Ageing is inevitable, and none of us can expect to live to ninety with the dewy-fresh complexion of a teenager. Embracing our wrinkles as they emerge is definitely a self-care essential. Having said that, though, there’s no reason to actively encourage our skin to age faster by baking it in the hot summer sun.
You know that feeling of your skin drying out as the sun beats down upon it? You can make that feeling go away by slapping on some moisturiser or aftersun, but the real damage is deeper down. As the sun warms you and melanin blooms in the top layers of your skin, the crucial lower layers are struggling to withstand a cell-shattering onslaught from the sun’s UV rays. This may not be apparent at the time, but it’s something that will come back to haunt you as you grow older. And that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you may find your skin developing melanomas over time – tumours caused by sun damage.
Scientists think that UV rays are responsible for an amazing 80% of all signs of facial ageing. This is particularly true of pale and Caucasian skin, but darker-skinned folks are by no means immune to sun-induced signs of ageing! The good news is that you can slow down the signs of age your skin shows by protecting it from the sun. Here’s how:
This is the obvious one. Sunscreen will shield your sun from harmful UV. With a decent sunscreen, you’ll be able to get that glorious sensation of the sun on your bare skin without having to worry about short-term burning or long-term damage. Ideally you should be topping up your sunscreen every half hour during the hottest parts of the day. Oh, and make sure that you get a good sunscreen – one with a broad range of protections which will defend you against both UVA and UVB rays. You can find a decent guide to Britain’s best sunscreenshere.
If you’re like me and can’t be bothered to get your hands messy with sunscreen every half hour, covering up is a good option. Go for loose, light, breathable clothing so as not to broil yourself. To protect your face, a broad-brimmed hat is a good idea. Parasols are what the fashionably pale ladies of past centuries used to keep the sun from their skin, and they worked brilliantly. If you want to try bringing parasols back into fashion, we say go for it.
Use spray or lotion tans
Ignore anything which says that there are healthy ways to tan naturally. There aren’t. Granted, tanning which doesn’t involve burning is slightly (very slightly) less likely to give you skin cancer than the lobsterlike Brit Abroad version, but any method of darkening your skin which involves UV rays carries some risk. If you must be bronzed, go for the artificial option.
No, you can’t cheat by using sunbeds! Sunbeds give you that all-over tan by mimicking the action of the sun on your skin. Which means those carcinogenic UV rays again. Regular users of tanning beds back in the nineties and noughties now bewail the leathery skin they’ve been left with, and the NHS has issued stringent warnings about the risk of cancer for users.
Stay in the shade
Self-explanatory, really. One caveat, however: it is actually good for you to be outdoors, so don’t lock yourself away like a vampire on sunny days. Just try and take your outdoor time in shadier areas.
As well all know by now, this is just generally a good thing to do. The healthier your diet, the more natural protection your skin will have, and the better equipped it will be to deal with whatever the sun throws at it.
Quite honestly, what you put into your body is more important than what you put onto your body (sunscreen and hats being the exception, in this case!). But replenishing surface levels of hydration with a cool moisturising cream won’t do your skin any harm after a hot day. A good moisturising routine can help to fend off skin sagging and fine lines, so it’s a great top-off to your general skin-defence strategy.