How to Protect Your Skin from the Summer Rays? Your Sun Care Needs for Optimal Skin Protection
It’s officially summer 2019! Hot temperatures, and intense UV rays this season will require extra protection for areas of the body exposed to the sun. It’s important to add sun care to your daily self -care regimen in order to maintain skin healthy. Protection from ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun is necessary to avoid the harmful effects on the body such as cancers of the skin, premature aging, sunburn, and wrinkled skin. In the United States, about one in every 50 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. Melanoma is a common form of skin cancer, and the risks are greater in men than women, which varies with ethnicities. Ethnicities with skin that contains melanin have a natural SPF of 1.5 to 2, and maybe as high as 4, therefore sun protection is needed for exposed areas of the skin. Melanin is also less pronounced in areas such as the eyes, hands, and feet. UV rays are also more intense in the summer months.
So, here a few methods to consider before you head outdoors …
First, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your skin a half hour before sun exposure, and reapply if you’re in the water or have excessive sweating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends this level of SPF to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen protects the skin from sun damage by absorbing UV rays. Ultraviolet radiation “is a form of energy, most visible to the human eye”, and there are three types UVA, UVB, and UVC.” UVA has the longest wavelength of the UV rays, followed by UVB, then UVC. UVC rays are absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer, while UVB can filter through the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis, and the UVA rays can permeate the middle layer of the skin called the dermis.
Secondly, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, especially those most sensitive to the sun (i.e., eyelids, lips, face, hands, and feet), and wear protective clothing including sunglasses with polarized lenses.
Thirdly, products for sun care should be chosen carefully to avoid potentially harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule which may have absorption into the bloodstream. Chemicals found in sunscreens have also been linked to disturbing coral reefs as they wash off the skin into the ocean.
This year the FDA submitted new guidance on nonprescription over the counter sunscreens to make the public aware of potential carcinogenic and reproductive side effects with the absorption of these chemical ingredients into the bloodstream. Studies are ongoing and until research determines those side effects the FDA has deemed only two ingredients as safe and effective which are titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. So be sure to pay attention to your labels and focus on purchasing products that may contain these ingredients next time you’re shopping for sun care. Also know that sunscreen may not be full proof against defending sunburn in all cases. Reapplication of sunscreen and avoiding over exposure to the sun are key. Sunscreens containing alcohols should be avoided in dry, oily, and sensitive skin. There are sunscreens with higher percentages of zinc oxide that may leave a white film, and maybe less desired on darker skin tones, therefore opt for a sheer sunscreen.
Sunscreen should also be worn when the weather is cloudy, and if you’re taking medications such as antibiotics, birth control, diuretics, thyroid & vitamin supplements, and dermatological topical products such as (benzoyl peroxide) all cause photosensitivity making the skin more susceptible to sun damage. However, there are some positives to the summer sun, such as getting Vitamin D from the sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Skin produces cholesterol from the sunlight which then converts to Vitamin D, and vitamin D is still absorbed from the sun even when sunscreen has been applied to the skin.
Lastly, eating foods containing antioxidants that fight free radicals from sun exposure such as blueberries, watermelon (lycopene), nuts and seeds that contain omega essential fatty acids, and leafy greens containing beta carotene which converts to vitamin A provides natural sun protection. All of which would make an awesome summertime smoothie recipe! I hope these recommendations come in handy this season, be safe, and I’m wishing you healthy skin all summer!
About the Author
Tayiana J.Reed is a clinical pharmacist and wellness expert dedicated to curating affordable, clean and natural health & beauty products to cultivate a holistic lifestyle. Dr. Reed currently works in public health in the DC area and has dedicated her career to helping patients and clients obtain clinically proficient, cost effective drug information.
JAMA article Volume 321, Number 21, June 4, 2019: Effects of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma concentration of Sunscreen active ingredients.