Even though Summer is almost over, that doesn’t mean you should stop protecting your skin. As an esthetician I hear so many people say they wear sunscreen in the summer, but not for the rest of the year. After doing some research I learned we are getting sun damage even in the comfort of our homes. This post is a long, but interesting one and I go over the myths and facts about sun exposure. Get cozy!
The other day I was laying on the beach in Venice with my friend when I asked him if he wanted any sunscreen. After a quick spray on his chest he told me to stop because it was “too much.” I told him 30 is 30, it doesn’t double and become SPF 60 just because you apply more. He asked me why I wear sunscreen and I told him I don’t want to get burned.
“But won’t it keep you from getting a tan?” he asked.
Face palm. I will still get a tan, but I won’t get burned. Burning is terrible for you, that sun damage is what makes you age faster.*
That same friend also thought you could just “get a peel” or a microdermabrasion and make the sun damage magically go away. Some of you may be pulling your hair out right about now, but some of you may think he’s kind of right. Can’t you reverse the sun damage you done? No. You can’t. But kind of.
You can lessen some of the damage you’ve done, but don’t expect a few LED facials to bring your face right back to your sophomore year of college. On that note, don’t’ expect to get a Cosmelan peel and then jump right back out by the pool; you’ll do immense damage to your skin if you do this. The same goes with lasers, peels, retinols and exfoliation. If you’re going to reverse the damage, your lifestyle and aftercare must change as well.
Now listen, I know a lot of us want to be tan and sexy; it reminds us of our carefree days in the summer but I’m telling you, you can have BOTH. You can wear the SPF, still get some color and minimize your risk of ageing and skin cancer. Plus spray tans are amazing these days, I personally love them.
* I always learn so much when I’m researching these topics for y’all. This post was difficult because I thought I knew what I was talking about when I started writing it, but through my research I learned that we are getting exposure to UVA rays even on those cloudy winter days and even when you’re sitting in your home, even when that home is in Nova Scotia. UVA rays go right through clouds and windows, so basically if you’re able to walk around your house or your neighborhood without lights and street lamps, you’re getting UVA exposure – and that’s the kind that breaks down your skin.
I’m going to talk to you about
· sunscreen vs sunblock
· UVA and UVB (the most importing part of this post)
· age-preventative products
· damage-reversing treatments
But first, a quick rundown on how sunscreen works
A few years ago the FDA made all sun protection companies change their wording to sunscreen because the word “block” gave a false sense of safety and it is our responsibility to reapply. Sunscreen is sunblock, sunblock is sunscreen. Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkle. HOWEVER!! There is a huge difference between physical blocks and chemical blocks – they block different UV rays. If you’re confused, buy a product that says “broad spectrum” on the label, it’ll do both.
Now about those rays:
UVA – think “aging rays” – makes up for 95% of the rays that hit the earth. These are the rays that make us crinkly, old, splotchy, spotty and basically looking like an old potato chip. They go deep. They cause cancer. And they do it rain or shine, through glass, into your house, your car, all the damn time. Y’all remember those tanning beds we used to use (cringe) that looked like amazing space ships on LSD? They were way more expensive than regular tanning beds and even fair-skinned people could use them, what a dream! Well they weren’t space ships they were cancer ships and we were all riding to the moon.
UVB – think “burning rays” – these are the obvious ones that give you that painful burn/tan, which is your body’s imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Also linked to getting old and getting cancer.
If you put SPF 30 on, it DOES NOT mean you will not get any “color” or sun, it just means you can stay in the sun a bit LONGER without burning. You are 97% protected from UVB rays.
The FDA says anything above an SPF 30 is useless, but I don’t trust the FDA so I like to wear SPF 50 on my face and décolleté (that’s your chest area, it ages just as quickly as your face and is a telltale sign of your age) as well as the rest of my body. Yeah, 50 on my entire body.
Now, anyone who says “I burn and then it turns into a tan,” isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, but do not fret, for I was the biggest proponent of laying out, and you can sit next to me if you want. But have you ever noticed that person has a reddish tan that kind of looks consistently painful and when you see them 20 years later all you notice are the brown spots and broken capillaries on their face and their chest? Like they have a permanent tank top sunburn. That’s from getting that “first burn” of the summer, maintaining that “tan” for the next three months and then repeating that routine for years.
Steps You Can Take
So what do we do now??
Listen, I totally panicked after doing the research for this post, so I get it. Even after 15 years as an esthetician I’m still shocked by the truth about sun damage. I just want to go outside and have fun! I live by the beach! I’m not going to hide for the rest of my life! So here is what I suggest. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Wear sunscreen – at least an SPF 30. Apply it 30 MINUTES BEFORE YOU’RE EXPOSED TO THE SUN! Don’t wait until you’re on your lounge chair, put it on now because it needs time to work. Here are some of my favorites:
Josie Maran – I can’t get this one out of my head, or off of my face. It is yummy and dewy and with an SPF 47 I feel as safe as a celeb with a bodyguard.
Shiseido Sun Protection Lotion – I bought one of those sunscreen kits from Sephora because I didn’t know which kind of sunscreen l liked, and this came in it. I liked it because it’s hydrating, I trust the brand and the SPF was pretty good at 38.
Olay Regenerist – you can’t write a sunscreen post without including Olay Regenerist. It is the drugstore crème de la crème.
