Summer’s Coming…and So’s Christmas

Sometime’s my kids get really involved in a good book or saving the world from Zombies. When my husband calls them, they’ll yell “Coming” (meaning, of course, they’re not) and my husband will yell back  “So’s Christmas”. Meaning inevitably, predictably time marches on.
But we’re not talking solely about the bittersweet passage of time, we are talking about sun damage to your skin. Would it surprise you to know that what you do with your skin in the next 4 months will greatly affect how you look for those holiday parties in December? I said last week that I would talk about sun damage and lasers. But I realized that I should start with sunscreen. Because you can treat your sun damaged skin with lasers and light, but a lovely morning in the outdoors will undo all that time and money. If you aren’t sunscreen smart.
Here’s the deal. The sun emits a form of radiation known as Ultra-Violet. We can’t see it. It’s just outside the purple wavelength. Ultra Violet (UV) is divided into 3 wavelengths. UV-C is the most dangerous. It is prevented from affecting us due to the ozone layer surrounding our fair planet. UV-B does reach us. It goes deep into our skin and causes changes in our very DNA. This is the one that causes skin cancer. This is the one that causes the dried apple look as we age. UV-A stays more superficial on our skin and causes the tanning. It, also, causes the sun spots and blotches that will be visible this Christmas.
Public Service announcement: A skin cancer called Melanoma is deadly. It has, of late, creeped up into being one of the most common cancer in adolescents and young adults aged 15 – 29. That’s UV-B at work.  If that doesn’t convince you to add sunscreen to your daily routine, how about this horror: that wrinkly, brown, leathery, blotchy, bumpy skin that you see on many seniors.  It is not inevitable. It is aging accelerated by sun damage.
I know many of you will be saying that your skin looks better in the summer. The colour and tone of your skin is more even. And, of course, you are right. In order to stave off the aforementioned UV attack, your body produces more melanin. This will darken the skin giving you a tan. It’s your body’s way of desperately trying to protect itself from radiation damage. I know it looks good, I see all the magazine covers. But, the areas that are already damaged will produce more melanin as a permanent protection. So when the tan fades, the spots are darker. Hence all the people in October, looking in the mirror and thinking “when did THIS happen?” You won’t see that on the magazine covers.
So, enough of the problem. What is the solution? Sunscreen. Your new BFF. It should be part of your daily routine like buckling up in your vehicle, like checking your email or facebook. It should be such a habit that your day is not right unless you slather it on. I suggest you do this year round to your face, neck, chest and (don’t forget) the back of your hands. This is regardless of the day; winter, cloudy, staying indoors all day. It will not hurt you for it to be on when you don’t need it. If you put sunscreen on everyday, you’ll be protected when you run out for a few minutes.
Ok, you’re convinced. Now what’s the best one? There are a pile of products out there and I could not even begin to rate each one. I will give you my favs. I’m not saying they’re the best … I’m just saying.  Proderm SPF 20 – 60, Neutrogena Ultrasheer Drytouch SPF 35 – 90, Cetaphil SPF 50, LaRoche Posey Antihelios SPF 50. Minesol Sensitive Skin SPF 30 -75. Generally, those with Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide as primary ingredients are the best. They work by blocking and reflecting the radiation rather than relying on a chemical reaction to change the UV waves into heat. Look for products with those two ingredients or look for products that say they are for “Sensitive Skin.”  You should use at least a SPF 15. But as, you age or if your skin is already sun damaged, use SPF 30 or higher. The higher, the better. Everyday, after you wash your face or shower, apply sunscreen. Go have coffee, have breakfast, make the bed, in other words, wait for 15 minutes or so. Then, apply make up or get dressed. Give the sunscreen a bit of time to absorb so that it can better protect against UV-B.
As for tanning beds; it makes little difference to your skin if the UV radiation comes from a natural source – the sun or an artificial source – the tanning bed. It all damages equally. So, “no” to the tanning bed. There is no need, though, to walk around pale and sad. Self tanning lotions, bronzing powder, spray- on tans are all skin safe alternatives that look great, when applied properly. With proper care, you can enjoy summer and Christmas with that great sun-kissed skin Katy Perry brags about. 

Next week, I’ll talk about how to treat the damage you already have, I promise.

I rate sunscreen as essential as :Dark Chocolate