By Toni Brannagan
Obviously, one of the best parts of summer is soaking in all the sunshine.
But as your resident buzzkill, I’m taking a break from encouraging you to go see your gynecologist to remind you not to forget about your skin during all your summer fun.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States — according to the American Association for Cancer Research, even just one sunburn significantly increases your likelihood of developing melanoma. Scary statistics aside, that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to keep your skin protected.
keeping your skin *cool*
Cover your skin. Obvious? Yes. Effective? Also yes. Bringing along a hat, sunglasses, and wearing light clothing during your summer outings limits your direct exposure to the sun, keeping your skin safe. This doesn’t mean skipping sunscreen lotion though!
Read the label. When purchasing sunscreen, take a quick look at the bottle. If available, opt for a broad-spectrum lotion with at least SPF 30 (anything lower won’t protect your skin efficiently). You should also be reapplying as directed, and especially after swimming.
Check the time. According to the American Cancer Society, the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so plan your activities accordingly, or be extra vigilant about protecting your skin during that time frame.
how to handle sunburn
Didn’t reapply after going for a swim? Have easily burned skin? Straight up ignored all the advice I just gave you? Sigh. It happens!
Sunburn might seem like no biggie, since it happens all the time, but it is technically still a burn. If your skin blisters, that actually means you have a second-degree burn, which sounds intense (because it is)! Either way, your scorched skin will just need a little bit of TLC. Here are some tips for a speedy, (mostly) pain-free recovery.
Moisturize. Chances are, you’re already familiar with the soothing effects aloe vera gel can have on irritated skin, but any lotion with aloe or soy will help you out. Make sure you avoid anything that contains benzocaine, lidocaine, or petroleum — your instinct might be to numb the area, but you don’t want to irritate your skin or trap heat under it.
Cool down your skin. You’ve probably noticed that your skin is hot to the touch, and cool baths and compresses will help take off some of the heat. Until you feel a bit better, avoid hot showers. (Pro-tip: applying your moisturizer while your skin is still wet allows the nutrients to absorb better!) Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen should also help with the swelling.
Hydrate. Any time you’re in the sun, especially if you sweat a lot, you should always drink more water than usual. But especially if your skin is damaged or peeling, hydrating is a good way to moisturize your skin (and encourage it to heal faster) from the inside out.
I repeat: Cover your skin. As much as you might want to run back outside, you really shouldn’t be exposing burned skin to *more* sun. Make sure you apply your SPF, keep the affected skin clothed if possible, and if all else fails, stick to the shade! Chances are, sitting in the sun will feel uncomfortable anyway, and this is probably a good time to listen to your body.
What are your summer skin tips? Share them with us in the comments.