You’re not the only one with fond memories of afternoons spent baking in the sun with a homemade tin foil reflector perched on your lap and a bottle of baby oil conveniently within reach. The foibles of our sunbaked youth are coming home to roost and what we didn’t know then is definitely hurting us now. Warnings about the impact of repeated sun exposure are everywhere these days but we 40-something ladies didn’t have the benefit of those studies when we were chasing the perfect tan in our teens and 20s.
Here’s what we wish someone had told us back in the day, what everyone should know now, and how to mitigate the damage our time in the sun has caused for our body’s biggest organ: our skin.
The Sneaky Dangers of Ongoing Sun Exposure
Unless you’re living life like a new-age Dracula and completely avoiding the outdoors, you’re bound to encounter the sun, even on days when the sky is filled with clouds. While summer may bring a harsher glare than other seasons, you can still get sunburned in the dead of winter and rain doesn’t offer any kind of real protection either. That may seem depressing but the real takeaway is that you shouldn’t limit your activities but rather modify your daily routine so you can enjoy everything from building snow castles with your kids to snowboarding with your girlfriends while still showcasing glowing, healthy skin.
Sun Damage is Cumulative: Sure, one bad burn is certainly a bad idea, but “cumulative” is a key word when understanding how sun exposure affects our skin. The more you soak up those powerful rays the more progressive your skin damage will be.
You Need Less Sun Than You Think: The vitamin D you get from soaking up the sun is certainly beneficial – it helps mitigate your risk of everything from osteoporosis to colon cancer and depression – but experts say that those with fair skin only need to be outside for about 10 minutes a day (minus sunscreen and limb-covering clothing, of course) to reap noticeable rewards. Sorry to say it, but medical research just doesn’t support that two-hour stint spent lounging poolside.
The Sun Will Age You: You may think that a base tan makes you look slimmer and gives you a touch of natural radiance, but in reality, every minute you expose your thirsty cells to the sun’s rays you’re upping your risk for visible signs of aging. Wrinkles, dark spots, dull and lackluster skin tone – up to 90% of those pesky age-related issues can be attributed to chronic sun exposure.
The Joyous Route to Skin Repair
Starting to feel like those beach vacations weren’t such a great idea? Kick the regrets to the curb and focus on the good news: there’s hope for your health and for your skin! It’s never too late to start taking care of yourself and – best news ever! – turning back the hands of time can involve some pretty wonderful pampering sessions.
Skincare lines that focus on restorative ingredients can infuse your skin with essential nutrients that feel fantastic going on and are often remarkably effective, too. While no routine or formula is truly one-size-fits-all, many of the compounds, extracts, and nutritional components below have been shown to boost everything from skin elasticity to your body’s ability to heal itself from the inside out.
Antioxidant Creams: Creams infused with antioxidants like vitamins E and C, coenzyme Q10, alpho-lipoic acid, and selenium not only protect skin against sun damage they also rev up your skin’s innate repair mechanisms to help reverse wrinkles and discoloration.
Topical Peptides: Peptides are amino acids used to encourage skin to produce more collagen. In the skincare world, they’re often synthetically made and combined to form the same proteins that serve as the foundation of your skin. Topically applied peptides such as acetyl hexapeptide-8 (often referred to as “Botox in a jar”) have been shown to have positive effect on elasticity, skin texture, and overall firmness.
Natural Protectants: Have you ever heard of pseudoalteromonas extract? How about Krameria triandra? The first is a bacteria only found in mud sourced from the Island of King George in Antarctica; the second is an herbal extract that has been found to absorb UV radiation. These are just two examples of natural ingredients that are making there way into modern skincare products and sunblocks with some pretty impressive results.
Fruit Acids: Everything from sugar cane (the source of glycolic acid) to pears and apples (the fruits the give us malic acid) produce skin-saving compounds that serve as exfoliators and elastin producers. There’s also tartaric acid from grapes, citric acid from lemons and limes, and mandelic acid which we get from bitter almonds.
Retinoids/Retinols: Retinoids are technically in the vitamin A family and could therefore fit into the antioxidant category above, but these little powerhouse molecules are so helpful they deserve some separate recognition. In addition to beating back acne and hyper-pigmentation, retinoids (retinols are the kinder, gentler, OTC cousin) also aid in the anti-aging process by fighting inflammation, removing dead skin cells, and stimulating collagen production.
Flavonoids: Do you love green tea and chocolate? You’re in for a treat – literally. Both delicious items contain flavonoids, another type of antioxidant that’s been shown to fight inflammation and even potentially prevent skin cancer. One Journal of Nutrition study found that women who regularly drank hot cocoa had skin that was both smoother and soften than the skin of ladies who steered clear of chocolate-rich beverages.
Sunscreen: Of course we’re all now very familiar with the necessity of daily sunscreen use. Our moisturizer bottles boast SPF content and we slather our tender noses in cheeks in sunblock before we hit the boardwalk, but what should we be looking for when we buy a bottle?
- SPF of at least 15, which will filter out approximately 93% of UVB rays. If you’re very fair skinned, bump the SPF up to 30 or higher.
- Ingredients such as titanium dioxide, ecamsule, oxybenzone, and zinc oxide, which all help block UVA rays
- Bonus boasts such as water-resistance, which will serve you well when you hit the backyard slip and slide this summer, or sensitive skin formulas if you tend to react to certain ingredients like benzophenones or para-aminobenzoic acid or if you’ll be using the sunscreen on kids.
Whether you’re a reformed sun worshipper or someone who loves jogging, gardening, or simply hanging around outside, sun exposure is a real worry. Thankfully, you don’t have to trade in your daily dose of sunshine in order to capture more radiant skin. A few changes to your daily skincare routine and a hefty dose of knowledge can help you recapture a more youthful appearance and put forward your very best face.