Skin care for changing seasons
Interview with Dr. Lisa Kellett, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), D.A.B.D Director of the DLK on Avenue Dermatology Clinic, Toronto.
With spring right around the corner and summer, quick on its heels, it’s not too soon to think of your summer skin care regiment. We all now by now that overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays leads to premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, and age spots, not to mention the increased risk of skin cancer. We’ve asked Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist and director of the DLK on Avenue Dermatology Clinic in Toronto to tell us how best to care for our summer skin.
Dr. Kellett, what is the best way to protect our skin from sun damage?
Some people believe that the best way to protect one’s skin is to get a base tan. However, any tan is actually a sign that your skin is fighting sun damage. The best protection is to avoid the peak hours of the sun between 10am and 4pm and seek out the shade whenever possible. Always wear proper sun-protective clothing and a hat with at least a five inch brim. And, of course, be sure to apply sunscreen. Also, if you are currently taking any medication, you may want to check with your doctor or pharmacist, as some prescription drugs can cause photosensitivity and increase your risk of burning.
What should one look for in a sunscreen?
A sunscreen should offer a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and block both UVA and UVB rays. PABA-free may also be a good choice for people with sensitive skin sunscreen as PABA can be irritating to some individuals. In truth, there is practically no benefit to sunscreens with SPF greater than 30, if the SPF 30 sunscreen is applied properly. Sunscreen should be applied 1 hour before sun exposure, using about one shot glass full of sunscreen to cover the entire body especially nose, tips of ears, chest, and face. And don’t forget about your lips! Look for a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher.
What about the sunscreen in my makeup?
Many companies now add UV protection to their products. However, most cosmetics or moisturizers do not contain SPF 30 and therefore do not offer adequate protection from the summer sun. Your best bet is to first apply sunscreen followed by a moisturizer, and then finally, by your makeup.
What should I do if I do get sunburned?
Repeated sunburns have been linked to skin cancer later in life, so the best thing to do is to avoid one. However, if despite your best efforts, you do happen to get burned, consult your dermatologist as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to prescribed medication to reduce the damage of the burn. Stay out of the sun until the burn heals, and keep your skin cool and well hydrated.
Should my usual skin care routine be changed for the summer?
Generally, skin is not as dry in the summer as in the winter, and so you can lighten up your skin care regimen. A gel based moisturizer, for example, for your face and body may be more suitable in the hotter weather. Also, a gentle exfoliating cleanser will not over strip your skin before exposing it to the sun. If you have oily or sensitive skin, avoid greasy sunscreens opting instead for an alcohol-based sunscreen spray. On the other hand, for those with dry skin, Care should be taken in chlorinated pools which might be drying.
What is the best way to deal with a breakout?
In the summertime, your skin is more likely to break out due to increased sweat and friction. Using lighter skin care products should help decreasing the amount of breakouts. However, if you are prone to breakouts, you can prevent them or treat any pimples that may appear, use a 5% benzoyl peroxide in a moisturizing gel base as directed by the manufacturer. Sometimes, though, the breakout could simply be a heat rash, also called prickly heat. This is a skin eruption involving the sweat glands that will usually resolve on its own. If you tend to get this type of rash, try to avoid the heat.
What can I do to prevent or reduce wrinkles in the summer?
The best way to avoid wrinkles is to properly protect your skin from the sun. A gentle, exfoliating cleanser may help your skin look smoother. While you may also want to check with your doctor if that retinoid cream you used all winter long is safe for the summer, you can safely add antioxidant treatments such as a daily 35% vitamin C booster and 1% retinol booster to your summer anti-aging arsenal. Alternatively, to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, there are several treatments available at your doctor’s office. Botox treatments, for example, can decrease the appearance of wrinkles and even prevent new ones from forming. Other treatments such as photorejuvenation, which uses pulses of light to boost collagen production, or profractional treatments, a gentler type of laser treatment, can both be performed in your dermatologist’s office with very little patient downtime.
If the bronze goddess look appeals to you, stick to a good quality self tanner. These contain dihydroxyacetone and are safe to use without risking sun exposure. But remember, these products do not protect you from the sun. And yes, that lunch with the gals on the terrace at the local hotspot counts as sun exposure! So don your hat and pack your sunscreen and have a great, safe summer.
–From “A busy girl’s guide to health: Summer skin care on the go” by Laura Segall, Ph.D., Patient’s Guide to Medical History, 2008.