I love a day at the beach as much as anyone, however, when outdoors, especially at the beach or poolside, I make using appropriate sun protection a top priority for both myself and my family.

I always tell my patients the earlier they start a consistent sun and skin care regimen, the better their chances are of avoiding many reparative procedures later in life, all the while looking younger than their years.

It is important to note that even if you grew up in the “days of baby oil” at a time when you, as well as the “Coppertone Baby,” still had a dark golden tan, it’s probably not too late to take a long hard look in the mirror and begin taking better care of your skin.

Premature aging caused by sun exposure is called photo aging. As we get older, everyone’s skin will experience some degree of collagen loss, which leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. Repeated exposure to the UVA and UVB rays from the sun, or tanning beds can rapidly accelerate the aging process, making us look older, often significantly so.

You may have heard that UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn, but it is actually the UVA rays (the ones that tan you) that are the main culprit behind photo aging. With their longer wavelength, UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, damaging collagen and impairing the mechanism that rebuilds it. As the skin heals from the UVA damage, it does so poorly, creating wrinkles, sagging, and that unpleasant leathery texture that frankly, nobody wants.

Of course, other than a few legitimate reasons, like being stranded on a desert island or something along those lines, I believe that there is little excuse for excessive photo aging in the year 2017 because we all have access to inexpensive, non-invasive, and safe products that are proven to help protect us from the damage caused by the sun.

You guessed it; Sunscreen.

Sunscreen works to protect your skin in two ways. Minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide provide a physical barrier and reflect UV rays off of the skin. Newer formulations that include zinc and titanium oxide also do a better job of not making us look “ghostly” when we apply these products, however they still work the same way; reflecting UV rays the way things that are white reflect light. The second way sunscreen works is by using ingredients that absorb UV radiation before it can penetrate your skin.

I also tell my patients to apply an antioxidant layer daily, and especially before using sunscreen to give their skin an extra boost of protection.

Many people don’t know this, but free radicals produced in the skin by stressors, like the sun, can also damage skin. Typically, sunscreen doesn’t address these charged particles, but antioxidants do. When you put both of these tools together, your skin protection level skyrockets, putting you further and further away from that leathery skin we all should be trying to avoid.

Here’s what I do before a day outdoors, and what I recommend my patients do as well:

i. Half an hour before you leave the house, apply an antioxidant serum. My favorite is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic; Massage three to four drops in your hands, then tap onto your forehead, temples, cheeks, chin, and nose. Blend across your entire face with an outward motion, and then press firmly but gently on all areas of your face to set the product.

ii. Follow up with a sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and avobenzone or oxybenzone with an SPF of at least 50. Higher SPFs haven’t been proven to work better, but they can’t hurt. If you’ll be getting in the water, use a water-resistant brand; I use SkinCeuticals. It is non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, so it won’t clog pores and has a light finish unlike many sunscreens. You can watch a YouTube video on how to apply these two products.

iii. Reapply sunscreen every two to four hours, especially if you’ve been in the water. “Waterproof sunscreen” is a misnomer, as just like other forms of sunscreen it will eventually wash off.

iv. After your day in the sun, take a shower to wash the sunscreen off, and apply moisturizer to your face and body.
If you feel like your skin is already showing the effects of photo aging, don’t despair, we offer many options, including “in office” treatments or products to use at home, that can help you regain a more youthful appearance.

Broad Band light therapy (BBL), micro-needling, and chemical peels are just a few of the non-surgical treatment options I recommend to my patients to help reverse the effects of sun damage. Many people are amazed at how quickly they can see results from these non-surgical techniques.

Regardless of how you did or didn’t approach prevention of sun damage and overall skincare, there are things you can start to do now that can make a difference moving forward.

As the late poet Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

P.S. for those of you who are not yet convinced about the benefits of regular use of sunscreen I implore you to read the information below:

Regular use of sunscreen is beneficial because:

i. It can prevent photo aging

ii. It can lower the risk of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma as melanoma.

iii. It can prevent blotching and discoloring on the face

iv. It can prevent sunburn

v. It can be a vital weapon in the fight against premature aging.

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