Summer is coming to its official end. There’s a chill in the air, the days are getting shorter, and we’re starting to see signs of the long-awaited arrival of Pumpkin. Spice. Everything.
We trade swimsuits for scarves and think back fondly on all those fun in the sun summer memories.
But what if those memories are written all over your face?
Dark spots and melasma.
New little lines and wrinkles.
Sagging and (gasp!) aging!
Sun damage. It happens to the best of us.
When we forget to wear daily sunscreen (something I know you would never do), forget to reapply because we’re having so much fun, or leave our wide-brimmed hats in the car, it can damage skin and add years to our faces.
Are there products that can reverse or treat facial sun damage?
Ladies, if summer left your face a little more than sun-kissed, I’ve got your back.
Today, I’m going to show you some ways to treat those telltale signs of summer so you can save your skin and enjoy the sun for years to come!
How Damage Occurs
While the sun does help our bodies produce vitamin D, and provide us with the ideal magazine-flipping-lazy-napping setting, too much of it can lead to wrinkles, sagging, discoloration, or even risks of skin cancer.
So, let’s break it down.
The sun puts out UVA and UVB radiation, both of which penetrate your skin’s layers: the epidermis (top layer) and the dermis (deeper layer).
Your skin produces melanin, a type of pigment, as a defense to absorb UV radiation, and this is where you get your lovely glowing tan.
But, when UVB exposure exceeds your skin’s protection ability, that’s where you run into problems and get into sunburn country.
UVA rays penetrate into the deep layer, the dermis, where your skin’s collagen and elasticity lives.
When this layer gets attacked by sun damage, free radicals are released and cause harm to your skin cells’ DNA.
The result is saggy skin, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (dark spots and melasma), and potential risk of skin cancer.
This is also known as extrinsic aging, which is caused by your environment or lifestyle.
It’s one of the reasons why a young person can look old for their age and vice versa.
Diet, smoking, stress, and sleep also have an impact on how we age.
You won’t see this damage immediately – rather, it shows up as you get older.
Our faces are especially vulnerable because the skin is delicate, and our faces are always exposed.
Sun damage is also cumulative, which means it builds up over time starting when you were just a cute little water baby.
The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that your skin has already experienced almost half its UV exposure by the time you’re 40 years old!
With two little ones, you better believe I’ve always got them slathered in sunscreen to start their sun protection early!
The good news? You can take steps now to stop any future damage from occurring.
Your Skin Tone
Skin tones can range from almost translucent to almost black due to – you got it – melanin.
A common misconception is that people with dark skin tones don’t need sunscreen.
This is absolutely false! EVERYONE needs to use it.
Sunburns and sun damage on people of different skin tones manifest differently, but everyone is susceptible to it – and skin cancer.
While those with fairer skin tend to see fine lines and wrinkles show up first, those with darker skin will see patches of pigmentation and uneven skin tone.
What to Look out for
We all have moles and beauty marks that have been on our skin for as long as we can remember.
Although common moles aren’t cancerous, you should be on the lookout for any changes that indicate something could be going on.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has a handy little guide that will help you to determine if you need to see a licensed dermatologist.
The ABCDE’s of Moles
- Asymmetry – imagine a line drawn through the center of the mole. Do the two halves match?
- Borders – should be smooth and even, not scalloped
- Color – should be a single shade of brown/all one color
- Diameter – should be smaller than a pencil eraser
- Evolving – moles should look the same over time. If a mole starts to evolve or change in any way, make an appointment.
Fact of the Day: Another name for a mole is a nevus. The plural is nevi.
What can I do to help my sun damaged mug?
Prevention is easier than reversal!
While you can’t really undo the damage that has occurred on a cellular level, you can certainly take steps to heal skin, treat signs of aging, and prevent any future damage.
Sunny days should be enjoyed, so let’s see what you can do to protect your skin and give it a little TLC!
Stop Damage Now
One of the best things you can do for your skin is to start protecting it today and stop any future damage from occurring.
