Summer is almost here! Heat waves and blinding sun rays are just around the corner. Are you prepared to stay cool and safe over the next few months? In addition to staying well-hydrated, you’ll also want to take good care of your skin during the summer months. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays could damage your skin and/or increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
Beat the heat and protect your skin by adopting these best practices.
Live The Dream With Sunscreen
Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach. Few things will improve your skin health long-term like making sunscreen a part of your day to day life. Sunscreen can help protect your skin from cancer-causing UV rays, prevent skin discoloration, and also delay signs of aging. The sun can cause wrinkles by drying out your skin and rendering it inelastic over time. Sunscreen helps shield your skin from those harmful effects.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30+, water-resistant, and broad spectrum (meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays). People with higher levels of melanin in their skin still need to use sunscreen to protect their skin from sun damage. While some people worry that sunscreen may lead to a vitamin D deficiency, there is no evidence that sunscreen blocks the skin from absorbing enough sunlight to stimulate the production of vitamin D.
Cover Up To Cool Down
Long sleeves and pants may seem like inappropriate summer wear but they offer two advantages that more skin-bearing options do not. Long sleeves/pants shield your skin from UV rays and they also trap sweat from evaporating into the air, keeping your skin hydrated and cool throughout the day.
A hat is also a great way to protect yourself. Hats with wide brims are your best bet: anything that goes over the eyes and offers partial shade to your face. You should also want to opt for hats with lighter colors that don’t absorb and retain the heat. It’s important the hat has some kind of ventilation holes or mesh that allows built-up heat to escape to keep your head cool.
Keep It Shady
Aside from wearing sunscreen, this is probably the most no-brainer thing you can do to stay cool. When you’re outdoors, you want to limit your direct exposure to sunlight as much as possible. Stay close to trees, awnings, or the sides of buildings. The shadows are your friends in the daytime hours. It doesn’t mean you have to live like a vampire and avoid sunlight like the plague, but maintaining an awareness of shade in your surroundings is an important habit to cultivate.
Parasol It Up
Umbrellas can do more than keep you from getting wet—they can also protect you from the sun! Using an umbrella or parasol on a sunny day can stop direct UV rays from hitting your skin. While this piece of portable shade can be quite handy, it’s not foolproof: umbrellas don’t block scattered or diffused UV rays. On average an umbrella can block at least 77% of UV light. There are sun umbrellas specifically designed to block out up to 99% of UV light. A good rule of thumb to use with umbrellas is that the darker the umbrella, the more UV light it will be able to block.
Shade Your Eyes
Sunglasses are an investment in style AND personal health. The skin around your eyes is some of the thinnest skin on the body, making it more vulnerable to damage from the sun's rays. Protecting your eyes with sunglasses can also reduce the risk of developing future sight impairment and cataracts. That’s because UV radiation can pass through your eyes and increase your chances of forming cataracts as well as put you at greater risk for skin cancer.
With sunglasses, big is best. Goggles and larger, chunkier sunglasses tend to offer better protection from UV light. Purchase sunglasses with a high ESPF rating. ESPF stands for Eye-Sun Protection Factor and measures how well lenses block the transmission of light and UV reflection.
One important thing to keep in mind: sunglasses aren’t just for the summer! It’s important to wear them during the colder months as well. Just because the sun is lower in the sky and it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean that the sun’s rays lose their potency. Another reason: snow and ice can reflect UV rays so it’s important to keep your UV defenses up year-round.
Good Diet, Better Skin
A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help keep your skin healthy. Antioxidants fight cellular deterioration, which can help mitigate some of the effects of aging on your skin. Omega-3 fatty acids contain phospholipids that boost your skin's bilayer lipid protection. This protection keeps your skin hydrated and moist, which helps it maintain its elasticity. Studies have also found that subjects who consume a high dose of omega-3 fatty acids showed less redness while exposed to the sun. Research continues to be conducted on this subject but so far findings indicate there is a strong chance omega-3 can help reduce the risk of sunburns.
Foods rich in antioxidants include:
- Citrus fruits
- Red peppers
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Chicken breast
- Brown rice
- Brussel sprouts
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids:
- Fish (esp. salmon and sardines)
- Canola oil
- Fortified breads and cereals
In addition to antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, niacin, and folate are also nutrients that can help fortify and bolster your skin health.
Say No To UV
A great way to protect yourself from sun damage is to limit your exposure to artificial sources of UV light. The No. one culprit for artificial UV are tanning beds. They are literal hotbeds of UV radiation. Use indoor tanning sparingly, if at all, and make sure that you keep your eyes protected while using them. Also consider investing in protective coverings for your lightbulbs if you use a lot of halogen incandescent, and/or fluorescent light bulbs. While your UV exposure with light bulbs is fairly minimal, it can become a problem if you have certain health conditions.
Avoid The Afternoons
The sun's rays are at their most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you exercise outdoors, it's best to save your daily jog or dog-walking for the morning or late afternoon. One way to "test" the intensity of the sun's rays is to look at your shadow. If your shadow is much shorter than you, that means the sun's rays are getting particularly bright.
Article by Austin Brietta
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