At a glance
With summer in full swing, there is perhaps no better time to enjoy the great outdoors. The rising temperatures give way to beach days, family picnics, beautiful sunsets, and more. And though these activities give us a chance to kick back and relax, we must remember to protect our skin from the strong summer sun.
According to the American Skin Association, ultraviolet light exposure is likely the greatest at the middle of the day during late spring and early summer in North America. While spending time outside under the sweet summer sun is one of America’s favorite summer activities, it is important to remain mindful and protect our skin — especially during sunniest seasons of the year.
So, before you head outside and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine, let’s look at some of the top ways to protect our skin from UV rays.
How To Practice Responsible Fun-In-The-Sun
How do we protect our skin from UV rays? The easy answer is to stay indoors and avoid the sun at all costs, but that is no fun and can make life unmanageable. So, instead, we’ve come up with a list of what you can do to enjoy the outdoors while protecting your health.
- The Center for Disease Control says spending time outside is a great way to be physically active, reduce stress, and get natural Vitamin D (which your body creates when exposed to the sun). With the right amount of sunscreen, we can enjoy all these activities under the hot summer sun without causing harm to our skin.
- Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, as well as one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to apply a thick layer to exposed skin — and don’t forget to get help for those hard-to-reach-places!
- Some people prefer to use mineral-based sunscreen such as formulas made with zinc oxide. Zinc oxide sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays without the chemicals found in ordinary sunscreen. Zinc oxide sunscreen also has the advantage of being suitable for nearly every skin type. Plus, unlike regular chemical-based sunscreen, zinc oxide sunscreen goes to work immediately blocking the sun, so you do not have to wait 15 minutes to go outside after application like you do with other sunscreen products.
- The CDC recommends you reapply sunscreen after two or more hours outdoors and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. The American Academy of Dermatology also warns that being around sand and/or water increases the need for sunscreen because both reflect sun rays onto your skin.
Wear Protective Clothing
- If you’re a beachgoer, surfer, or simply an outdoorsman, you’ve probably gone through your fair share of sunscreen bottles. And though sunscreen is a vital component in protecting your skin all year long, it works best with some help.
- Dermatologist-recommended clothing such as lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and pants help protect your skin from the sun. Dark-colored clothing offers more protection than light-colored outfits. In fact, a long-sleeved denim shirt provides an SPF of around 1,700, whereas a plain white t-shirt yields just about 7 SPF.
- Hats also provide good UV protection because they cover your head, ears, face, and neck from the sun. Bucket hats with broad brims are most effective when it comes to protecting your entire head. Baseball caps do protect some areas on your head but fail to provide shade for your neck and ears.
Avoid The Sun At Its Peak
- Aside from wearing sunscreen and the appropriate clothing, it is helpful to avoid sunlight in the middle of the day when UV rays are strongest. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly half of UV radiation is received between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, where the sun’s rays are strongest. This applies to cloudy days as well, as you can potentially be burned even when the sun hides behind clouds.
- For those who prefer to spend time outside between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, it is best that you stay in the shade as much as possible during those hours of peak sunlight.
- The EPA recommends monitoring the UV index in your area as further precaution. This may serve as a useful tool when planning outdoor activity.
Nutrients That Keep Your Skin Hydrated and Elastic
Now that we’ve covered the best ways to protect our skin from the outside, it’s time to look at the top skin-supporting nutrients that help keep the body’s largest organ hydrated and elastic.
- As we age, our bodies experience a loss of skin moisture. Hyaluronic acid is a key molecule involved in skin moisture and holds a special capacity to bind and retain water molecules. This is why some people choose to supplement with hyaluronic acid products as a way to support their skin health.
- The main function of hyaluronic acid is to retain water in order to keep your tissues hydrated and lubricated. It can also make your skin look and feel younger! That’s right — just about half of the hyaluronic acid, or H.A., in your body is located in your skin, where it goes to work to help retain moisture. No wonder why H.A. is considered “The Molecule of Youth™!”
- A 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology tested the efficacy of H.A. in 33 women with an average age of 45. The women applied topical H.A. as a lotion, serum, and cream. The study found an increase of skin hydration of up to 96% after 8 weeks of use.
- Ohara Aivaz, a dermatologist, stated, “Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look."
- Similar to hyaluronic acid, our bodies naturally produce collagen, but production decreases with age.
- According to Dr. Aivaz, we slowly begin to lose collagen starting in our mid-20s. And women can lose up to 30% collagen production in the first 5 years of menopause.
- Multiple studies show that supplementation of collagen peptides, or supplements containing collagen, can help reduce wrinkles and dryness in skin. In fact, one study found significant reduction of eye wrinkle volume after 4 weeks of bioactive collagen peptide treatment.
- A separate study published in the Journal of Medical Nutrition & Nutraceuticals concluded that women who drank a beverage mixed with collagen daily for 12 weeks enjoyed increased skin hydration, as well as a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared to placebo.
- BioCell Collagen® is one clinically studied form of collagen that promotes youthful looking skin and improves skin elasticity, reduces skin dryness, and increases skin collagen.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
- Considered to be important carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin share similar structures and benefits. And though both nutrients are antioxidants and perhaps best known for their roles in promoting eye health, they play a role in skin health as well.
- The protective effects of both lutein and zeaxanthin in skin were only discovered in recent time, so the evidence is lacking. However, animal studies have shown evidence of significant efficacy against light-induced skin damage and UV wavelengths.
- FloraGLO®, a patented lutein extract considered to be the world’s most trusted blue light blocker, has been shown in clinical studies to increase skin hydration, elasticity, and overall skin health.
The Importance Of Skin Care For Healthy Aging
As stated, nutrients such as hyaluronic acid, collagen, and lutein all play a role in keeping our skin hydrated and elastic. These nutrients — plus responsible fun-in the sun practices such as applying sunscreen, donning the right kind of clothing, and avoiding the sun when it is at its strongest — all help keep our skin healthy, especially when it comes to the suns UV rays. And while moisturizers and other topical creams may help our skin glow, the Medical School at Harvard University notes that the skin care regimen we used in our younger years may not be effective as it once was.
And we all know that our skin is one of the first places that remind us that we’re not as young as we want to look and feel. This vital organ also serves as a barrier that protects us from pathogens and other harm caused by the environment, so why not look to support your skin as much as possible?
There’s no time like the present, so be sure to practice responsible fun-in-the sun the next time you decide to soak up some sweet summer rays!