Protecting Your Skin from the Summer Sun: Essential Tips and Insights
By NCVC Staff | Published on Oct 09, 2023
Who doesn’t love the warm embrace of the sun? It brings back cherished memories of lazy beach days and carefree mornings. We’ve been taught from a young age that sun exposure is beneficial, providing our bodies with vital vitamin D and a general sense of well-being. However, it’s important to remember that the sun’s rays can also cause significant damage to our skin.
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Dr. Sejal Saheta, a renowned dermatologist and venereologist from InUrSkn, explains the ins and outs of sun exposure and its impact on our skin. Understanding the harmful effects is the first step in taking better care of our skin.
How does the sun harm our skin?
Our skin is not just about our appearance; it is our body’s largest organ and acts as the first line of defense against external factors. Overexposure to the sun can seriously compromise its health. The sun’s rays, particularly its UV rays, are particularly damaging.
“Ultraviolet rays from the sun are invisible to the naked eye but carry a tremendous amount of energy that our bodies are exposed to. There are two types of UV rays: UVA rays, which affect the deeper layers of the skin, and UVB rays, which affect the superficial layers,” says Dr. Saheta.
The far-reaching effects of UV rays on the skin
Tanning: Prolonged sun exposure leads to the development of pigmented patches on sun-exposed areas of the skin.
Sunburn: Itchy red patches, blistering, and peeling of the skin are common signs of sunburn caused by excessive sun exposure.
Freckles and Lentigines: Tiny red to brown spots appear on sun-exposed areas, particularly on pale skin.
Melasma: Brownish patches may appear on the cheeks, nose, and forehead.
Premature aging: Collagen and elastin, responsible for maintaining the skin’s youthfulness, are affected by UV rays, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.
Allergic reactions: Although rare, the sun-exposed skin may develop tiny red or skin-colored patches due to allergic reactions.
Thinning of skin and capillaries: Over time, the blood vessels beneath the skin become more prominent.
Skin cancer: Fair-skinned individuals with a family history of skin cancer are more susceptible to its development, with sun exposure being a significant contributing factor.
How can we protect our skin from sun damage?
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. To minimize sun exposure, cover yourself up as much as possible. Dr. Saheta suggests the following:
- Wear full-length clothes.
- Use caps and hats to shield your face.
- Don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
- Consider using umbrellas for additional shade.
- Apply sunscreen to exposed skin areas.
“Sunscreens are the best protection for exposed areas. Apply sunscreen before leaving home and reapply every four to five hours if you’re continuously exposed to the sun. Contrary to popular belief, sunscreens are safe for daily use, even for children,” advises Dr. Saheta.
Selecting the right sunscreen
When choosing a sunscreen, keep the following factors in mind:
SPF: SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures a sunscreen’s protection against UVB rays. For example, if your skin normally gets slightly sunburned in 10 minutes, an SPF 15 sunscreen should protect it for 150 minutes. However, actual protection may not last as long in real-world conditions.
SPF level: Higher SPF doesn’t necessarily equate to better protection. SPF 30 is generally good enough for most Indian skin tones. If you spend a significant amount of time in the sun, opt for SPF 50 or higher.
Broad Spectrum: Look for a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, shielding your skin from UVA rays as well. UVA rays contribute to premature aging. Check for a PA+++ rating, indicating broad-spectrum coverage.
Other considerations: If you’re prone to acne breakouts, choose a non-comedogenic sunscreen. For beach days, select a sunscreen with water repellent properties.
Can sun damage be reversed?
If you’ve already noticed signs of sun damage on your skin, it’s essential to consult a dermatologist. They can prescribe oral and topical medications to treat sun-damaged skin effectively.
Intriguingly, several signs of sun damage, such as pigmentation and uneven skin tone, can be managed by a skilled dermatologist. Treatments like chemical peels, laser skin toning, skin polishing, iontophoresis skin rejuvenation, and anti-aging procedures (such as botox and fillers) can help improve the appearance of damaged skin.
With the right precautions and care, the sun can be your ally. So go ahead, embrace the warmth, and perhaps sing that beloved childhood rhyme once more – just remember to protect your skin!