Move over, Spring! I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be happier to welcome summer. Maybe it’s the Dominican blood in me, but I just love the summer season! I’ll take the heat and humidity any day for the chance to go to the beach with my daughters, go swimming, play tennis, go for an afternoon family stroll, and play at the park. I also love the way life just slows down this time of year. Everyone’s in vacation mode and enjoying themselves. And I admit, I’m a fan of summer thunderstorms. They’re so majestic to watch and I love the way the air smells so fresh of wet soil and green grass afterwards!
With all the summer fun ahead of us, sunscreen has been on my mind—even more than usual. If you’ve been following along, you know I believe in daily sunscreen protection to prevent premature skin aging and keep my skin looking healthy. In the summertime, though, it becomes my top priority. The sun’s rays are beating down extra hard, so there’s no room for cutting corners or forgetting to apply. The best things I do for my skin over the summer are never leaving the house without a summer hat and slathering on the sunscreen.
So, I know a lot of us don’t exactly enjoy putting on sunscreen, and I wanted to say, I totally get it. It can be runny, thick, messy, sticky, greasy—not always the most pleasurable skincare product to apply. It’s another step in getting ready, and that’s particularly time-consuming when you also have to apply to your kids (and maybe even your spouse’s back). But, I want you to know that whatever your favorite sunscreen’s flaws, it’s still a very worthwhile and lovable product. In fact, I bet once you understand why I love it, you’ll be reaching for the bottle and calling sunscreen your new BFF, too.
The reason I love sunscreen so much is that it helps to prevent premature skin aging, as well as visible skin imperfections such as age spots, sun spots, and red patches. If you want a bright, healthy complexion, protecting your skin from the sun should be your first line of defense.
Sunscreen has become a skincare staple in recent years, and rightfully so. The risk of exposure to UVA and UVB radiation is elevated due to the thinning of the ozone layer, and we also know a great deal more about the effects of the sun now than we did years ago. Let’s review the difference between UVA and UVB rays, what their effects may be on the skin, and what this means when it comes to sunscreen.
UV rays are a part of the light spectrum. UVA rays are longer, and UVB rays are shorter. (There are also UVC rays, but these are absorbed by the ozone layer, thankfully, so we don’t have to worry about those!)
UVA rays may not be as strong as UVB, but they can penetrate clouds and glass where UVB cannot. That’s why it’s essential to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days or in the car. UVA rays also penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays—right down to the dermis, which is the middle layer of our skin. For this reason, UVA rays are the culprits responsible for photoaging, the premature aging of the skin due to UV exposure. (We talked about intrinsic versus extrinsic aging in this post.) Not only can UVA rays result in fine lines and wrinkles, it also can cause skin patches, blotches, or dark spots. These are visible signs of the damage caused by UV exposure, and they’re almost always unattractive (although I do adore freckles!).
UVA rays are also the rays responsible for tanning (and they’re the ones emitted from tanning beds). I think there has been a major shift in thinking lately when it comes to tanning, where more and more people are turning to SPF and protecting themselves from the sun. While we used to consider a tan to be healthy, we now have a lot more scientific research and data that shows that tanning is actually the product of sun damage. Whether you’ve tanned gradually, with or without sunscreen, in a booth or on a beach, there’s no difference. I’m glad there’s a lot less pressure now to sunbathe for the tanning effects.
If you are an avid sun tanner, don’t panic! Our skin is resilient and regenerates all the time, and under 10 minutes of brief sun exposure without sunscreen is optimal for absorbing much needed vitamin D. But it’s helpful to be conscious of that so that we don’t go overboard tanning purposefully and/or repeatedly. I know how hard that is because there’s nothing more relaxing to me than laying out on a beach somewhere, but if you want to avoid wrinkles and an uneven complexion, it’s important to grab your favorite bottle of “coral reef safe” sunscreen, and sunbathe in moderation. Apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, reapplying every 2 hours. You can also wear protective clothing and a wide-brim hat, or sit under a parasol. (And yes, even darker complexions should wear sunscreen, too.)
We’ve talked a lot about UVA rays, so let’s move onto UVB rays. These rays are responsible for potentially damaging the epidermis, the most superficial layer of our skin. (Remember, the waves are shorter, so it stands to reason that UVB rays do not penetrate as deeply.) UVB rays are the ones that can cause sunburn, and we all know how painful and harsh that is on the skin. While we can try to avoid sunburn, sometimes mistakes happen, and when they do, your new BFF is pure aloe vera! (And still sunscreen, because you don’t want to exacerbate the sunburn!)
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned skin cancer here. Of course, I think we can all agree that’s a smart enough reason alone to apply sunscreen, but I don’t like to take such a fear-based approach to skincare. It makes it feel like an obligation, a worry, or a chore, and to me, that steals away some of the joy I take in caring for my skin. I like having a skincare routine that is rooted in joy, where every step is mindful, meaningful, and pleasurable. It’s about giving something to my skin that it needs or that it will benefit from. It’s about self-care and the message that sends to ourselves and to others. So while sunscreen is certainly a wise preventative measure, I’ve chosen to focus more on the reasons why you’ll find joy in applying it.
So, back to the rays.
What does this all mean for sunscreen? It means you’ll want to choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, a sunscreen that is specifically labeled “broad spectrum.” (SPF 30 is a great choice for everyday use.) It also means that by using sunscreen daily, particularly between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is at its strongest, you can actively prevent fine lines, wrinkles, blotches, patches, sun spots, age spots, redness, and uneven skin tone! If that doesn’t make sunscreen your new BFF, I don’t know what will!
I want to hear all about your favorite sunscreen and why in the comments below!
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