When it comes to skincare, summer is one of the harshest seasons. You have to be diligent with how you take care of your skin and the way in which you protect it from the sun, heat, and other weather induced damage.
With skin cancer affecting more than 3 million Americans each year, knowing how to best protect your skin during peak months of damage is crucial.
Our very own Ringaile Sirvaitis is here to help answer some common summer skincare questions to ensure your skin is safe and healthy during these sunny months.
The first thing you probably think of when it comes to summer skincare is protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. But what you may not know is how to get it right. We can help!
Sunscreen vs Sunblock
Are they really the same? This is a common question when it comes to summer skincare. Should you be using sunscreen or sunblock?
Ringaile says, “Sunblocks are physical or mineral sunscreens that use only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their UV filters. They reflect UV rays away from the skin by making a coat. They are thicker and remain visible when applied on the skin and are more difficult to wash off.
Sunscreens are composed of chemicals that absorb UV radiation and reduce the amount that reaches the skin. They are more transparent and are invisible when applied. Physical sunblock blocks UVA/UVB rays while chemical sunscreens block only certain UV rays, so always look for broad-spectrum protection if you are using a chemical sunscreen.
Some chemical sunscreens are linked to adverse effects like skin allergies or hormonal imbalance. For example, oxybenzone has been studied to act as an anti-androgen and a weak estrogen and is associated with altered birth weight in human studies. However, more studies need to be done.”
Should I put on sunscreen or moisturizer first?
“Moisturizer always goes on first, since it has smaller molecules, to hydrate your skin, and then you apply the sun protection of your choice.”
Should you apply sunscreen under makeup?
“Absolutely! You have to protect your skin from UV damage throughout the day, even on rainy or cloudy days if you want to reduce the signs of aging.”
Most makeup products don’t have proper SPF protection. Although many foundations contain a sun protection factor, it isn’t quite as powerful at shielding your skin as we recommend.
Applying a stronger sunscreen beneath makeup that also contains SPF is a perfect way to ensure your skin is well protected every day.
When’s the best time to apply sunscreen?
“Apply sun protection to clean, dry skin 15 minutes before sun exposure. Since the sun emits UV rays all year round, you should wear sun protection on your face every day, even if you have an office job. Since UVA rays can penetrate glass, your skin is aging in the car as you are driving to and from work, even on cloudy days.”
What’s the importance of sunscreen?
Sunscreen is invaluable when it comes to avoiding skin cancer and sun-related skin conditions. Shielding your skin from the sun’s rays can not only prevent early signs of aging, but reduce any discoloration, avoid the appearance of enlarged pores, and more.
Ringaile adds, “Sunscreen protects the skin from direct injury from sunlight. Mostly, it is the UVB rays that cause the “burning,” that also include blistering. It also protects from skin cancer and aging from UVA rays, that causes DNA damage in our cells.”
What does SPF mean?
“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF measures the protection from amount of UVB exposure. Our skin normally would burn after 10 minutes in the sun, but by applying SPF 15 sunscreen it will theoretically allow us to stay in the sun 15 times longer without being burned. Also, we have to take into consideration the amount of sunscreen being used, skin type and the intensity of the sun.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad-spectrum protection (UVA/UVB), SPF of 30 or higher and water resistance. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks slightly more 98% of UVB rays, however no sunscreen can block 100 percent of UVB rays.”
What SPF should I use?
Not all SPF protects at the same level. That’s why there’s SPF 30 and also SPF 100. Which you choose is up to the level of protection desired and your skin type.
For those with fair skin, a higher SPF will better protect your skin whereas those with darker skin may only need SPF 30. Make sure to follow application directions and always consult a dermatologist if you aren’t sure which SPF is best for your skin type.
Not every type of SPF should be used on your face. Not all are noncomedogenic, meaning they could potentially clog pores.
Make sure to look for sunscreen specifically formulated for your face and products that list “noncomedogenic” somewhere on the bottle.
“For certain skin types especially acne prone/sensitive skin, chemical sunscreens can be irritating, so for the face use a mineral based sun protector (zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) and for the body you can use an either chemical sunscreen or the same mineral sun block. For the normal skin types, you can use all in one sun protection.”
