Proper Protection from the Summer Sun: Part Deux

by Sonja on June 19, 2009

photo on left by Carolina Parragué, on right by mbeo

I’m pretty good about protecting the skin on my face with sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, but not so great about protecting the rest of me. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the hit-or-miss climate here in San Francisco. It might be overcast when I leave the house only to be gorgeous by the time I’m out and remembering that I should’ve put on sunscreen. Another reason is that I don’t like most sunscreens for the body. So many feel heavy and thick, and have that nasty sunscreen smell so I occasionally get a sunburn even if I’ve only been in the sun for a couple hours (something I wrote about recently in my skin soother post).

Today I’m focusing on how we can do a better job of protecting ourselves from head-to-toe with some easy tips I’ve pulled together, including some stuff that may never have occurred to you. (Be sure to check my post from last week to learn the basics of sun protection – like what SPF means and what the difference is between chemical and physical sunscreens – and get recommendations for excellent face sunscreens.)

Cancerous, Wrinkly Skin

Skin gets saggy, wrinkly, spotty, and slower to heal.

It’s so important to properly protect the skin. The sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. It’s also the main reason why our skin starts to look old. It breaks down the fibers in the skin and makes it saggy, wrinkly, and slower to heal. The sun also makes skin spotty by causing irregular pigmentation. Age spots, anyone? And while you might think a tan is beautiful, it’s actually your skin giving you a sign that it’s getting damaged.

The impact of the sun on how we look really hit home when I was younger. A family friend who had fair skin wore lots of sunscreen and tended to stay in the shade. Her sister, on the other hand, was a frequent sunbather and had this dark, dry, leathery skin. Even though the two of them were only a couple years apart, our friend’s sister looked like she was her mom.

Basic Tips

Here’s a reminder about the main things to keep in mind to protect your skin from the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (unappealing photo courtesy of the AAD).

Protect your skin rain or shine. You can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

• Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin before leaving the house and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
• Choose a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and broad-spectrum coverage that protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt, when possible.
• Give your skin a break and stay in the shade when you can, especially between 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
• Be extra careful near reflective surfaces like water, snow, and sand. They reflect the sun’s rays and increase your chance of sunburn.
• Protect your skin rain or shine. You can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day.

Bonus Tips (Some Stuff That May Never Have Occurred to You)

Formula
Is your sunscreen part of the problem? As I mentioned before, I don’t like the way most sunscreens feel – how it feels like I’m coating my skin. They can also be irritating and make us more prone to break out. And many have that nasty sunscreen smell. However, some companies have refined their formulas and use more natural ingredients that make them much more pleasant to use. You may find yourself using sunscreen more often if you find a better formula. Don’t pick a sunscreen just based on the SPF rating. Check the texture and smell to see if it’s something you’d like to use. I recommended sunscreens for the face last week. Today, I have a couple recommendations for the body.

• By far, the nicest sunscreen I have ever used is eco-luxurious Jurlique Sun Lotion SPF 30+ ($58). This silky, exceptionally lightweight lotion is moisturizing, glides on, and absorbs instantly. It smells heavenly and natural – not the least bit stinky. It’s made with herbs and flowers tended and harvested by hand on their certified organic and biodynamic farms. Lovely, lovely stuff.

• Another eco-friendly choice that’s more affordable is Doctor T’s Supergoop! SPF 30 ($11 and up). From the name, it sounds like it would be thicky and goopy. But the award-winning, water-resistant lotion is actually quite light and nice. It’s also supposed to last longer and not break down as quickly as other sunscreens when exposed to sunlight. This cruelty-free product is made with antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, soothing aloe, and is free of oil, PABA, and artificial colors. It still has a bit of a sunscreen smell but not as much as most of them.

When You’re on the Go
Most of us remember to tote along a bottle of sunscreen to the beach. But how many of us think to keep a bottle in our handbags? We’re supposed to reapply sunscreen every couple hours so it only make sense to keep some with us every single day of the year (you can get burned even if it’s cloudy). But I don’t know of anyone, including myself, who does that except for parents with babies or small children. It’s time for me to fill a little travel bottle with some sunscreen.

