Protect your skin from the sun this summer using these top tips.
After a long cold winter, all any of us want to do is get outside and enjoy the warmth of the summer sun! However it is important that we try to protect our skin as best as we can from the sun’s powerful rays. Interestingly enough the skin is the body’s largest organ. It covers the entire body and comprises of many layers but let’s look at the primary layers specifically, the epidermis and dermis.
The epidermis is the upper layer of our skin which is visible and can be touched. This layer is comprised of multiple layers of skin cells that are constantly shedding to replenish and protect our skin from our external environment.This includes providing protection from ultra violet light, infection, damage associated with trauma and creates a barrier to prevent harmful substances from entering into the body.
The skin’s second primary layer is known as the dermis which contains sweat and oil glands that balance our skin’s natural oil production to keep our skin hydrated. This layer also contains hair follicles, nerve ending and small blood vessels. This layer’s main function is to keep our skin strong and firm because it contains collagen and elastin fibres.
Australians are exposed to some of the highest ultraviolet (UV) rays worldwide! So let’s take a look at the different types of ultraviolet light and what affect they could have on our skin if it is left unprotected. The two types of ultraviolet light that we need to be concerned about are called UVA and UVB. UVA is responsible for tanning the skin because it has the ability to penetrate into deeper layers of our skin.
UVB have shown to be responsible for causing sunburn because it penetrates the first layer of skin. It is important to note that UV rays are always present and completely invisible so even on a cloudy day you still need to be cautious to avoid getting sunburnt! Prolonged unprotected UV exposure has shown to contribute to premature skin aging leading to wrinkles, fine lines, brown freckles and changes your skin’s natural appearance and feel.
If this doesn’t sound bad enough UV exposure can also cause sun spots, pigmentation issues, leathery skin, cellular skin damage, eye damage and even skin cancer. These are pretty serious consequences so you need to make sure that you are taking the proper precautions to protect your skin from the sun at all times!
This information may make you think twice if that temporary sun kissed glow is really worth it?! Remember no tan is worth dying for. So as you now can see it is important to maintain the health of your skin! So how do we do this?
Follow these top tips adapted from the Australian Cancer Council!
If you are going to be outside in direct sunlight make sure that you cover up your skin as best as you can by wearing thin clothing with long sleeves and a collar. Materials with tightly woven fibres such as cotton, linen or hemp may help to reflect UV rays. You may also wish to wear lighter coloured fabrics to stay cooler. If you are going to the beach try using beach wraps and sun safe rash shirts.
During the summer months sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes so you need to make sure that you wear sunscreen even if you are going outside for a short time period! Apply sunscreen liberally to all areas of the body that are going to be exposed to direct sunlight. The Australian Government Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency suggests that individuals should apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to going outside and every 2 hours after that. Select a sunscreen formula that will be specific to your needs.
This should not be too difficult because there are a variety of sunscreen formulas available on the market such as sport formulas, infant and children formulas, sensitive skin formulas, water resistant formulas, oil free formulas, sunscreen with insect repellent, tinted foundation formulas and everyday formulas. There are also many types of administration methods such as sprays, roll on, tubes, pump packs and lip balms to suit your needs.
When selecting a sunscreen make sure that you follow the allocated directions on the bottle and always check the following:
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number. The higher the SPF numbers the greater the sun protection. The Cancer Council of Australia suggests that individuals purchase sunscreens with SPF numbers between 30+ and 50+.
- Provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
- That the sunscreen has a valid expiry date.
Wear hats that provide extra coverage for your face, ears, head and neck such as broad brimmed sun hats or bucket hats.
Sit in a shaded area or create your own shade! We all want to be outside in the sun but it is important that we try to stay in the shade as much as possible so that we can protect our skin from UV exposure. If you are unable to find a shaded area, you may wish to create your own shade by using a sun safe shade tent, small tarp, folding chair with a shade canopy or beach umbrella.
This way you can still enjoy the sunshine and your skin is staying protected!
On a sunny day of course sunglasses are a must! Follow these top tips to protect your eyes!
- Source sun glasses that fully cover your eyes, wrap around style is best!
- Ensure that the sunglasses you choose meet Australian standards by referring to the swing tag that should state AS/NSZ 1067:2003.
- Ensure that you check your sunglasses eye protection factor rating which protects our eyes from UVA and UVB ray’s. The highest rating’s in Australia are factor 9 and 10.
- Source sunglasses that are polarised because they help to reduce glare and may be more suitable while driving.
Look at the UV forecast:
Keep up to date with the UV forecast and certain times of the day that you may require additional sun protection. This information can be accessed daily by the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website, see here http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/. This way you can ensure that you are prepared for the weather conditions in advance each day to take additional precautions to protect your skin. You may also wish to make plans to be outside during hours of the day that have lower UV rays!
Get your skin checked regularly:
Have your skin checked regularly by a healthcare professional. Make sure that if you notice any moles, sunspots or pigmentations on your skin to get them checked out by your doctor who will be able to refer you onto a dermatologist if need be. It is important to self-monitor your skin and existing markings for any changes in size, shape, colour or texture.This way you can ensure that you are staying in tune with your skin health!
What should you do if you do happen to get a sunburn?
- Apply a cool compress to the affected area or take a cool bath.
- Avoid using soaps on the affected area because this may aggravate your sunburn further!
- Apply aloe vera gel liberally to the sunburnt area to provide a soothing effect and replenish your skin’s moisture to reduce skin peeling and itchiness.
- If your skin is blistered seek medical attention and do not pop sun burn blisters because they may become infected.
- Stay out of direct sunlight until your sunburn has completely healed.
- Drink water, it is highly important to keep hydrated and the cool the body.
Nutrients that support skin health:
UV light exposure can generate harmful free radicals that can damage skin cells and contribute to premature skin ageing. Let’s take a look at some nutrients that can be used to support our skin health.
- Collagen - Helps to promote our skin elasticity and suppleness. Collagen may also help to minimise the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
- Vitamin C - When the skin is exposed to UV light it reduces the skin’s vitamin C availability. So how can vitamin C help keep your skin healthy? Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to rebuild collagen and neutralises free radicals that may have been produced during UV light exposure, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines to reduce premature skin ageing.
- Silica - Helps to rebuild and regenerate connective tissue to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Silica is also beneficial for the growth of strong hair and nails!
So now you know how to protect your skin, what measures need to be taken if sunburn occurs and what nutrients you can use to support healthy summer skin. Now you can get outside and enjoy the weather this summer - but stay sun safe!