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays are blocked by the atmosphere so they never actually reach humans. The other two kinds of ultraviolet light are what matters when it comes to staying safe in the summer sun. UVA is also known as black light. These sun rays are used for tanning. UVB sun rays cause sunburns and stimulate vitamin D production.
UVA and UVB Rays
When sunscreens advertise broad spectrum protection, it means they block both kinds of UV rays. Most sunscreens rely on chemicals that absorb the sun’s harmful rays. A majority of the sun’s UV radiation comes in the form of UVA rays. Although UVB rays are the ones thought to cause wrinkles and skin cancer, it’s important to protect your skin from both.
Reflective Surfaces Increase Exposure
Sunlight reflects off of different surfaces. In the winter, that usually means snow. In the summer, that means when you’re lounging near the water you will have increased exposure to UV rays. Sand and concrete also reflect sunlight and increase your risk of sunburn.
When you get a tan, your body produces more melanin pigment in your skin as a response to UV rays. This additional pigment absorbs UVA radiation from the sun, protecting your cells from damage. This process takes time, which is why your summer skin won’t appear overnight. Although pigment offers additional protection, tanning skill causes serious damage to your skin.
Sunburns and Sun Tans
While UVB rays hit the outer layer of skin, causing sunburns, UVA rays hit the deeper layers of skin. This means UVA rays can damage your blood vessels, nerves, and immune system. With a weakened immune system, it’s harder to fight diseases like skin cancer. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Dermatologists are reporting an increased number of melanoma cases in younger patients because of the popularity of tanning. Sun exposure is the leading cause of premature aging, including wrinkles and sun spots. UV rays have also been linked to cataracts, a condition when your vision becomes clouded.
Sunshine Skin Care
The best way to care for your skin is to avoid prolonged sun exposure. Cover your skin with loose clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays are strongest in the middle of the day, so plan outdoor activities around that time.
If sun-soaked skin is a high priority for you, here are some tips for safer sun tans. Self-tanners come in various lotions, foams, and creams but all of them safely color your skin. For the best results, apply these products evenly and regularly. Experts suggest exfoliating your skin before use of self-tanners for more even coverage. Spray tans and airbrush tans are another sunless sun tan option.
Never use tanning beds. Sunbeds produce way more UVA rays, which are more likely to cause cancer. Understand that your skin will reach a point where it cannot get more tan. Your maximum tan level depends on your skin tone. Pay attention to your limit and avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Certain foods boost your body’s natural sun defenses so stock up on oranges, tomatoes and other fruits and veggies. Dark chocolate has flavonoids that protect skin from UVB rays and sunburns.
At the end of the day, limiting your exposure to the sun’s harmful ways is the best way to protect your skin. Don’t be afraid to enjoy endless summer days outside, but get smart about sun skin care routines.