Bonjour, my beach-bound bunnies! Cari Cozy here; I want to talk to you today about the sun and tanning: how to protect your skin, how to fake that gorgeous glow, and what to do if (eek!) you do get burned. Our skin is the largest organ on our body and the first one to shows signs of aging, so if we want to look younger, longer, we need to protect it and take care of it.
First things first: protecting your skin from the sun. I’m sure we’ve all heard of SPF and how necessary it is to keep from burning, but to help you to get the most from your sunscreen, let’s go over the details. SPF means sun protection factor, which describes the amount of time you can stay in the sun without burning. The way this is calculated is by taking the amount of time it would take for your skin to start burning when unprotected, (for fair-skinned girls, like me, its about 10 minutes), and multiply it by the SPF number. So, a sunscreen with SPF 25 will protect my skin for 250 minutes, or about 4 hours. Now, say I applied my SPF 25 right before I got to the beach and then I lay out in the sun for 4 haging ours; I would then need to reapply my SPF 25 all over to maintain that sun protection. The same goes for if I went swimming—I have to reapply after I get out of the water to continue protecting my skin. Keep in mind, also, that sunscreen is not buildable; you cannot wear an SPF 10 and an SPF 15 and expect to be protected as you would be by SPF 25; only the SPF 15 will be effective.
So what exactly is this SPF protecting you from? Well, there are three types of UV rays that can damage the skin: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays can’t really make it through the ozone layer, so while they are very dangerous, they aren’t an immediate threat. However, UVA rays, or ‘aging rays’, are. They penetrate the most deeply into the skin and cause damage on two levels; first, they break down collagen and elastin which leads to premature aging and second, they can cause melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. UVB rays are often called burning rays, since they are responsible for the sunburn on the surface of the skin, as well as causing cancer. Because both types of UV rays are incredibly dangerous to the skin, it’s important that your sunscreen provide broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.
I know what you’re thinking—“But I want to be tan! That’s what summer is for!” Of course, that’s what summer is for! That’s why everyone desiring that golden, glowing skin needs to invest in a good self-tanner. It’s the safest way to be bronzed long-term. (Don’t even get me started on how damaging tanning beds are; I don’t care how new and different it is. It’s still exposing your skin to high levels of close-range UV radiation. Don’t be stupid). Self-tanners, whether they come in a lotion, gel, or spray form, use the chemical DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, a sugar-derivative that oxidizing on the skin, creating a beautiful golden tan. Exfoliation is key with any of these products, as the DHA will adhere more to thick or dead skin, keeping you from getting an even glow. You tan should last anywhere from 5 to 10 days before you need to reapply.
Last, but not least, let’s say you failed to heed my words of wisdom and got a sunburn. What to do, what to do? First of all, cupcake, take some Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and keep the pain down. Secondly, kick yourself for not wearing sunscreen—just kidding! Stay out of the sun, and keep your skin cool and hydrated to help prevent peeling. Aloe Vera gel is a great after-burn remedy and can help with keeping the burn clean and preventing peeling, but I recently found a product that helps with the heat of the burn, too. Korres Yoghurt Cooling Gel not only cools the skin where it’s burnt and helps relieve stinging, but is also a natural product, with no parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, etc. It smells wonderful and feels so good on the skin. However if your skin starts to blister and peel, don’t put any lotions or gels on that area aside from an antibacterial such as Neosporin.
One more thing I want to add, before I sign off: many of you lovely ladies with darker skin seem to think that this doesn’t apply to you since you don’t burn as easily. Let me tell you this, and I hope you listen to me—skin is skin, and even if you don’t see the effects of the sun immediately, UV radiation is still causing long term damage that will materialize in the form of wrinkles, age spots, hyper- and hypo-pigmentation, and cancerous cells. Protect yourself, my darlings, please! You’re all too beautiful not to!
Stay safe and enjoy the sun!