The sun and your skin have a problematic and often contradictory relationship. While the human body requires regular exposure to the sun in order to produce vitamin D correctly and maintain proper levels of serotonin, that same life-giving sunlight is also responsible for skin damage, accelerated aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. Maintaining a balance between healthy sun exposure and damage that could make you reach for an anti-aging product can be very difficult. The right skincare routine can simplify the situation, however, especially when combined with preventive lifestyle choices.
Excessive exposure to the sun can cause many different problems. The most immediate and obvious of these is sunburn, which can be extremely painful and unattractive. Don't make the mistake of thinking that sun exposure can't be dangerous just because you didn't get a burn, however. Even people with very dark skin and a high tolerance for sun exposure increase their risk of early aging or skin cancer later on in life.
Most of the signs of excessive sun exposure come many years after the damage to your skin occurs. They can take the form of wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin. They may appear as freckles or sunspots, especially in areas that get the most sun exposure. If these melanin marks start to spread, change color, or develop an irregular shape, they may also indicate skin cancer. The most common forms of skin cancer are unattractive and can make you sick, but they won't kill you. Melanoma, a slightly less common type that still affects about 160,000 people per year, is much more dangerous and is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Most people reflexively look for shade in the heat of the summer, but the sun can damage your skin even on a cloudy day or during the winter. The most effective way to avoid damage is to spend your outdoor time in at least partial shade. Look for shelters or trees if you need to be out during the hottest and brightest parts of the day. You can even use an umbrella or parasol to protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays.
Not everyone can spend all their time in the shade, however. If you're among them, choosing protective clothing and eyewear can make a big difference in how much exposure you receive. Consider wearing long sleeves and long leg coverings when you go out into the sun. Keep the garments dry and lightweight. Add a hat with a relatively wide brim all the way around to protect your neck, face and ears. Wear sunglasses with a UV protection rating to keep your eyes and the skin around them from damage that could cause cancer or cataracts later in life.
When protective clothing isn't an appropriate option, such as when you play sports, go swimming or engage in other strenuous outdoor activities, consider using sunscreen or sunblock. These products can help keep the damaging rays of the sun from reaching your skin. Just make sure you reapply these products every two to three hours for proper protection.
The way you care for your skin can affect how well it recovers from sun damage. Make sure you clean your skin daily using a light, gently cleanser. Apply moisturizers and other skincare products that create a protective layer on the surface of your skin. This will keep it from drying out. You may also wish to use anti-aging products that contain anti-oxidants, exfoliants and other helpful substances. Above all, make sure that you drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet containing plenty of vitamins A, C, and E, all of which can be beneficial for your skin.