Go for the Glow, Not the Burn
Summer is here and for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere that means we are seeing more of the sun. Being out in the sun has a lot of benefits, including getting our levels of vitamin D up and generally being more active and feeling good with the warmer climate. But of course, there can be too much of a good thing. Too much time in the sun can lead to problems ranging from premature wrinkles to skin cancer in the long term, and in the short term we can suffer from sunburns, develop freckles and even be made miserable by insect bites and reactions to poison oak or poison ivy.
Our skin, no matter what type of skin we have, has different needs in different seasons. Here’s how to take great care of your skin in the summer so you look and feel your best.
- Talk to your family doctor or dermatologist about the right SPF for your sunblock. One size does not fit all. Those with darker skin or vitamin D deficiency might be advised to use a lower SPF than those with lighter skin or a history of skin cancer.
- Remember to use your sunblock on all of the skin that is exposed to the sun – your ears, the back of your neck, your feet. (Keep this in mind for children too!)
- Reapply your sunblock every few hours or after swimming or running through the sprinkler.
- Sun block isn’t the only way to protect you. Don a hat, wear sunglasses, and be strategic about when you are out to avoid the harshest times of day, usually between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. If you work outdoors, your skin will become used to the sun more so than others, but you still need to protect yourself.
- Switch to a lighter oil-free moisturizer and lotion if your skin tends toward being oily.
- Check your skin regularly for any changes that could indicate a problem such as an irregularly shaped mole or rough crusted precancerous spots.
- For adults, taking an aspirin 30 minutes to an hour before sun exposure can help to decrease the risk of sunburn, but it should not be given to children because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
If you do suffer a sunburn:
- See a doctor if the skin is numb, blistered, or whitish in appearance.
- Drink plenty of water to rehydrate yourself.
- Soak in a lukewarm bath.
- Apply over the counter lotion, preferably one with aloe vera or hydrocortisone.
- Act fast. The sooner you get out of the skin and start trying to repair the damage, the less you will suffer.
If an infant gets sunburned, always contact a doctor.
If you take any medication regularly, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if it causes you to be extra sensitive to the sun. It is easy to become sunburned or worse if you are not aware of this possible side effect. People with some autoimmune disorders such as lupus have an immune system reaction to sun exposure, which can result in a rash or more serious reaction.
Be proactive and take care of your skin during the summer and you will look and feel better all year long for many years to come.
Even individuals with darker skin can also benefit from sun protection. Here’s a recent TV interview I had on the subject.