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How to Prevent Sun Damage This Summer

Because premature aging shouldn't be part of your summer plans.

May 12, 2023

Summer’s here or at least on its way. And while it’s fun to be outside–lying by the pool, playing volleyball on the beach, or hitting a hiking trail–all our outdoor summer activities come with a huge downside: the risk of sun exposure. With unprotected sun exposure comes premature aging, including wrinkles and dark spots, plus the risk of skin cancer. Please, miss us with all of that. If you want to keep your skin looking its best and stay safe, there are plenty of easy, simple ways to do it. Here’s everything you need to know about protecting your skin from sunshine’s harmful radiation. Plus, what to do if you notice sun damage showing up from past exposure.

What are the most effective ways to prevent sun damage?

  1. Wear sunscreen!!! Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and hands. Reapply every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating. We like to use SPF 50. 
  2. Seek shade: Try to avoid direct sunlight during peak hours, typically between 10 am and 4 pm. Seek shade under trees or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
  3. Wear protective clothing: Wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and other protective clothing to cover your skin during peak hours. This doesn't have to be frumpy--breezy linen button downs are always chic to throw on over a bikini. And a silk maxi skirt feels cool and breathable in the heat. You can also wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, ears, and neck. The bonus of wearing a hat? It protects your hair color if you dye your hair. 
  4. Wear sunglasses: Choose sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Also, the trendy pastel-colored lenses typically aren't that protective. So stick to darker lenses if you're going to be out in the sun for a long time.
  5. Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit UV rays, which can cause long-term damage to your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. At Upkeep, we’ll always tell you two of the best things you can do for your skin are to avoid tanning and avoid smoking. If you want a tanned look, self-tanners have come such a long way in recent years, and they’re easy to apply. Spray tans are also a better alternative. Whatever you do, stay out of tanning beds. There's no such thing as a safe tanning bed.
  6. Don't forget to apply SPF to your hands, elbows, neck, and chest, as these are the first places besides your face that show signs of aging.

What do the different SPF ratings really mean? Is SPF 50 really that much more effective than SPF 30?

In a word, yes, the SPF number matters. SPF stands for "sun protection factor," and it measures how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from UVB rays, the type of radiation that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer.

SPF 30 sunscreen blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 sunscreen blocks about 98% of UVB rays. So, in terms of protection against UVB rays, SPF 50 provides nearly 50% more protection than SPF 30.

However, no sunscreen can provide 100% protection against the sun's harmful rays. Also, SPF only measures protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays, which also contribute to skin damage and aging. So, it's important to find a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.

And don’t let the higher rating give you a false sense of security–you still need to reapply your SPF 50 or higher every two hours, or sooner after swimming or sweating. 

What do I do if I notice signs of sun damage? Are there treatments for sun damage that work?

Here’s an annoying truth: lots of the signs of sun damage that show up later in life are the result of sunburns you got as a kid. Certain medications or life changes can also bring about issues like melasma that get worse with sun exposure. If you’re seeing dark spots and discoloration, there are a few things you can do to address them.

First, make sure that you’re getting your skin mapped annually by a dermatologist, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer. And don’t assume that having darker skin protects you–there are some types of rare skin cancer that are more prevalent in those with darker skin. If a mole or dark spot changes size, shape, or color, tell your doctor right away. Other warning signs include moles with uneven borders or multiple colors. If something seems suspicious, don’t feel embarrassed about reaching out to your healthcare provider–it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Second, if sun spots or uneven skin tone are bothering you, it may be time to look into MedSpa treatments like chemical peels, Morpheus8, or microneedling to help even out your skin tone. These minimally invasive treatments help your skin heal dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and have little to no downtime. You can book all three treatments in our app, btw–download it here to get started. Bottom line is, know that you’ve got options to reduce the signs of sun damage.   

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