Ah, summer. Sitting outside, BBQing, cocktail in hand, everything’s perfect...BUT WAIT! Did you remember your sunscreen? I know, I know, I harp on this a lot. But you know what? There’s a good reason-more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year than all other cancers COMBINED. Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will develop skin cancer before the age of 70. ONE IN FOUR! Much like your favorite sunscreen, let that sink in.
I bet that some of you are thinking, “yeah, sure, but I don’t burn, I tan” or “I have dark skin, I don’t need sunscreen.” Simply put, you’re wrong. When your skin tans, it’s literally your body’s way of saying “hi, you’ve damaged me, I’m producing all of this melanin to protect you from further damage, help me please.’ There is NO such thing as a safe tan (unless it’s a spray tan!). There are two different rays-UVA and UVB. Think of it this way-UV(AGING) and UV(BURNING). Even if you aren’t getting sunburn from the UVB rays, the UVA rays are doing damage. Yes, you read that correctly-you're causing damage to your skin whether you burn or not! This is especially important for people with darker skin to know. You may be less likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer, but if you are, you’re more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis. Yikes!
Perhaps scaring you with cancer statistics won’t work. I know that most of us have the “it won’t happen to me!” syndrome, so I get it. Allow me to appeal to your vanity, then. Did you know that UV rays are responsible for about 90% of your skin’s visible signs of aging? Those rays break down the collagen in your skin and make it harder for new collagen to develop. I could go off on a collagen tangent, but I’ll save that for another day-just trust me when I say that you want as much of it as possible. Wrinkles, sagging skin, leathery texture, and dark spots can be prevented by regular and proper use of sunscreen. I can do a lot to help you with these issues in the treatment room and in providing you a home care regimen, but preventing them in the first place is best.
I don’t want to bore you, but it’s important to know just a couple of things about sunscreen. First of all, SPF (sun protection factor) numbers are kind of hard to understand. It’s not about how many minutes or hours you can be in the sun. SPF tells you “how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared with the amount of time without sunscreen” (skincancer.org, source below). To make it all a little less complicated, I’ll give you some basic suggestions to follow. I recommend that everyone use either SPF 30 or SPF 50. Anything over 50 is just giving you a false sense of security. Anything less than 30 isn’t strong enough. You want to find a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection, so that it’s protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays at the same time. If a sunscreen doesn’t say broad spectrum, it’s only protecting you from the UVB rays! Not good enough. Know that most of us aren’t applying the proper amount, either. You should be using at least a shot glass sized amount on your body (personally, I think you should use more, but it depends on how much skin you have to cover), and you need to be reapplying regularly. Experts say every two hours, but if you’re out in the sun all day (especially if you’re sweating or in the water), you’re going to want to do it more frequently than that.
You should be protecting your skin from the sun in other ways, too. Be aware that even if you are reapplying sunscreen religiously, if you’re fair skinned and out in the sun all day, there’s a good chance you’ll get a burn. If you’re at the beach, be sure to bring an umbrella. Wear a wide brimmed hat. Take breaks and sit in the shade. Don’t forget to protect your scalp, your hands and fingers, your feet and toes, your ears, your eyelids, your lips...places that we often miss when running out the door. Sun exposure is cumulative, and every step we take to protect ourselves can help prevent skin cancer and premature aging.
I use sunscreen 365 days a year, rain or shine. 80% of the sun’s rays get through clouds, so don’t skip just because it’s gloomy out. There are a lot of options out there, and you all know that I’m a believer in professional products. Personally, I love Hale & Hush’s Broad Spectrum SPF and Image Skincare’s Prevention+ SPF for my face. Both will protect you from UVA and UVB rays while providing the skin with other essentials as well. However, sun protection is such an important topic that I think anything you use is better than nothing. Drugstore sunscreen is better than skin cancer, hands down. I use drugstore sunscreens for my body and even though I have extremely fair, sensitive skin, I’ve never had a problem with any of them. I think spray sunscreens are fine if you’re using them correctly, but it’s still best for the original application to be a liquid. It’s helpful to be able to see that every spot of skin has been covered! Lastly, be mindful when choosing a sunscreen that some companies make false or misleading claims. Anything claiming to be “natural” or “chemical free” is just marketing-those terms are not regulated by the FDA. Everything is a chemical, and not all chemicals are bad.
Please, please, please add sunscreen to your skincare routine. Make it a habit. You won’t regret it, I swear. If none of my words have moved you, google skin cancer or aging from sun and look at some of the images. You’ll see what I mean. Protect your precious skin!
love & lipstick (& sunscreen, goddammit!),