One of the most common myths about skin care is that most damage occurs before we turn 18 years old. Taking care of your skin, however, is never a lost cause and it is never too late to start. Sun exposure occurs every day, even when the sky is overcast and cloudy. This means there is a potential to damage your body’s largest organ in all aspects of your life, increasing the risk of skin cancer, sunburn, and wrinkles.
While the basics of sun safety have been drummed into our heads since childhood, they remain just as important in taking care of our adult skin:
- Avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest. When the sun is high overhead, the sun rays are at their highest power and cause the most damage.
- Reduce exposure to the sun by covering skin with clothing. Tightly woven fabrics are the most effective at protecting from the sun while loose garments allow sunlight to pass through easily. Think of wearing UV protective clothing.
- Wearing a hat with a rim help to protect the most sensitive areas of the skin from the sun. Baseball caps can protect from sun damage to the face, but leave the neck and ears exposed.
- Finally, and most importantly, apply sunscreen generously.
Sunscreen is the most effective method to protect skin from sun damage. As the #1 cause of skin aging, exposure to the sun most easily and commonly damages our face, shoulders, hands, ears, and neck. It’s important to apply sunscreen correctly in order to maximize its potential benefits. Most people try to stretch out a bottle, spreading less over a larger area of skin. During industry tests that determine sunscreen strength, large quantities of sunscreen are used, far beyond what is typically applied. Be sure to use at least a tablespoon of sunscreen on the face and one ounce, or a “palm full” of sunscreen to cover the arms, legs, and neck.
In addition to applying sunscreen to there areas, it is important to wear underneath clothing. While it may seem just as effective to substitute a T-shirt for sunscreen, a wet T-shirt is the equivalent of SPF 4 protection. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after a swim. Even with waterproof sunscreen, going into the water can reduce how effectively the sunscreen filters light.
Remember that no one is immune to skin cancer. While it is true that people with darker skin have a reduced likelihood of developing the disease, mindful protection is essential to good skin health.