The two worst things that we do to our skin are smoking and exposing it to the sun. Since there isn’t much I can say about smoking that you don’t already know, I’m going to leave that alone for now. However, sunscreen is another story all together.
The research out there that suggests blocking exposure to the UVA and UVB rays is the most effective way to keep skin looking healthy and vibrant. Most of us know we should apply sunscreen but most of us are applying it incorrectly, ensuring that we aren’t reaping the benefits of use.
An extreme example of applying the wrong type of sunscreen the wrong way is young Liam Sayers, age 3, who has been in the news recently after he suffered third degree burns on his face, even though his parents applied sunscreen multiple times throughout their day at the beach.
Most of us have experienced sunburns (hopefully not as severely as poor Liam) and, if you are of a certain age, you remember applying baby oil to the body to get that really ‘good’ tan, which in most cases results in a nasty burn!
Unfortunately for those of us who loved the baby oil burn, the rate of skin cancer is often related to the number and severity of sunburns in your early years, as well as your genetics.
While we all want to avoid having chunks of our body cut off by the dermatologist, the more immediate and, I find, persuasive argument for daily sunscreen use is as an anti-aging agent.
Consumers in the United States spends millions of dollars on anti-aging products, devices and procedures every year but the number one way to minimize wrinkles and other damage to the skin (other than not smoking) is preventing sun exposure. The trick is in the application and here’s what you want to be doing:
- Avoid using old sunscreen. Check the expiration date and if it’s past, toss the bottle and buy a new one.
- Moisturizer that contains sunscreen works well, but foundation with sunscreen usually does not, mostly because we don’t slather the foundation on heavily enough to really get the job done.
- Apply sunscreen often! Once in the morning is not enough because your skin uses up the ingredients that protect it from the sun and if you don’t apply more, the ultraviolet rays will do their damage.
- Sunscreen is not waterproof, in fact ‘waterproof’ is no longer allowed on packaging. Sunscreen can say “water-resistant” but if you are in the water, reapply sunscreen every hour at least!
- When choosing sunscreen, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates how long you can be in the sun without the ultraviolet rays causing damage to the skin. Most experts say that an SPF of 30 is sufficient.
- Apply more sunscreen than you think you need. One rule of thumb suggests that a shot glass full of sunscreen is what you need to cover your body.
- Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen that includes protection again both UVA and UVB rays to protect again both the wrinkles and skin cancers.
No sunscreen provides 100% protection from the sun. Avoiding or blocking the sun is the only way to shield UV rays. Lightweight hats, long-sleeves and long pants or skirts offer the best protection from sun exposure, especially when combined with sunscreen.
Before you purchase expensive creams or sign up for pricey laser procedures meant to make you look younger, fade age spots and decrease wrinkles — spend some time this summer practicing good sun screening habits. If you can make this a habit, you might look younger AND avoid the dermatologist’s scalpel!
Read more of Virginia Eaton’s blog posts here.
Virginia Eaton is the owner of Oakhurst wellness center Class: The Body Pastiche