Summer Skin Care: Made in the Shade

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Along with summer fun, the season brings a host of unique skin care requirements. While basking under the warm inviting sun, you want to avoid the risk of skin damage and the uncomfortable pain and itch of insect bites. Short of staying indoors all season, there are precautions you can take and effective, affordable products you can use that will keep you safe and comfortable while soaking up some rays. The most important skin care issues to consider in summer are:

Sun protection

As much as a summer tan is valued by our culture, it predisposes us to skin cancer – the most common form of the disease. The risk of developing skin cancer can be dramatically reduced by protecting ourselves from exposure to those damaging rays. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that children get 80% of their total lifetime sun exposure by the age of 18; if they’ve experienced a blistering sunburn, the risk of deadly skin cancer doubles in later life. The most effective way to avoid sun-related skin damage is to avoid it – especially at its peak, between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

When you do go in the sun:

  • Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher which will deflect at least 93% of the sun’s damaging rays. It should provide “broad-spectrum” protection from both UVA rays (which cause premature aging of skin and can lead to skin cancer) and UVB rays (which cause sunburn and can lead to skin cancer).
  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before exposure to the sun.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally – it should take a full minute to rub it thoroughly into skin. When exposed to full sun (like at the beach) apply at least one ounce of sunscreen to your face and body.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you sweat, swim or spend an extended amount of time outdoors.
  • Remember to protect your lips! Due to extended sun exposure and the tendency to forget to protect them, they’re especially prone to developing skin cancer. Lip balm with SPF of 15 or above, applied every two hours will keep that delicate skin protected.
  • If moisturizer is used, apply sunscreen first so it can thoroughly bind to the skin and provide maximum protection.

Clothing and accessories can create a physical barrier to the sun’s potentially damaging rays. A broad-brimmed hat provides personal shade. Large sunglasses protect delicate skin around the eyes. Clothing that has any of these characteristics can block the penetration of harmful rays:

  • made of unbleached cotton, high-luster polyesters or thin, satiny silk
  • tightly woven or knitted
  • dark-colored

Insect repellent

Once you head safely out into the summer sun, you want to avoid insect bites. A number of products are effective at repelling insects – and some don’t live up to their claims. Read about them here on WebMD. Generally speaking, it’s best to apply sunscreen first and wait at least 20 minutes before applying insect repellent. Avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent because sunscreen must be applied more often.

Topical insect bite treatment

No insect repellent, however, is 100% effective. When the inevitable bugs do bite, all you can do is treat the skin symptoms. Topical antihistamines, like diphenhydramine or Benadryl cream, can relieve itching caused by insect bites. However, according to Leslie Baumann, M.D., they can cause allergic reactions, especially when worn in the sun. Alternatively, look for products containing Pramoxine, an over-the-counter anesthetic that relieves itching. Preparations containing menthol, capsaicin and camphor cool the skin, thus relieving the itching sensation as well.

Avoid wasting money on hype and empty promises! Buy what’s effective and use it properly for safe, comfortable summer skin.

Bonus Tip:

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