A few other easy favorites:
Amore Pacific Cushion Compact SPF 50 – I like this product for an unusual reason: it smells good. I don’t usually like my skin products to have a fragrance but this one makes me look around to see who smells so good. I would not recommend using it as a makeup. I would put it OVER your moisturizer and UNDER your makeup. Also, it’s going to look white when its on your skin, don’t worry, that will absorb and disappear.
Still not sure? Sephora has this amazing Sun Safety Kit which allows you to try 12 pieces of their most popular SPF products to see which you like best. It’s $39.
Wear sunscreen on your scalp – maybe you have thick luscious locks so this isn’t an issue for you, or maybe you’re not aware this is an issue for you, but the top of your head needs to be protected unless you have thick hair covering it. I do not have thick hair, and because there is not a powder SPF for your head, I use my Bare Minerals Mineral Veil SPF 25 to protect my scalp. I did it at Coachella and it worked perfectly.
I realize summer is almost over for most of us in the United States, but that just means great sales on beachwear for next year!
Wear protective clothing – If you’re at the beach, lake, pool, yacht and you’ve been in it (the sun) for a while, take a break and throw on a rash guard. I know that sounds funny, but a rash guard is basically a top that surfers wear which protects them from getting a rash from their board, but also protects them from the sun. There are some really cute styles like this one from DUSKII, on sale for $48.
I love the tropics, so this one from Billabong ($89.95) is definitely at the top of my list. And finally, if you’d like to keep it simple and a bit more affordable, Hurley has this simple little black number ($35).
These rash guards are so cute, I wouldn’t mind throwing one on when I need a break from the sun. You can also throw on some shorts or comfortable pants and easily go from the beach to bars. My favorite.
Also make sure to wear a hat to protect your face and head, as well as sunglasses! My go-to for summer hats is H&M because their hats are sized and my noggin is small. This link will take you to their women’s accessories page (fellas, just click on the men’s accessories link). Their accessories section is FULL of fun summer/beachwear like kaftans, sandals, hats and sunglasses. And speaking of sunglasses, did you know your eyeballs can get sunburned? How awful is that? Also causes glaucoma. Yikes. My go-to’s are my Ray Bans aviators, gifted by one of my BFFs, and then I love the Glassy Wayfarers, these are so affordable and they look great on men and women, I put the Round Retro Lennon glasses in my shopping cart after writing this post.
Reapply sunscreen – I apply, and then I apply again about 90 minutes later (sooner if I’ve jumped in the ocean). And here’s a PRO TIP: don’t forget your lips! The lips are very delicate and super prone to sunburn and sun damage. Protect them with a lip balm that has SPF 30 in it like Supergoop! Lip Shield or this super fun, vegan, yummy 3-pack from Sun Bum.
And finally my favorite life hack of all, self-tanners.
Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer – Probably the most popular self-tanning product, Jergens natural glow has a moisturizer in it and gives a gradual tan which makes it easier to apply while avoiding heavy handed applications and dark spots. Pro tip: get the lighter formula to avoid streaky mistakes. You may have to apply a few more times, but that’s better than looking like you tripped and fell into a puddle of self-tanner.
St. Tropez – I got a travel size of this when I bought that Sephora Sun Safety kit and I LOVE it. It’s a gradual tan tinted body moisturizer. I don’t use a mitt, I just thoroughly wash my hands after I apply.
Vita Liberata Sunless Tanning Lotion – One of my clients used this and I could have SWORE she had just returned from the tropics. She highly recommends you get the mitt.
What To Do AFTER The Damage Is Done
What’s done is done. I’m not judging, I just got burned the other day! And I’m one of those people who used to tan all the time. I worked at a tanning salon in college, I laid out at my best friend’s pool from 10-2, I rode the UVA space rocket…my risk of skin cancer increased by 75% by the time I earned my bachelor’s degree. Even today, I live three miles from the ocean and you’re crazy if you think I pay all this money in rent to NOT go to the beach. That being said, I ALWAYS wear sunscreen and I’ve added a few other steps to my skincare regimen.
· Use retinoids/retinols to minimize some of the sunspots and fine lines. Retinoids are Vitamin A-derived and increase cellular turnover, slow the breakdown of collagen and thicken the deeper layer of the skin (the part that was broken down by the UVA rays). I just bought Ferulic Acid + Retinol by Dr. Dennis Gross and I’m going to start using this one immediately because it is a retinol – not as strong as retinoids and therefore fairly safe to use in the summer months. I WOULD NOT start a retinoid (Retin-A, Tazorac, or Differin) regimen at the start of summer because I’m just going to get too much sun exposure, no matter how much sunscreen I wear and that will cause severe damage to my skin. I would wait until the late fall/winter months to start such an aggressive routine, and ease into the product, starting out with just a few times a week.
· If you just google IPL Photofacial, the results are unbelievable and to be honest I want to do this so bad. But here’s the deal; I know I’m going to be outside. I love running at the beach, or having lunch al fresco – I mean that’s why I live in Los Angeles. And even with my hats and sunscreen and protective clothing, the second the sun touches my skin I know those dark spots will return. I would love to get a series of IPL facials but it would be throwing $1800 down the toilet.
· There are a slew of peels, including Jessners, Cosmelan and more that will remove your dark spots but again, if you know yourself and you know you’re going to live a life under our largest star, do me a favor and avoid the peels, lasers and IPL. You will end up doing more damage than you started with. I can almost guarantee that. You cannot be young and tan unless you are actually young and also tan.
1. Wear sunscreen if you want your skin to look young and supple for as long as possible.
2. Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside.
3. Wear SPF even in the winter months.
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