Having sensitive skin is no fun no matter what time of year it is, but the solstices seem to wreak havoc especially. Whether it’s the cold, drying air of the winter or the relentless rays of the summer, you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect your skin if it’s more on the sensitive side. However, your skin isn’t the only body part you need to worry about the sun damaging; your eyes need a lot of protection. But since summer has newly arrived, let’s talk more about the dangers of excessive sun exposure and what steps you can take to prevent damage.
The skinny on sun damage
You’ve most likely heard of ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are rays emitted by the sun that pass through our atmosphere and fry the more delicately-complexioned among us. While some sun exposure is necessary to get our daily dose of Vitamin D, too much can have a detrimental effect.
Think of your skin like a Klondike bar. You have an outer, protective “shell” called the epidermis. The epidermis is where you produce melanin, a naturally-occurring pigment in your skin that protects you from sun damage. Some people have more naturally-occurring melanin in their skin, and some people have less. However, too long of exposure in the sun could overload your melanin production capabilities, which is when your skin starts losing its elasticity and looking older. Your skin tans in the sun because the UV rays activate melanin production. As time passes and you spend less time in the sun, you’ll shed your tanned skin cells and your tan along with it.
Of course, a bronzed bod is a sign of peak physical health in many Western cultures. But if you’re more naturally porcelain than bronze, don’t kid yourself when it comes to attempting to get that golden tan. People with less melanin in their skin should stay out of the sun between the hottest hours of the day: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Keep in mind the prolonged exposure to the sun over a period creates the perfect conditions for skin cancer. You’re especially more susceptible if one or more of your family members have had some skin cancer in the past. If you’re fair-skinned and spend a lot of time in the sun, keep an eye out for any strange or dark growths that pop up on your body; such odd moles or marks could be precancerous skin cells, and you’ll want to nip them in the bud as soon as possible.
Now that you’re aware of the dangers that prolonged sun exposure poses let’s talk about some steps you can take to keep your skin healthy and out of harm’s way.
Sunscreen is your best friend fir Sensitive Skin
By the time you reach age 30, you start looking back on all the habits you could’ve changed in your twenties that could have produced a healthier you in the present moment. For many people, one of these hindsight moments is wearing sunscreen regularly. If there is one habit you must incorporate into your daily routine as a twentysomething, it’s wearing sunscreen daily.
There are two types of UV rays in cahoots to make your skin look like leather: UVA rays and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate past your epidermis into the deeper dermis, where they damage your skin cells’ DNA and cause premature aging and wrinkles. The shorter UVB rays, in contrast, only reach as far as your epidermis, but they still cause surface-level sunburn and dramatically increase your chances of developing skin cancer.
Enter sunscreen, a potentially life-saving effort you can make every day to mitigate sun damage risks. But have you ever wondered Why an SPF Is So Important? That’s because SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, or how strong the sunscreen’s ability is to protect you from UVB rays (sunscreens don’t protect from UVA rays). So how can you calculate how long a sunscreen will protect you? First, take the SPF number and multiply it by the number of minutes it usually takes you to get a sunburn when not wearing sunscreen. If you’re wearing SPF 30, and it usually takes you around 15 minutes to burn, you’ll be protected for 450 minutes. Don’t forget to re-apply sunscreen liberally if you go anywhere near water, though.
Sunglasses: more than just an accessory
Many folks wrongly believe that sunglasses are strictly for creating a glamorous, yet mysterious look. While we don’t want to discourage any aspiring models out there, we’d like to take this time to remind you that sunglasses do a lot to protect both your eyes and the skin surrounding them. However, not all sunglasses are created equal, and you need to be judicious when choosing a pair.
The best sunglasses for fighting against sun damage fit close to your face and usually the contour of your eyes as well. If you can’t afford custom-fit sunglasses, look for a wraparound pair to ensure that you stay protected. You’ll also want to look for a pair that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and filters out 75-90% of visible light.
Not wearing sunglasses in sunny spots can have long-term effects, too. Did you know that you can sunburn your eyes, too? This condition is called photokeratitis, and it mostly feels like you have sand in your eyes all the time. Not only that, but your eyes may become excessively dry and itchy and very sensitive to light. Fortunately, photokeratitis is temporary. However, long-term sun damage to eyes can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and even eyelid cancer. Invest in a relatively cheap ocular sun damage policy (i.e., a pair of sunglasses) to save yourself a lot of trouble.
It’s natural to be afraid of sun damage if your body reacts more sensitively on sunny days. The good news is there are a few crucial measures you should follow before heading out for a dose of Vitamin D. Doing so might save you your sensitive skin!
Related: Springtime Skincare