By Tara Ichelson, Licensed Esthetician and Owner, Pretique SkinSpa
It’s finally getting nice outside, where we no longer have to hide away in our homes suffering from what has seemed to be the longest bout of cabin fever ever. We are all itching to hit the farmers market, take the kids to the park, go golfing, or whatever other outdoor activity finally gets us away from the television. That being said, it’s also time to remember that since we will be outside more, there are a couple of important habits that we may need to re-adopt as we start packing up our picnic baskets and lacing up our running shoes. These simple steps will really set the tone for how we look and feel in our own skin, and is vital to the lasting health of our skin. This month we discuss the effects that the sun can have if we aren’t protected, the types of rays that affect our skin, and how we can prevent damage.
Before we dig in, a first simple step to adopt is the concept of hydration. I’m not just talking applying moisturizer, but hydration from the inside out. We need to drink water, because the body loves it, and so does our body’s largest organ, the skin. If it’s too bland for you, squeeze in a nice lemon wedge, as it will not only offer a crisp refreshing taste, but it is also chock full of those wonderful antioxidants, which protect the skin from harmful free radicals, and contains vitamin C, which is a natural rejuvenator to the skin. Adding lemon to water is not only completely natural, but also will help the skin fight for your cause, so it’s a double bonus.
Now the real lesson, my non-negotiable and number one rule for preventing ill effects in the skin is making sure the skin is protected with sunscreen. Not only do 90 percent of wrinkles come from sun damage, but also noticeable areas of pigmentation that are bound to appear, not limited to the face, but on all other areas that are not protected. It’s easy to forget areas of the body that are covered up for half of the year, but we can’t afford to forget. Sunscreen should be applied daily, all year round, as we aren’t just susceptible during the warmer months.
We all know that increased sun exposure greatly increases the risk of skin cancer, and many people are told to use SPF, but don’t really know what they are being protected from. First off, UV rays have been identified as a proven human carcinogen, meaning it can be directly involved in causing cancer. UV radiation is a part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun, and UVA/UVB rays penetrate the atmosphere and are the harmful rays that can cause premature aging, eye damage, and, of course, skin cancer. What are the differences between the two? Let’s break it down:
UVA rays are the rays that we are exposed to during any type of daylight, and penetrate even through clouds and glass. They play the biggest role in premature aging of the skin, and penetrate at a deeper level than UVB rays. UVA contributes to skin cancer, and quite possibly could be what initiates the beginning stages. These rays are also what cause us to tan. In society, being tan is thought to be cosmetically appealing, but when achieved through overexposure to the UVA rays, it destroys the DNA of the skin. When that happens, the skin darkens to protect itself from more damage and injury, further resulting in mutation of the skin cells. These mutations are what can eventually lead to skin cancer.
UVB rays cause damage to the superficial layers of the skin. These rays are the primary culprits in sunburns, and an easy way to remember that is UV–B for burn. They also contribute to the effects of premature aging, and these rays are most prevalent between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the months of April to October. However, it should be noted that if in environments where the altitude is higher or in areas of snow and ice, these rays have a reflective property that will actually cause the rays to hit the skin not once, but twice.
When deciding on a sunscreen, know that the “number “of SPF generally equates to how long it will take the skin to burn with sunscreen applied, versus how long it would take if it wasn’t protected. For example, if using a SPF 30, it will take 30 times longer for the skin to burn after application; compared to if it wasn’t applied at all. Be sure to look for a product that will protect from both the UVA and UVB rays. These products will most commonly be labeled as “broad spectrum” or you can even look for the effective ingredient, zinc oxide. Reapplying every couple of hours is a great idea, and don’t forget to apply to the earlobes! Also, wearing a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses gives that extra protection for the more delicate skin on the face.
Some of these facts can sound scary, and if there is ever an area of your skin that might cause question or concern, never hesitate to seek your skin professional or physician. However, by implementing some simple habits, we can easily combat these issues and safely enjoy the sun and fun of the great outdoors!
Tara Ichelson is a licensed esthetician and owner of Pretique SkinSpa in Bettendorf, Iowa. She offers professional luxury facials and skin treatments at practical prices, and is available for free skin consultations. Tara is available Tuesdays–Saturdays by appointment only. Call 563-650-0290 to schedule an appointment or a free skin consultation. Visit www.pretiqueskinspa.com.