How To Prevent Sun Damage To Your Skin?
No matter how much has been written and read about the damaging effects of the sun on skin, the world still flocks to sunny shores and slopes, and a tan is still admired people are thought to look ‘well’ with a tan; psychologically, therefore, they feel better. And it is quite possible to have a beautiful golden tan without damaging the skin, but the skin must never be allowed to burn, and this takes time and discipline during the first few hours and days of summer or a sunny holiday, when the excitement of blue sky and fresh air acts like adrenaline and you tend to forget all about protection and throw caution to the winds.
The fact is, the effects of too much sun on the unprotected skin will sooner or later begin to show — the natural aging process is speeded up, the skin becomes irrevocably dehydrated, looks tough and lined with leather. And, severe over-exposure can lead to heatstroke and skin cancer. So, whether you live in the sun all the time or whether you are exposed to it once or twice a year, protection is essential if you are to prolong the beauty of your skin and have the radiance that comes from a healthy tan.
Burning is caused by ultra-violet rays stimulating the pigment-bearing cells under the epidermis into producing the brown a pigment called melanin. Only the shortest of these ultra-violet rays have the strength to penetrate these cells, and it will take a day or two for this action to come to the surface and produce a change of color. This kind of tan lasts the longest. The rays with longer waves work on melanin granules already nearing the surface and turn them dark-brown. This tan lasts less time (fans don’t fade, they flake off with the dead cells). The only way to prolong a tan is to slow down the natural process of shedding dead cells: moisturizing lotions and bath oils help, or the use of a self-tanning lotion (the newest ones are combined with an after-sun moisturizer). When you burn, a scorched redness will show on the skin two or three hours after exposure — because the tiny blood vessels on the skin’s surface have dilated. The next stage, depending on the severity of the burn, is for the skin to become simply and blistered. Once the skin is burned, however lightly, peeling of the outer, damaged layer is inevitable sooner or later. Some parts of the body are particularly the nose and knees, for instance, because of they vulnerable — protrude, the back of the neck and knees, because the skin there is very tender. And, if you sunbathe nude, the breasts and genitalia, of course, are the most sensitive of all.
If you want to acquire the kind of tan that is good for you and makes you glow with health, then you must have patience and protection. If you are in the sun for the first time for many months, take it slowly — avoid the midday glare completely and sunbathe for half an hour in the morning and late in the afternoon. Increase this time each day, but still avoid the hottest part and don’t be misled into thinking a cool breeze off the hills or sea has taken the sting out of the sun — it is only disguising the burning rays and you still need protection. You also need protection on the water, in the water and out of the water. It’s no good putting on a sunscreen first thing in the morning and believing you are safe for the day — a lot will be lost in natural perspiration, a lot more in the water and more as you dry yourself in the sun or with a towel. You must keep reapplying a sunscreen on your face and body.
Another frequent pitfall is a skiing or mountain holiday. Like sand and water, snow reflects the powerful damaging rays, and the skin can get just as burned on what seems to be a dull or hazy day as in brilliant sunshine.
Some skins obviously burn more easily than others, but every skin needs protection to stop it from dehydrating. Very fair skin lacking in melanin will never tan deeply and redheads with freckles just get more freckles more closely packed together. Fair skins burn quickly and take the time to build a tan. Warmer-toned skins of the olive variety will be able to take more sun before burning. Brown and black skins can take even more exposure. But all skins become dryer in the sun if they are not moisturized and protected.
What to Use for Protection
Modern products range from maximum protection — sunblocks that are what they say: they block out all the rays and prevent any change of color — to lotions, creams, gels and oils with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) on them. To find out how long you can safely stay in the sun, you multiply the length of time it takes for your skin to burn by the SPF, e.g. if you can sunbathe five minutes before burning and you use a cream with SPF 4, you can stay in the sun safely for up to 20 minutes. If you prefer the shine of an oil to the Matt absorption of a lotion or cream, be sure you choose one with a high protective ingredient; otherwise, an oil is just a lubricant and provides little or no protection and will fry your precious skin. It is also wise to use a higher protective product on your face and vulnerable spots than you choose for the rest of your body. If you like to wear makeup, look for the products — foundations, lipsticks — that contain a sunscreen, and waterproof eye makeup and mascaras. The minimum looks prettiest in the sun and on a tan during the day (usually, mascara and lip gloss is enough) and products with shine (frosted eyeshadows, lipsticks, and blushes) look well in the evening.
Faking a Tan
The best way to have a tan and look after your skin at the same time is to use a self-tanning product that stains the skin. These are improving all the time and, although they still need careful application so you don’t get a streaky effect, this temporary staining can be very satisfactory. For best results get a friend to help you achieve an even tone and the shade you want. Some beauty salons apply a tanning treatment which lasts several days and is an excellent start to a holiday; it stops you feeling white and conspicuous and therefore being so impatient to lie in the sun that you run the risk of burning.
Sunlamps are also good but need to be used with caution — you can burn just as badly from this artificial sunshine as from the real thing. Over a period of time, however, they prepare your skin for a sunny holiday — and will prolong that carefully acquired tan after you come home. (The latest sun beds claim to tan safely by filtering out the harmful rays:)
Your Skin in Extreme Climates
Traveling for most of us means more time in the sun, but extremes of cold, wind or damp need just as much consideration for the skin. In hot weather, apart from the essential sun protection discussed above, the varying types of heat may make your skin react differently.
Humidity plus air pollution. You find these conditions in large cities like New York, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo. You may find your skin looks gray and dirty soon after cleansing. Your make-up fades as soon as you put it on and your skin may erupt for the first time in its life. Cities like these tend to suffer from air pollution as well as humidity in summer — and pollution constantly deposits soot and grime on the skin, demanding frequent cleansing. Use a moisturizer as a barrier between your skin and the environment; you may need to choose one for an oilier skin type than you use normally in order to keep your makeup matte and stop it from disappearing. And pack something to relieve spots, should they suddenly appear. Plus sun care, of course.
Extreme heat and aridity. Exotic spots like Marrakesh and the Nile are where you’ll find this climate, and this is when skin may become extremely dry — or drier than ever before — lips parched and cracked and make-up almost impossible to apply. Take a lip emollient, a rich moisturizer for under makeup and a skin food for night-time care. Plus sun care, of course.
Tropical heat and humidity. Far-flung shores like Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Bangkok are places to expect this climate. The skin may become excessively oily, makeup melts and hair goes limp. Keep skin extra-clean, take a good toning lotion (to refresh and tighten the texture), something to soothe spots and a moisturizer for under makeup specially formulated for oily skins (to help makeup stay put). Plus sun care, of course.
Harsh wind and extreme cold. Winter resorts such as Zermatt, Courchevel, Zurs, where high-altitude skiing is the sport, and all Polar areas are where you’ll find this climate, with your skin feeling tight and dry. Use extra-rich moisturizers as well as your sun care, and avoid coming in from the intense cold and thawing out too quickly by a blazing fire — this can lead to a rupturing of the fine blood vessels and will eventually leave red, spidery marks. Chapped skin is not a disaster and can be rehydrated with moisturizer; it usually comes from the wind and is difficult to prevent if you’re not going to use a thick, obvious layer of oily cream. Keep arms and legs well-lubricated too.