We have to admit: we’re a little excited. Summer is finally here! Memorial Day has passed (YAY for 3-day weekends) and summer has officially started. Trips to the beach, boating on the lake, floating in the pool, bar-b-ques! Our mouths are already watering and we’re itching for that salt-soaked air. But before we get carried away with all that fun in the sun, we have to remind ourselves of some scary facts. Every year, more than 2 million Americans find out they have skin cancer. New melanoma cases among American adults have tripled since the 1970s. In other words, sun safety is imperative. Here are ten very important tips and guidelines for summer skincare that go beyond SPF 30.
1. Slather yourself with ‘screen.
No, doubling up on layers of sunscreen is not going to make it twice as powerful, but not using enough sunscreen will seriously reduce its effectiveness. Jeff Benabio, M.D., a San Diego-based dermatologist, says the ideal amount is 1 ounce for your whole body per application, which translates to about a shot glass worth or golf ball-sized amount. So load up on the white stuff -better safe than sorry!
2. Pets can get sunburned too.
Veterinarian Karen “Doc” Halligan from PetArmor reminds us that pets—though they do require Vitamin D just like us—are not immune from the sun’s harmful rays. Protect Mr. Buddy Boo Waggy Tail by applying a little child-safe sunscreen to cover sensitive skin especially on your dog’s nose and snout.
3. Monthly skin screenings are a must.
And guess what? There’s an app for that! Mollie’s Fund, officially The Mollie Biggane Melanoma Foundation, is a New York-based organization dedicated to skin cancer awareness and prevention. Available for iPhone and iPod Touch, iPad and for Android, the app gives a basic, easy-to-understand rundown of how to check your skin and what you’re checking for, complete with a Monthly Skin Check Log so you can keep track of your diligent progress. You should also get a professional screening at least once per year. Online resources like aad.org, skincancer.org, and asds.net can help you find a free skin cancer screening near you.
4. Pop a sunscreen pill.
These natural supplements work to not only protect your skin from sun damage from the inside out, but some also enrich the color and prolong the life of your tan. (Yes, please!) Ingredients can include powerful antioxidants to fight free radicals, carotenoids to boost melanin production, and even algae enzymes to reinforce your body’s natural barriers against the sun. For best results supplements should be added to your routine up to a month before sun exposure, so start planning for that summer get-away now.
5. Know your sunscreen.
There are two main types of sunscreen, physical and chemical, and we should all know the difference. Physical sunscreens protect skin immediately by physically blocking UV rays using mineral compounds like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to filter harmful rays. Zinc oxide protects against the full spectrum of UVB/UVA rays. Most child-safe or baby sunscreens are physical sun blocks. Chemical sunscreens interact with the skin to absorb UV radiation, convert and release it from the body as heat. Chemical filters take about 20 minutes to activate, and although they can provide more coverage, tend to be more irritating and may cause allergies. If you have a history of reacting to chemical sunscreens, try a physical approach.
6. Don’t be fooled by high SPF.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures sunscreen’s protection from UVB rays. PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) measures sunscreen’s protection from UVA rays. UVA = premature aging, UVB = burning. Higher SPF’s don’t necessarily provide better protection. In fact, according to skinacea.com, the higher the SPF, the less difference it makes in sun protection. What really matters is the stability (physical sunscreens are highly stable) and that your wear and apply it properly in the first place.
7. Sunscreen should be applied first.
It’s important to apply sunscreen before moisturizers or other creams. This ensures that your skin properly absorbs the sunscreen for maximum protection. Also, it’s important to note that moisturizers that contain sunscreen are not always effective if you’re going to be spending prolonged periods in the sun or in the water. It’s best to use a bonafide sunscreen for water activities and long exposure.
8. Eat a rainbow!
Antioxidants like carotenoids that give foods their rich, vibrant colors are a crucial part of the photosynthetic process, protecting plants from damage by light and oxygen. Eating plants and foods that contain these pigments will pass along the benefits and boost your body’s natural ability to protect against sun damage. Below are foods that pack the most skin-saving punch and their active ingredients.
Lutein: Dark greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli contain lutein. This super antioxidant is long known for maintaining healthy eyes, teeth, bones, and skin and additionally has been found to protect against UVB-induced skin cancer.
Lycopene: Tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon contain an excellent antioxidant called lycopene that’s almost twice as effective as beta-caotene.
Beta-carotene: Carrots, mangos, and sweet potatoes boast a healthy dose of beta-carotene that protects and repairs.
ECG: Green tea contains EGCG, a natural chemical that fights free radical, decreases inflammation inside & out, and may prevent development of skin cancer. Note: Caffeine is dehydrating and the first place your body looks for moisture is the skin, so make sure you’re drinking decaf!
Polyphenols: Dark chocolate. 65% or more of raw cocoa contains antioxidants called polyphenols that protect the body from sun damage, but consume in moderation, limit to seven ounces per week.
Vitamin C: Strawberries, kiwis (which contain more vitamin C per ounce than any other fruit!), and oranges are packed with vitamin C to fight free radicals caused by cell damage and produce collagen to keep skin firm and supple.
Vitamin E: Almonds, brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds boast rich Vitamin E that slows aging and diminishes scars.
Omega-3: Fish such as red snapper, not only perfect for the grill but chock full of irreplaceable omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and the mineral selenium to reduce risk of sunburn and promote even skin tone.
9. European sunscreens are better.
According to the Environmental Working Group, (check out their 2014 Sunscreen Guide), our domestic products lack ingredients with the strongest UVA protection. While American manufacturers can only use three FDA approved UVA-filtering ingredients, the European market has seven to choose from. Not to mention four that are better than our newest, most common chemical avobenzone, which was approved fifteen years ago. Luckily Sen. John Reed is taking action. Find out more about his Sunscreen Innovation Act here.
10. Avoid Vitamin A
Avoid products with vitamin A -even in your sunscreen. Studies have shown that a common sunscreen additive, retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, is totally hazardous when combined with sunlight. While vitamin A is top notch when it comes to anti-aging, evidence shows that when exposed to sunlight it can cause cancerous tumors or lesions. Best keep vitamin A, also listed as retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, or retinol for our dimly lit, age-fighting night creams.