When it comes to our summer skin care routine, we've got the basics down: Sunburn bad. Sunscreen good. But sometimes we find ourselves in that pesky gray area—you know, the summer skin myths we treat as gospel, when really we're just using them as an excuse to skip the sunscreen so we can get out the door faster. (Of course, I could just be projecting.)
"There are many dangerous misconceptions when it comes to how people acquire sun damage," says Dr. Holly Kanavy, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of Pharmacology at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Ultraviolet radiation is a known carcinogen, which means similar to cigarette smoking, it can cause lasting damage to the body. In a healthy cycle the body disposes of cells containing too much DNA damage. When we expose ourselves to excessive amounts of UV radiation, the body cannot get rid of all of the damaged cells and they live on. That’s why when we protect ourselves from the sun, we are protecting the core of our being—our DNA."
So there. Here, 5 summer skin care myths you should totally kick to the curb:
1. I only need to protect my skin during peak hours
You should absolutely be protective of your skin between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but no matter the time of day, always keep an eye on your shadow: When your shadow's short, that's when UVB rays can hit hard, which are the rays responsible for pesky things like skin redness and sunburn. Keep your sunscreen topped up on the regs—every two hours if you're swimming.
2. My makeup contains UV protection, so it's all good
Makeup typically only offers UV defense, not broad spectrum protection, so it's really only good during short periods of random exposure. If you're spending the day outside, for example, your makeup won't do your body good. Like, at all.
3. I need to be out in the sun to get enough vitamin D
To score the optimum amount of vitamin D, you only need to be in the sun for 10-15 minutes a few times per week. And if you're running low, you don't need to scorch your summer skin for a top-up—you can take supplements, or add more vitamin D to your diet through things like fatty fishes and fortified milk.
4. I don't need sun protection indoors/on cloudy days
UVA rays can penetrate clouds—and glass. About 50 percent of radiation can pass through a home window, and 60 percent through a car window. (For reals.) Kanavy recommends making sunscreen a part of your daily skin care routine, no matter the season, and no matter the amount of time you're planning to spend outdoors.
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5. The most important thing on a sunscreen label is the SPF factor
SPF is important, but sunscreens are most effective when they're broad spectrum, which means they're both UVA and UVB protectant. Make sure to look for the words "broad spectrum" on the label, as well as ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, zinc oxide, and/or titanium oxide.
And if you do get burned? "Immediately take a cool shower and keep the burn moisturized," says Kanavy. "Ingredients like vitamin C and vitamin E can help control damage. Weeks later, retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids are great because they increase cell turn over. The longer a damaged cell sits the more chances it has to spread its damage. People should remember there is still fun to be had in the shade.”
How do you keep that summer skin of yours protected?
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Summer skin image via Shutterstock