6 Expert Tips on Getting Sun Without Aging Yourself
There is a right and wrong way to enjoy the sunshine.
Every now and then, we all like to get out in the sun. Whether we're on a tropical vacation, reading in the park, or simply walking around town with friends, the sun's rays provide both warmth and happiness. However, it's not all fun and games. Sun damage is serious—and can cause everything from skin cancer to signs of aging such as wrinkles, skin thinning, and a loss of elasticity. But that doesn't have to be the case. As long as you take certain precautions, you can limit sun damage and the aging that comes with it. Read on for dermatologists' favorite tips for getting sun without getting wrinkles.
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Apply sunscreen correctly.
You already know you need to wear sunscreen. But do you know how to apply that sunscreen correctly? Here's the rundown. "I recommend my patients use an SPF of at least 50 and to apply it in the morning and at least 30 minutes before going outside," says Adrienne O'Connell, DO, medical director and president of Laguna Beach Aesthetics. "Aim to use about a shot glass worth of sunscreen for your body, and a quarter teaspoon for your face." If outdoors, O'Connell recommends reapplying every two hours. If in the water, reapply every hour. Choose a product with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection; look for the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or avobenzone, which offer physical and chemical protection.
Wear the right hat.
A sunhat isn't just for aesthetics—it can also shield your skin from the aging effects of the sun. Choose a wide-brimmed hat that is SPF-rated to protect your ears, face, and neck, suggests Angela Casey, MD, founder of Bright Girl youth skincare and dermatologist at the Center for Surgical Dermatology and Dermatology Associates in Ohio. She directs patients to Coolibar and Solumbra by Sun Precautions for protective hats in a range of styles.
And remember: baseball caps and visors don't fit the bill here. "They leave your ears exposed and don't provide protection of the lower face and neck area," says Casey. Additionally, visors allow the sun to reach the scalp, which Casey says is a common area for sun damage and skin cancers. If you do wear a visor—or don't wear a hat at all—find a foam, powder, or spray sunscreen product that you can use on your scalp. Casey says there are many that work effectively without causing greasiness in the hair.
Wear protective clothing.
If you really want to shield your skin, wear protective clothing on top of your everyday SPF. "Look for clothing with a UPF factor," says Malini Fowler, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in San Antonio, Texas. "UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor and can be found on hats, clothing, and other fabrics including swimsuits." Choose pieces with a UPF rating of 50 or higher. Don't have time for a trip to the store? Casey notes that materials such as unbleached cotton, which absorbs UV rays, and polyesters and silks, which reflect radiation, are naturally protective.
Think of sunglasses as if they were sunscreen for your eyes. Similar to physical barriers, they reflect UV rays and prevent sun damage. "Opt for sunglasses that are labeled UV 400," says Casey. "These sunglasses offer 99 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays." Remember that sunglasses don't offer skin protection—and so you'll still need to wear sunscreen around the eye area. However, they do provide anti-aging effects by preventing squinting. "This will help reduce the chances of forming fine lines and wrinkles," says Alain Michon, MD, medical director at the Ottawa Skin Clinic.
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Avoid extended exposure at these times.
Sometimes, getting sun and limiting sun damage and signs of aging simply aren't compatible. For example, most dermatologists recommend avoiding extended exposure to mid-day sun. "People should not spend more than a couple of hours out in direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 11 am to 4 pm, as the UV index is a lot higher during those hours," says Michon. If you need to do so, use the sunscreen reapplication guidelines outlined above.
Do this after a day in the sun.
The occasional overexposure is inevitable. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help. "Use a moisturizer with aloe or just aloe on its own if you stayed out in the sun a bit too long," says Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Make sure it's pure aloe and does not have added fragrances." According to Mount Sinai, aloe contains active compounds that reduce pain and inflammation, stimulate skin growth and repair, and moisturize the skin. Then, use the experience as a learning opportunity to find new ways to optimize your sunny day routine to reduce future damage.
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