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Sun Protection 101

By Melissa Schweiger
Posted On Jul 11, 2011

What to do before, during and after sun exposure to keep skin healthy and beautiful

By: Leslie Baumann, M.D.

Sun damage is no laughing matter, and unfortunately it can take years or even decades for the symptoms to become visible. Starting in our youth, UV rays prompt cellular changes in the deepest layers of our skin, and as time marches on and sun exposure accumulates, these changes manifest as dark patches, wrinkles, rough texture and in extreme cases, skin cancer. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start shielding our skin from the sun, and we have a variety of options that can reverse the signs of damage and get skin back on track.

BEFORE YOU HEAD OUTSIDE…

Don’t even think about leaving the house without SPF 30 every day.  ere are so many wonderful moisturizers with sunscreen these days, so you really have no excuse. On days when you’ll be spending an extended period of time in the sun, opt for a higher SPF, apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure, and don’t forget to reapply every hour or so, and especially after swimming or sweating. Extra antioxidants are essential for optimal protection, so choose a sunscreen enriched with free-radical fighters, or layer an antioxidant serum underneath your SPF. On days when I’m playing a full round of golf, I also take a SunPill supplement, which contains a variety of antioxidants that provide extra protection from damaging UV rays.

WHILE YOU’RE OUTSIDE…

I advise all of my patients to seek out shade, but it’s possible to be exposed to UV rays even when you’re covered up.  is is why you still need to apply (and reapply) sunscreen anytime you’re outdoors, and it’s important to take extra precautions. Clothing with UPF 50 (Mott 50 offers fashionable options) definitely helps, as does a hat and wrap-around sunglasses that cover the crow’s feet area. Another piece of advice: Don’t apply self-tanner before heading outdoors. Research shows that DHA, the ingredient responsible for that faux glow, creates free radicals when exposed to UV light, which is why I recommend using it at night along with other sun-sensitive ingredients like retinoids.

AFTER SUN EXPOSURE…

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we still get burned (literally). If this happens, apply a lotion with aloe to soothe and hydrate the skin (I like Burn Jel).  en, drink green tea and take an antioxidant supplement (500 mg of vitamin C twice a day will do the trick) to help prevent free radical damage to your cells. You can also take ibuprofen every four hours to reduce discomfort and redness.

To reverse signs of sun damage—including wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and rough texture—your dermatologist can recommend topical products like retinoids or treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and laser resurfacing.  e goal is to promote your skin’s natural collagen production and remove dull, damaged cells on the skin surface in order to reveal fresher, healthier-looking skin.