Summer is almost here, which means tank tops, pool days and of course: sunshine. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with the sun; we can’t wait to soak up the warm rays, yet we often reap the consequences of not using the proper protection.
It may feel like a never-ending cycle, but it doesn’t have to. So, let’s take a detailed look at how the sun affects us, and what we can do to turn a potentially negative relationship into a positive one.
The Sun’s Impact
There’s nothing better than leaning your head back and feeling the sun on your face. While the sun has countless benefits to both our physical and mental health, providing a great source of vitamin D, boosting serotonin, and lowering blood pressure, we also need to be mindful of its negative impacts.
How is sun damage caused?
Other than obvious immediate damage like sunburn, there are long-term effects the sun can have on our skin. According to Yale Medicine, UV rays actually alter the DNA of your skin cells which can lead to sun damage. Over time, as the sun continually comes into contact with unprotected skin, it can lead to more serious health concerns.
The two kinds of UV rays that affect our skin are UVA and UVB. While both are harmful in their own way, the main difference between the two is UVB causes damage to the exterior layer of the skin (the epidermis) while UVA damage extends into the interior layer (the dermis). This means that UVB rays cause sunburn, freckle and mole changes, and certain skin cancers. UVA rays are responsible for other long-term damage, causing wrinkles and other signs of aging.
How does the sun affect aging?
The UVA rays that go beyond the epidermis are now exposed to what lies in the dermis layer. This layer is home to elastin and collagen, which contribute directly to the strength and health of the skin. Elastin is the main component in keeping skin flexible, while collagen helps to give skin its support structure and a firm appearance. With damage to your skin's elastin and collagen from UVA rays, wrinkles form and skin loses elasticity, thus showing early signs of aging.
So what can you do? The best place to start is by learning about the different types of SPF and finding the best one for you.
Understanding the difference between mineral & chemical SPF
It may seem like all sunscreens are the same, however, there are differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens that can help you decide which is right for you. The ideal sunscreen offers broad-spectrum sun protection, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Mineral sunscreens are often known as sunblock, as they physically block the sun’s rays before they penetrate the skin. Two common active ingredients in mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are natural, FDA-approved UV filters. This makes mineral sunscreen a great choice for individuals looking for a natural and effective option.
Chemical sunscreens work to absorb UV rays rather than block them before they can damage the skin. As implied through the name, these sunscreens use chemicals like homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene as their active ingredients. Although the process differs, both chemical and mineral sunscreens are effective as long as you wear them properly.
How to use SPF properly
Now that you’re convinced of the importance of sunscreen, it’s important to know the best practices for use. Be sure to apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply at least every two hours. Experts say a cherry-size amount of product will do for your face; use a shot glass full for your entire body.
Another thing to know about SPF is how to incorporate it into your everyday skincare routine. For one, you can look into a moisturizer with SPF to add a layer of protection first thing in the morning. Another option is to consider layering broad-spectrum sunscreen under foundation in your makeup routine. This is a great way to use sunscreen for face protection if your favorite everyday makeup products don’t include SPF (or if you’re not using enough to reach the full level of protection). If you are unsure which option is the best for you, make sure to take our SPF Quiz to find the perfect product for your skin and your lifestyle.
Aside from your skin, your eyes should also be a priority in your sun protection routine. Similar to how the sun affects skin cells, its UV rays can also cause damage to the cells in our eyes. For this reason, it’s important to regularly use eye protection.
Polarized vs. UV lenses
Another common misconception is that polarized lenses offer more protection from the sun. Wrong: Polarized lenses have a coating that reduces glare and makes vision clearer, neither of which adds more UV protection.
When looking to shield your eyes from the sun, it’s more important to look for sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. While our eyes are not prone to sunburn, too much sun exposure can cause dryness, itchiness, and overactive tearing. By investing in lenses with UV protection, you can keep your eyes safe and spice up your summer look.
Best sunglasses for face shape
If you’re ready for your new summer shades, the first step is recognizing your face shape (round, square, oval, heart, etc.) and finding the frames that will best suit you.
The rule of thumb in choosing your sunglasses is to find a frame that will add definition to your features. If you have a round face, go for a boxy or rectangular frame to add structure. For a square face with very defined features, check out a round pair of frames to soften your look. Overall, you want to choose a pair that makes you feel confident while complementing your face.
Sun protection for your skin and eyes will not only help you in the short term, but in the long run as well. Keep these tips in mind while you enjoy the sunshine, and stay protected this summer!