By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
With summer in full swing, many are traveling and spending countless hours in the sun. It is important to take care of your skin to prevent the damage the summer rays can bring.
During summer, the UV levels can severely damage exposed skin. While those rays may feel wonderful, the effects of sun exposure can damage your skin over time. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.
Here are a few tips for protection this summer:
- Wear protective clothing: Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes before going out. Continue to reapply according to the package direction.
- Apply lip balm. The lip is a common site for skin and lip cancer, primarily because of extended sun exposure. Cracked, peeling, scaly lips that aren’t helped by lip balm or petroleum jelly may be signs of a skin disorder called actinic keratoses. The condition can be the earliest stage of the development of skin cancer and has the potential to progress to deadlier forms of the disease. People either forget to put sunscreen or balm in the area or lick it off.
- Know your skin type. In summer, oily skin can get oilier. Use a face wash suited to your skin type that can deep cleanse and remove all the dirt and grime. People with dry skin would need a non-foaming cleanser. Mild, alcohol-free and pH balanced cleansers are best.
- Hydration is always key during summer. You can use a hydrating mask after you wash your face at night for some extra hydration while you sleep. Splash your face frequently with water or carry a facial mist to freshen your skin at regular intervals.
- Avoid dangerous sun tanning and tanning booths. Sunless tanning products are better than ever with streak-proof varieties. They come in lotion, cream, gel and spray form. With the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), dead skin cells are safely coated with color. However, stay away from tanning pills. They generally are not FDA approved and can cause side effects such as eye discoloration.
- Wear cotton: Cotton is the best fabric to wear during summer. Wear light and loose clothing. Avoid tight-fitting garments in synthetic fabrics. These can increase your discomfort and make you sweat more, which in turn makes the skin itchy and can lead to infections.
- Don’t forget to moisturize. A moisturizer is vital to protect your skin in summer. You can choose a non-greasy formula based on your skin type. But look for ingredients such as antioxidants like vitamins A and C. If it has SPF, even better. It is best to apply a moisturizer immediately after your bath.
- Don’t forget about your feet. Scrub your feet to exfoliate. Apply sunscreen and moisturizer on your feet, too, especially if you are wearing open-toed sandals.
What if I get sunburn?
Sunburn damages the skin and should be avoided if possible.
Although the discomfort is usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, more severe sunburn may require medical attention.
Consult a health care provider if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year old or if these symptoms are present:
- Fluid-filled blisters
- Severe pain
Also, remember these tips when treating sunburn:
- Avoid repeated sun exposure.
- Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
- Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter or ointment.
- Do not break blisters.
Heat rash is another common problem caused by prolonged sun/heat exposure. The skin irritation is caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.
Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases. It can cause an itchy, prickly feeling (often referred to as “prickly heat”).
The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Powder may be used to increase comfort.
Over-the-counter creams and sprays such as calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream can be helpful.
The rash is generally self-resolving once the skin cools.
Diet also can help! Eating salads and vegetables such as cucumber and lettuce can help the body stay cool from within. Seasonal fruits such as watermelons, melons, citrus fruits and juices also help keep the skin healthy.
Water intake in summer should be a minimum of 2-3 liters a day. Coconut water, watermelons and fresh juices are a good way to stay hydrated. Drinking water also helps to flush the toxins from the body. And stay away from sugary drinks! They can make you feel sluggish and have no hydrating qualities within them.
Our skin provides us with one of the greatest barriers our body has to protect us from environmental harms. It protects us from sun, wind, infection and other hazardous substances. Do your skin a favor and add to the strength of its protection by following these simple guidelines.