Nothing speaks more of summer than a great, sunny, warm day, picnics in the park, days at the beach or jetting off to some wonderful overseas destination for a few days of R&R. And after almost 2 years of living under the horrible Covid restrictions, now really is the time to grab those summer moments of joy.
Our bodies need the vital Vitamin D for bone strength and our bodies use the sun to create this via direct contact with our skin. However, sun exposure has many risks and it's therefore vitally important for our overall skin health that we protect it from harmful damage whilst reaping the benefits it offers to us.
As well as the risk of excess or unsafe sun exposure and skin cancer, it is a fact that the sun is responsible for a huge 80% of the visible signs of our skin ageing, such as lines, wrinkles, sun-spots, and skin blemishes, such as seborrhoeic keratosis, broken blood veins as well as loss of skin tone and elasticity. These are the most common skin complaints that I treat in my clinic, all of which can be reduced or prevented by looking after the skin in the first place!
So how does the sun damage our skin?
The skin is subject to constant damage from the sun's UVA and UVB rays, as well as radiation from infrared and visible light. These constant assaults on the skin lead to ageing and, potentially, skin cancers. The most commonly known UV rays are those of UVA and UVB. These rays penetrate the skins layers, breaking down the DNA. How this is represented by the skin is by the skin changing colour. It may get darker as it tans or go red as it burns. Our bodies defence mechanism against these UV assaults is to increase its production of melanin, the hormone that gives skin its colour, and is used to help protect against harm. Overtime and constant sun damage, our skins DNA degrades, causing it to lose its tone and elasticity and seeing the formation of lines, wrinkles and skin laxity. If the degradation is prolonged and highly repeated, the result can be the cells becoming cancerous. It is important to note that all episode of sun exposure are cumulative and increase your risk of skin damage. In relation to risk of skin cancer, any sun-burn episodes that are experienced, even in childhood, can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer later on down the line.
How to prevent sun-induced skin damage and ageing.
The best way to protect your skin from damage is to limit the amount of time you spend in it. The hottest part of the day is generally between 11am and 3pm, so try to stay out of the direct sunlight during these times. If this cannot be avoided, then take precautions. Cover up with loose, comfortable clothing, wear hats and protect your face with large sunglasses. These will also prevent you front squinting, thus reducing the risk of developing lines and wrinkles around your eyes.
A must-have is using a strong enough SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the amount of defence the sun protection sunscreen offers compared to unprotected skin. For example, a SPF 30 means that if applied correctly (ie, generously over all areas of exposed skin and reapplied every few hours, after sweating, swimming, towelling off or getting changed) it would take 30 times longer to burn than skin that has no protection. If you normally burn in 15 minutes, using a good SPF30 would protect you from burning for 7.5 hours! A whopping level of protection! Sunscreen is also the #1 must-have when it comes to antiageing. As well as protecting against the harmful UV rays, most modern sunscreens contain antioxidants, that help supress the formation of free radicals from pollutants and the sun, offering additional anti-ageing protective benefits.
With so many fake-tan products on the market, it might be prudent to get a great tan in a safe way, by using fake-tans and sunscreens to start you off. Don't rush out to the sunbeds though - these are a huge NO-NO due to their concentrated, synthetic UV rays that could cause cancer and will speed up the signs of ageing. When I discuss SPF use with my clients, I am often told they have SPF in their foundation and they feel that is enough. Sadly, it isn't enough on its own. Whilst all protection is great, your face needs a separate, facial SPF, to protect it from sun damage and ageing. And it needs to be used every day. I tell my clients that when the sun comes up it is day, when the moon comes up it is night. So as long as the sun is up, SPF needs to be on - regardless of how hot, sunny or cloudy it is.
The ABC of skin safety
If you have moles, or get moles, then it is really important that you can use a simple tool to keep an eye on them, watching to see if there are are changes or if you get any new skin blemishes/lesions appearing that don't seem 'quite right'.
The tool most commonly used is the ABCDE rule.
A stands for ASYMMETRY - does each half of your mole/lesion look the same, like a mirror image?
B stand for BORDER - is the border of the mole/lesion smooth or ragged?
C stands for COLOUR - are the colours within the mole/lesion even and symmetrical?
D stands for DIAMMETER - is the mole/lesion larger than the head of a pencil (greater than 6mm)?
E stands for EVOLVING - is the mole/lesion changing?
If you are ever worried or unsure, always seek GP advice or ask to be referred to a Dermatologist for a differential diagnosis.
A regular, repeated, tailored skincare regime will do wonders for looking after your skin and protecting it against the signs of ageing. Using antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin D will help reduce the effects of the sun and pollution and Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) will help hydrate, protect and reinforce a healthy skin barrier. Using a daily, facial SPF is imperative, especially if you are having the beneficial treatments of chemical peels (skin resurfacing) and microneedling as your in-clinic treatments. For more details, have a read of our blogs Positive Pro Ageing - transforming the ageing process by using the correct skincare products , Smoke, Mirrors and Making a Cake, and Vitamin D, Our 'sun' vitamin friend.
If you would like our FREE Guide to Skin Confidence, please follow THIS LINK, fill in the form on our website and it will be sent to you!
If you would like a skin consultation and analysis, in-clinic treatment and a starter box of cosmeceuticals, please follow the link in the button below to book your appointment with our skin specialist Registered Nurse