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Leave the Leather on Your Handbag: How to Keep Your Skin Healthy in the Sun

Woman sunbathing on beach

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and you’re itching to spend your summer lounging by the pool, hanging out at the beach, or partying it up in the park. As much as you love to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, though, you’re well aware of the risks.

As scary as skin cancer is, there are other problems the sun’s rays carry, too. They’ll age your skin in a hurry, with new wrinkles and blotchy age spots appearing almost overnight. As that happens, you could draw nearer and nearer to the dreaded “leather skin” look, with a particular dryness and texture that’s a sure sign of excessive sun damage.

There’s hope, I promise! It’s just a matter of taking the right precautions both before and after your time outside. You truly can have your cake and eat it too.

Finding the Right Sunscreen

Captain Obvious here: sunscreen is essential any time you enjoy the outdoors. You already know that. What you might not know is how to navigate the crazy maze of labels, numbers, and specifications to find the best sunscreen for your needs.

Luckily for you, that’s why I’m here.

Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen

First of all, make sure you look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This means that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays are the ones that do most of the premature aging and skin damage. UVB rays are typically the ones that cause sunburn. In general, though, UVA rays damage the deeper layers of your skin while UVB rays damage the surface of your skin, so the two work together in an unfortunate way.

Sunscreens at SPF 30

Let’s talk about SPFs, because most people don’t have a clue what they mean. It’s actually quite simple. The SPF is the fraction of solar radiation that can get through the sunscreen.

With an SPF 10 sunscreen, 1/10 of the sun’s rays will break through and damage your skin. That’s 10%. With SPF 30, only 1/30 of the rays will get through, and that equates to 3.33%.

Ultimately, you want a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. SPFs above 30 do improve your sun protection, but it’s only a small improvement.

Using Your Sunscreen Appropriately

Tell me if this is a familiar scene from your childhood. Your family packs up and heads out to the beach or the park for some fun time outside. When you arrive, your parent makes you stand by impatiently while they apply your sunscreen.

This is actually incorrect. To get the most out of your sunscreen, you need to apply it about fifteen minutes before you head outside.

The sunscreen needs time to sink into your skin and start to take effect. You know that it takes time for your pain reliever to take effect when you have a headache, and your sunscreen takes time too.

If you wait until you get to the pool to break out the sunscreen, you have two problems. First, your skin is poorly protected for those first fifteen minutes before the sunscreen can do its job. Second, if it’s hot out, the sunscreen could melt or you could sweat it off before it has a chance to take effect.

Giving Your Skin a Post-Sun Pampering

No matter how careful you are about using and reapplying your sunscreen, a day or an afternoon in the sun still takes a toll to some degree. When you come inside, take a few minutes to help your skin recover.

1. Cleansing Your Skin

Start with a gentle cleanser. You want to wash away the leftover sunscreen as well as the grittiness that you probably have after sweating in the sun.

It’s most important to take care of your face because the skin is so delicate, but the rest of your skin could use some TLC too. If you don’t have time for a shower, a simple wet washcloth over your skin will help.

2. Moisturize

Even if it’s humid outside, the sun has a tendency to suck the moisture out of your skin, so you need to rehydrate. A light moisturizer will help you restore your skin’s softness without feeling too thick and hot for the summertime.

Don’t forget to hydrate from the inside out, too. Sunshine can dehydrate you in a hurry, especially if you enjoyed a cocktail or two while you were lounging by the pool. Load up on water to replace the hydration you’ve lost.

3. Soothe and Soften

Let’s face it, some of us are more prone to sunburn and sun irritation than others. If you see any amount of irritation on your skin, aloe vera will be your best friend.

This nourishing ingredient will ease your irritation and protect your skin from lasting damage. You can even opt for a moisturizer with aloe vera so you’re hydrating and soothing in one step.

4. Plan Some Recovery Time

As helpful as it is to cleanse, soothe, and moisturize your skin after your time in the sun, you might need an extra recovery boost. Later in the evening or the day after your sunny adventures, grab a healing face mask.

This mask further hydrates your skin while helping to repair some of the sun damage. Consider it to be a more in-depth and long-term way to create ongoing healing for your skin.

Enjoying the Sun the Right Way

Everyone knows that the sun can cause major skin damage that puts both your health and your youthful look at risk. You don’t have to sit inside staring out the window while a sad violin plays in the background, though. Take the tips above and use them to protect and repair your skin while you take advantage of the glorious outdoors.

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