If you’re anything like me and grew up about 5 minutes away from the beach you carry some kind of primal longing for long hot summer days, sand and salty ocean air. We all know that sunshine makes us feel good and a nice-looking tan has long been considered a must-have to complement one’s summer wardrobe.

Yet the sun can cause major damage to the skin so in this article we are going to explore some ways to look after our skin while still enjoying sunshine, the beach and all the good things that summer has to offer.

Sun and the Skin

Sun exposure is responsible for many skin changes that we think of as a normal part of the ageing process. Apart from sunburn which is immediately obvious, even short-term exposure to UV rays will gradually damage the elastin fibres in the skin, causing it to sag, loose elasticity and tear more easily. Premature wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and sun spots are also unwanted side effects of spending too much time in the sun.

UV rays come in two types: UVA rays are less intense but far more prevalent. They occur during all daylight hours even on cloudy days. They penetrate the deeper layers of skin and are the main culprits for causing wrinkles and sun spots.

UVB rays are less prevalent and their intensity varies according to geographic location, season and daily weather conditions. They are responsible for damage to the surface layers of skin and cause the redness and pain we normally associate with sunburn.

Sunshine and Vitamin D

We all need to spend time outdoors daily as this is the only way that our bodies can produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient needed for bone and immune system health among many other reasons. Until recently, vitamin D deficiency was believed to be a problem only for those living in countries with long winters and few daylight hours. This is not the case and recent studies show that even many Australians are affected by low levels of vitamin D despite ample opportunities for sun exposure. Our sedentary mostly indoor lifestyles certainly play a part in this, but the overall reasons are more complex and likely to involve other genetic, metabolic and environmental factors as well. This calls for a sensible approach to spending time outdoors during the summer months: make the most of the warm weather in the morning or early evening, but do not ignore traditional advice about the use of sunscreen and staying indoors during certain times of the day.

It’s good to remember that our bodies were designed to cope with a range of weather conditions and the skin is quite resilient, but we have to provide it with the right building blocks in order to stay healthy and repair itself when needed.

Skin care tips for summer

  1. Hydrate – water is vital for healthy skin, so remember to drink plenty throughout the day. But don’t think you have to stick to plain water – it’s no coincidence that so many delicious summer fruit and vegetables have a high water content: stone fruit, berries, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes are some easy options to stay cool and hydrated during hot weather.
  2. Exfoliate regularly to help the skin’s natural renewal process and to prevent clogged pores
  3. Moisturise – the sun, wind and air-conditioning can make the skin feel overly dry. Eating a balanced diet will help with this and using a good quality moisturiser regularly will restore moisture and suppleness to the top layers of skin. A good summer moisturiser should be based on easily absorbed natural oils high in vitamins A, E and F which have soothing, hydrating and collagen restoring properties. The main ingredients in Mettā Skincare Body Butter are shea and raw cacao butter which have been used for centuries as natural remedies against sun damage to the skin.
  4. Antioxidants – vitamins C (found in most fresh fruit and vegetables) and E (found in nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables), green tea and berries protect against and even reverse sun damage. Remember to feed your skin from the inside out so try to incorporate as many of these into your daily diet as you can
  5. Stay indoors during peak UV radiation hours – these will depend on season and where you live, but during summer in Australia this generally means staying in between 10:00am and 5:00pm. And yes, this also means going to the beach either in the early morning or early evening
  6. Sunscreen – if you must be outdoors in the middle of the day, wear a wide-brimmed hat and long loose clothing. Choose a sunscreen based on natural (such as zinc oxide which protects against both UVA and UVB rays) rather than chemical active ingredients, apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and regularly thereafter.
  7. Use natural self-tanning lotions instead of sunbeds or sunbathing for hours.
January 17, 2014  |  Beauty
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