Hands
Even if you take great care of your face and body, your hands could give you away. Hands get lots of sun exposure and yet most people don’t think to protect them until after they see age spots and wrinkly skin develop. To prevent sun damage, be sure to smooth sunscreen on your hands after you put it on your face and body. Even better, get the new BORBA Advanced Aging Flawless Tone Hand Créme SPF 25. This light, non-greasy treatment provides water-resistant, broad-spectrum protection from the sun, helps lighten existing age spots, moisturizes, and boosts the skin’s ability to retain moisture.

Hair and Scalp
Another often-forgotten area is the head. Be sure to protect your hair and scalp with a hat or a product with sun protection to prevent the drying effects of the sun. I love eco-friendly Jane Carter Solution Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner. This fantastic product makes my hair incredibly silky and smooth, wipes out frizz, and prevents hair and scalp damage by providing a protective barrier with aloe and essential oils.

A Birthday Present
Would you even know if you had developed skin cancer? Once a year, like on your birthday, examine your skin all over. To learn how to do a proper self-exam, download the AAD Body Mole Map self-exam sheet, which has really helpful instructions with illustrations, and an area for recording what your moles look like so you can monitor any changes.

If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, the AAD recommends you see a dermatologist. Don’t get all scaredy and run the other direction – skin cancer is very treatable when caught early. If you don’t have a doc or can’t afford a visit, you can still get checked out. The AAD has a free skin cancer screening program. Click here to find a location.

What Do You Know?

Think you know all you need to about sun protection? Test yourself at the American Academy of Dermatology website, where they have a quick quiz. I just took it and got a B, which is kind of embarrassing considering how much research I’ve been doing on the subject. But I’m sure I would’ve done a lot worse if I’d taken this quiz before my research.

Do Tell

Do you protect your skin and hair from the sun properly? Are you concerned about skin cancer and how the sun ages skin? Do you hate most sunscreens? Do they make you break out or irritate your skin? Do tell.

P.S. Check out our regularly updated Beauty Resources page for some amazing beauty deals at amazon.com, beauty.com, Sephora, and more.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sal June 19, 2009 at 7:35 am

Yikes, it’s all a little overwhelming! Who knew the sun was a year-round, body-wide enemy?
Sal´s last blog ..Shopping Your Dominant Season My ComLuv Profile

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2 Sonja June 19, 2009 at 9:42 am

❤ Sal, I know what you mean! It would be interesting to see what someone who properly protected their skin looks like at age 70. Considering how much most of us DON’T do, that person would probably look half the age of the rest of us!

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3 Sue June 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Great post! I just wanted to say that skin cancer doesn’t always look like a mole. It may be that “weird looking” spot that’s a bit crusty, or simply a place on your skin that has a different look from the skin around it and can’t be explained away as a scar or other damage to your skin. I had a squamous cell area removed from my forearam three years ago and have another now-the result of sun damage while steering our sailboat by tiller (everything else was covered up). Ask a doctor if you have any doubts, and as you suggest, do a regular check.
Thanks!
Sue

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4 Sonja June 19, 2009 at 4:54 pm

❤ Sue, thanks so much for the kind words and for pointing that out about skin cancer. I don’t have any experience with skin cancer except seeing something odd on my dad’s face once and insisting that he see a doctor, which I didn’t remember until reading your comment. It did turn out to be cancer but they were able to take care of it since he didn’t dilly dally and got in for a visit. Now I just need to be more vigilant about checking myself! Thanks so much for sharing!
Sonja´s last blog ..Splish Splash My ComLuv Profile

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5 SwanDiamondRose June 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm

maybe i’m lucky that i didn’t tan much before i was 18, i was into being pale. but since then i have for sure done some damage. though, that photo of the woman on the right, i think she looks really cool! and that her skin completely adds to how cool she looks. thanks for sunscreen protection though, i have to try some good ones.
SwanDiamondRose´s last blog ..Golden Brown by The Stranglers from Eden… My ComLuv Profile

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6 Sonja June 20, 2009 at 5:14 pm

❤ SwanDiamondRose, I agree with you about the older woman. I’m sure she’s garnered a lot of wisdom over the years and that’s reflected in her appearance. I love the contrast between the two women. It’s so interesting how we evolve internally and externally over the years.

I haven’t done much tanning over the years either but I still managed to get my fair share of sunburns because I didn’t take enough care with sunscreen. Hope you find a sunscreen you like. There are so many crappy ones out there!

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