Just remember the 3 S’s of Sun Protection:
- SPF – If you learn nothing else from me, remember this: Wear your daily SPF! Every. Day. Even on cloudy days. Even on cold, wintery days. Studies show that people who wear a daily SPF of 15 or higher show 24% less skin aging than those who don’t use sunscreen every day. Remember to apply your broad-spectrum SPF at least 20 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to absorb into the skin, and reapply every 2 hours if you’re in direct sun, swimming, or sweating. And don’t skimp! You should use a nickel-sized dollop on your face, and 1 oz. on your body (that’s enough to fill a shot glass!) Slather on that goodness, your future skin will thank you!
- Schedule – Try to plan activities so you’re not in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM when the UV index is at its highest. It can be tough to avoid that window since it’s in the middle of the day, but you’ll also beat the heat and the crowds if it’s an outdoor event. If you simply can’t avoid it, make sure to wear SPF, bring extra to reapply, and limit sun exposure.
- Shade – Speaking of limiting sun exposure, kickin’ back in the shade is a good way to help protect skin. Rock a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, open up an umbrella, or take a sun break. There’s even a phone app that will remind you when to reapply SPF and when it’s time to get out of the sun. A good rule of thumb is, “Short shadow – seek shade,” meaning the shorter the shadows on the ground, the higher the sun and UV exposure. Grab a cool drink and enjoy the shade!
There are two types of exfoliants: physical (the ones that use little granules to scrub away dead skin cells) and chemical (which gently dissolve dead skin cells).
Using a chemical exfoliant is a great way brighten your complexion by getting rid of those dead, darkened skin cells that hang around and cause your skin to look blotchy and uneven.
Look For: A gentle facial scrub that includes glycolic acid or natural fruit enzymes.
And, don’t overdo it, or you could end up damaging your skin’s protective layer.
1-3 times per week is plenty!
Lighten Up Dark Spots
There are beautiful freckles of various shades, shapes, and sizes (did you know people are even applying fake freckles?!), and then there are dark patches and age spots, which can make us look……less than youthful.
Stop those spots in their tracks by applying a product formulated to halt the overproduction of melanin.
Look For: A product that contains kojic acid and/or retinol, both of which work to exfoliate and remove the upper layers of skin and lift out dark patches.
There are also other natural lightening ingredients such as licorice root, and citrus and mulberry extracts, all of which work to inhibit melanin production.
Skin may be sensitive when first using these products, so start by applying just a couple times a week. They can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it’s recommended that you use them at night or when you don’t plan on hitting up the farmer’s market.
Get Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants are a sun damage superhero because they go and in help block the effects of free radicals which are the bad guys that break down collagen and elasticity.
Look For: A moisturizer or serum that includes vitamin C to help rebuild collagen and firm skin.
You can also help repair skin from the inside by eating an antioxidant-rich diet full of delicious, skin-boosting foods.
A fruit salad is my go-to after-beach treat!
Heat and sun not only zap skin’s moisture, they also make wrinkles more apparent, especially around your eyes.
This skin is more delicate and lines really show (remember all that squinting you did in the sun?).
You should definitely remember to hydrate from the inside by drinking plenty of water.
But, you can also heal skin’s outer layers by applying a rich moisturizer or serum.
Look For: Formulas that include vitamins C and E, which will help boost collagen production, and hyaluronic acid to bind moisture to skin and lock it in.
These will work together to hydrate and plump skin to fill in fine lines.
Annual Skin Checks
We should all visit a licensed dermatologist annually for skin and mole checks.
I know, I know, schedules can be crazy busy – but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It really is never too early!
If you see anything questionable, don’t shrug it off!
It’s worth getting checked out.
My Top Picks to Treat Sun Damage
Here are some of my favorite products to help care for your skin and diminish the signs of all those “just 15 more minutes” moments!
Laying back in the sun is such a great way to spend the day, but it can leave behind some pesky effects on our skin.
While you can absolutely treat and care for these signs of aging, remember they are only skin deep and there could be further damage.
Make sure you’re staying on top of your skin health by getting yearly skin screenings and mole checks.
Otherwise, sport your daily SPF, kick back in the shade, and enjoy what’s left of these beautiful summer days!
What are some of your favorite ways to help skin recover from the summer? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments section!