Your Summer Skin Safety Guide
Living in a nation world-famous for our outdoor lifestyle and glorious weather can make it hard to escape the sun, especially during the summer. But being vigilant about sun safety and limiting your sun exposure is critical if you want to preserve your skin – and your health – for years to come.
Most of us love feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin (for a short while at least!) and we now know that sunlight in small quantities is good for us, producing the Vitamin D which makes our bones strong and healthy.1 But that’s where the positive effects of sunlight end.
How the sun affects the skin
The sunlight that reaches us consists of two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. UVB rayspenetrate the skin’s surface, causing it to burn and damaging the DNA of your skin cells. Meanwhile, UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin’s second and third layers (the epidermis and dermis), causing premature ageing and wrinkles.2
When we talk about sun damage, it’s generally UVB radiation that does the most harm. Even though it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA rays, UVB has more energy and therefore causes much more damage with far less exposure.3 It’s also only partially obscured by clouds, which means that even on an overcast day, those powerful rays can still be wreaking havoc on your skin.
Even brief periods of exposure to the sun can lead to cell damage, with the potential to develop into serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. So with summer in full swing, what should we be doing to look after our skin, both now and in the future? Check out our top tips:
Your Five Summer Skincare Commandments
1. Slip, slop, slap. This should be your summer skin mantra. Those of us who were around in the eighties will remember the famous sun safety campaign that taught us how to slip, slop, slap – but head to any Aussie beach or park and you’ll see how many of us just aren’t following those simple rules. Sunscreen is the obvious one to remember – make sure you’re buying home grown brands that are covered by Australian standards and look for an SPF of 50+. There are a lot of options out there so choose one that suits your skin and activity type.
Don’t forget the shirt and hat either – go for a wide brimmed sunhat which protects the back of the neck over a baseball cap or sun visor, wear long-sleeve shirts wherever possible and swap your bikini or budgie smugglers for a long-sleeved rash vest and shorts. It’s also wise at the height of summer to stay indoors at lunchtime and avoid the hottest parts of the day.
2. Top up your moisture. Sunburn damages the top layer of your skin, causing peeling and dryness which can make your skin more susceptible to infection. That’s why it’s essential to replenish the skin’s moisture content after a day out in the sun to minimise the damage and avoid further discomfort.
Use an after sun gel or heavy-duty moisturiser and keep showers cool and short to avoid stripping more moisture out of your skin. For sunburn, blisters or minor burns that are particularly painful, apply a hydrogel – this will help to promote healing and provide temporary pain relief.
Ask your pharmacist to recommend a hydrogel, or try Glycemix Wound Gel, from Bio-Organics Glycemix, which is specially formulated to help speed the healing process by regulating the moisture content of wounds.
3. Ditch the soap. Even if you’re slathering on the sunscreen, it’s common to experience dry skin in summer – after all, we’re subjecting ourselves to long periods out in the elements and constantly dipping in and out of the water. But dry skin is much more prone to itching and infection, which can become a real problem if you suffer from certain medical conditions or have a weakened immune system. Soap is one of the worst culprits for drying out the skin so make sure you’re using soap-free washes to avoid stripping out even more moisture.
4. Be vigilant. Keep a close eye on any skin lesions over the summer, particularly if you have pale or sensitive skin, or have a lot of moles. If a mole or lesion starts to change shape, colour or size, or you notice itching or bleeding, don’t ignore it – have a chat to GP and get it checked out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
5. Don’t be complacent. Some people wrongly assume that because they have olive skin or tan well, they don’t need to protect their skin or wear sunscreen. But just because you can’t see what’s happening, don’t think that damage isn’t being done. Anyone who is out in the sun regularly should be taking measures to protect their skin – especially here in Australia where the sun is so strong.