Blame it on the heat: Summer is the time when your skin is typically more exposed to the sun for longer periods. And while you may want to soak up all the sunshine you can get, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
Some sun exposure is good for you, as it triggers vitamin D synthesis, helps regulate your circadian rhythm, and can cause a release of endorphins. However, if you’re not properly protected, UV rays can also damage elastin, causing skin to sag or stretch, as well as lead to lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and precancerous and cancerous skin lesions.
So while you may want to transition to a lower maintenance skincare routine in the summer, it’s definitely not the time to cut back on sunscreen. We spoke with Marne Guthrie, an advanced practice esthetician at the LifeSpa at Life Time in Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park, Minn., to learn how to keep your skin safe in the summer sun.
1. Wear sunscreen — seriously!
This is the No. 1 thing you can do to protect your skin from the sun. And while it’s important year-round, it’s especially crucial in the summer, when the sun’s rays are most direct and intense.
Look for a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as chemical sunscreens can contain hazardous ingredients, such as oxybenzone, which can lead to a range of health issues, including endocrine disruptions, allergic reactions, and system toxicity.
Be sure to wear SPF 30 or higher: Some research shows that any number above doesn’t offer additional protection, while there’s a greater risk of damage with any number below. Apply evenly and remember to cover often-overlooked areas such as your scalp, ears, tops of feet, and lips. (For lips, look for a balm with SPF; glosses can attract the sun’s reflection.)
If you don’t like the first sunscreen you try, don’t let that deter you. “People often say, ‘I don’t like the feel of sunscreen,’” says Guthrie. “There’s a sunscreen out there for everybody. If you don’t like the texture of one, there are plenty of other options to try.”
2. Reapply, reapply, reapply.
Applying sunscreen first thing in the morning is a great habit to adopt. From there, plan to reapply every two hours, even if you’re not outside. Cumulative incidental sun — such as walking to your car — can be as damaging as lying out by a pool. And if you’re sweating or in water, reapply more frequently.
Also, make sure you’re applying enough sunscreen each time. Guthrie recommends a tablespoon for your face, at minimum, and at least a shot-size-glass for your body.
3. Use other forms of sun protection.
Seek shade when you can and wear clothing and accessories that offer additional coverage: Wide-brimmed hats, baseball caps, shirts with UV protection, and rash guards are all helpful options. Be sure your sunglasses have UV protection, too.
4. Understand there’s no such thing as a safe tan.
Many of us love to get a good summer glow, but anytime you get color — even if it’s not a burn — you’re experiencing sun damage.
“What cigarettes are to lung cancer, sun exposure is to skin cancer,” says Guthrie. “And while there are all sorts of products that can stimulate collagen and give you a youthful look, there’s nothing more damaging to a person’s collagen than UV light.”
You can, however, fake a sun-kissed look with sunless tanner. Just remember to look for ones without any harmful ingredients— and to still apply sunscreen.
5. Switch up your regular skincare routine.
Heat can exacerbate your skin’s sebaceous glands, causing it to become oilier in the summertime. For this reason, Guthrie suggests switching to a lighter-weight moisturizer or serum. You also don’t need to exfoliate as often or as heavily, as your skin may not be as dry.
If you’re aiming to minimize your makeup routine, consider a sunscreen that incorporates a tinted moisturizer or try a tinted lip balm with SPF.
6. Address any sun damage.
If you do get a sunburn, understand that it’s an inflammatory response to protect and treat, not ignore. Guthrie recommends a cool compress to help soothe the skin, as well as aloe or after-sun lotion to help nourish and hydrate. You’ll also want to drink lots of water to help replenish the moisture you lost from getting a burn.
If you notice any skin abnormalities, get them checked by a dermatologist or your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Remember the ABCDEs of skin cancer as you’re looking at things like moles: A is for asymmetrical (Is it irregular?), B is for border (Is it jagged?), C is for color (Is it dark or uneven?), D is for diameter (Is it larger than a pencil eraser?), and E is for evolving (Has it changed?).
7. Consider beneficial treatments.
To get a glow without the sun, and to help restore your skin’s health, Guthrie suggests a HydraFacial. This resurfacing treatment removes debris from pores, nourishes with intense moisturizers, and saturates the skin’s surface with antioxidants and peptides.
If you struggle to protect your skin in the summer, Guthrie recommends the BroadBand Light (BBL) treatment. This stimulates cells to regenerate, helping to reduce unwanted melanin that produces age and sun spots, among other things. Guthrie advises waiting until late fall or early winter for this treatment as you’ll need to limit your sun exposure.
8. Enlist an esthetician.
If you don’t feel confident choosing the right sunscreen or other products for your skin type, ask an esthetician for their advice. LifeSpa offers complimentary consultations, during which an esthetician will guide you to what products will work best — and keep you safe — while you’re out in the sun.