When you think of summer, your mind conjures images of days at the beach, barbecues in the backyard, a doubleheader at the ballpark or a leisurely round of golf with friends. Perhaps more so than ever before, this summer we will all want to be outside as much as possible.
However, all the sand, surf, sun and, let’s be honest, cocktails, can do a number on our skin. While we like to talk about the “lazy days of summer,” this season is no time to slack on your skin care routine. Here are three easy steps to keep that glowing complexion all summer long.
Step 1: Exfoliation
Exfoliation is the Swiss Army knife of skin care. Almost any skin care concern that you have can be solved, at least in part, with exfoliation.
Exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin via either a manual or chemical process. This will help take away any dullness you may be experiencing, prevent clogging of your pores to avoid blackheads and breakouts, and allow your other skin-care products (especially your hydrating and moisturizing products) to be more effective.
Exfoliators come in two varieties: chemical and physical. Physical exfoliators remove those dead skin cells with small particles while chemical exfoliators use enzymes or acids (like glycolic acid) to dissolve and loosen the skin cells.
If your skin is sensitive or you have any type of redness — whether it’s from sunburn or a more chronic condition like rosacea or eczema — you should avoid physical exfoliators as they can be too abrasive for the skin. Also, avoid exfoliators that use salt, sugar, apricot pits or other such particles as they can damage the skin.
Exfoliation can be an example of too much of a good thing becoming a bad thing. Start with exfoliating your skin once per week. If that feels all right to you, and your skin responds to it well, try exfoliating twice a week.
Step 2: Hydration
Things that can contribute to dehydrating your skin in the summer include heat and humidity, exposure to air conditioning, and drinking beer and wine. Dehydrated skin is a condition where your skin is lacking water. It should not be confused with dry skin, which is a skin type characterized by a lack of oil in the skin.
In fact, for some people, skin dehydration may actually lead to oilier skin and breakouts. Your skin will compensate for the lack of water by hyper-producing oil, making your skin oily and causing clogging and pimples.
To treat dehydration, look for products that add water (instead of oil) to the skin. In terms of ingredients, products that contain hyaluronic acid, cucumber and algae will replenish the moisture your skin is missing. And yes, drinking water can help — but because your skin is the last of your organs to get water, you will need to use skin care products to ensure your skin is properly hydrated.
Step 3: Sunscreen
While we listed this step as the last one, it is arguably the most important one.
Wearing sunscreen every day is not solely about vanity (although excessive sun exposure does cause wrinkles, sunspots and sagging skin) but also about preventing skin cancer from UV exposure. And by every day, I mean every single day. Year-round. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s UV rays are able to pierce through those clouds (and even glass) and damage your skin.
People sometimes get confused about sunscreen, so let’s take a moment to break down what you need to know.
Let’s start with ultraviolet rays. There are two types of rays that break through our atmosphere — UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays go deeper into your skin, damaging the collagen and elastin tissues. These rays are responsible for wrinkles, dark spots and an increased risk of skin cancer.
These are the tanning rays. And while we, as a society, yearn for a good suntan, a tan is actually a sign of DNA damage. The skin is literally darkening to protect itself against further damage.
UVB rays affect only the superficial layers of the skin, but UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn. These rays are also contributors to the most common forms of skin cancer that are prevalent in those superficial layers and result from sun accumulation.
This is why you must wear sunscreen (often referred to as “broad spectrum” protection) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
So then, what is “SPF”? SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates the amount of time the product gives you extra protection from UVB rays as opposed to not wearing any sun protection.
As an example, if you would burn naturally after 20 minutes of sun exposure, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 would provide 10 hours of protection if used correctly. Given that sweat and water can wash off sunscreen, it is imperative to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after a swim or strenuous activity. Generally, you should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
But beware — sunscreen alone will not protect your skin from sun damage. Try to avoid excessive direct sun exposure during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. And when you are outside, wear a hat and clothing that covers as much as possible. How will you know if your clothing protects your skin? When you hold it up and no light comes through, then you know your clothing is woven tightly enough to give your skin additional sun protection.
Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you get sunburned. Here are some tips on how to treat sunburn. Cool baths followed by the application of a quality moisturizer will help with skin dryness. Take aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and discomfort. If blisters appear, do not pop them; instead, let them heal on their own