What’s the best sunscreen for…
The best sunscreen is the one fitting your skin type and the one you will use continuously. Just make sure it offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water resistant. Sunscreens are offered in different consistencies, such as ointments, creams, lotions, gels, sprays and wax sticks.
Besides sunscreen, what else can I do to protect myself from the sun?
Many think just slapping on some sunscreen is enough for the day. In reality, there are so many ways to shield yourself from the sun. Here are some other methods of preventing sunburn and in turn, sun damage and potential cancers:
- Wear wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and protective clothing, such as a shirt with long sleeves.
- Stay in the shade when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Be more cautious when near water, sand and snow, because they reflect UVA/UVB rays and increases the chance of sunburn.
- Consume vitamin D through a healthy diet and vitamin D supplements.
- Avoid tanning beds. They cause cancer and premature wrinkling. Use self-tanning products when possible.
- Have regular skin checks. Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early.
How do you treat sunburn if preventative measures didn’t work?
Sometimes you can’t avoid sunburn. Perhaps you forgot to reapply or maybe the sunscreen wasn’t strong enough to begin with. Here’s what you can do if the sun got the best of you.
- Stop further sun exposure and treat sunburn as soon as possible
- If you developed blisters don’t pick, let your skin heal and protect you from infection
- It you developed chills, fever, headache and blisters cover a large area seek immediate medical care
- Use cool baths/cold compresses to reduce the heat
- Drink extra water, because sunburn draws fluids away from the body
- To minimize swelling, pain and discomfort take ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- To decrease inflammation, use OTC hydrocortisone.
- Moisturize your skin with lotions that contains aloe vera or soy. It will hydrate and will reduce inflammation of sunburned of skin.
- Do not use topicals with petroleum (Vaseline), it will trap the heat in your skin
- Do not apply “-caine” products, such as benzocaine. They can irritate the skin and cause an allergic reaction.
- Protect sunburned skin while it’s healing with protective clothing when outdoors.
Summer skincare isn’t just about preventing sun damage. You also have to treat your skin well so it can continue to glow from within.
What skincare treatments and products are the best during the summer?
“Since you are applying more sunscreen to your skin during the summer months, it’s important to exfoliate your skin about 2-3 times a week, so you clear all the dead skin cells and debris from your pores.
And remember, if you are using vitamin A products or acid peels, it is extremely important to use sunscreen every day, even if you are in the sun less than one hour per day, because you are more prone to sunburn.”
With great, warm weather comes outdoor activities. And while it may seem enjoyable in the moment, being outside come with its own skincare concerns, like bug bites, rashes, and more.
What should I do if I think I have poison ivy or another plant rash?
Being out and about exploring in the summer is all fun and games until somebody gets a rash from an unknown plant.
“If you suspect you have a reaction to poison ivy or poison oak, do not seek help from Dr. Google, but instead go to see your dermatologist because many skin conditions may look alike but are treated differently.”
Recommendations for preventing and treating mosquito bites:
Mosquito bites are inevitable. No matter how much protection you have, they can still be a nuisance. Instead of scratching away and damaging your skin, here’s how the CDC recommends you combat them:
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- registered insect repellents with active ingredients, such as (DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD), 2-undecanone).
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
If it’s too late and you are already being bitten by a mosquito:
- Try not to scratch, because it can become infected
- Use ice cubes/ cold compresses, it will help with itchiness and swelling
- Use OTC antihistamines, it will help with the itchiness
- Use OTC hydrocortisone, it will help with inflammation
- Try home remedies, such as baking soda, vinegar, lime/lemon juice, toothpaste, aloe vera, dry bar of soap and etc.
While your summer skincare routine may differ from others’, one thing will always remain constant: you need sun protection. Be sure you’re not only protecting your skin, but you’re doing so in the best way for your specific skin type.
About Ringaile Sirvaitis, MSN, RN, CNP
Ringaile Sirvaitis is board certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Program (AANP), as a family nurse practitioner. For many years her passion and interests were focused on health, and more particularly, on beautiful skin. During her advanced nursing training she has studied in the dermatology department of Cleveland Clinic. Her diverse background and expertise in skin care gives her an excellent platform for sharing her knowledge and educating patients about the preservation, nurture, and well being of the skin.