You’re ready for lazy days at the beach, hikes with the gang and all the fun in the sun you can stand. Spare a thought for your skin, though. Don’t let the sun leave you with nasty side-effects.
Skin colour and tone
Your skin colour comes from a substance called melanin. People with more melanin than others have darker skin. Pale skin has less melanin. It’s interesting to note that we all have the same number of cells that manufacture melanin, but how much your body makes depends on genetics.
The sun has an effect on melanin. When you’re out in the sun, your body starts the melanin-making process. It’s your body’s way of trying to protect you from the rays – but melanin is not all-round protector like sunblock. So, at the end of a day at the beach when you notice your skin’s turned darker or you’ve burned, that’s your body telling you the melanin wasn’t enough. This is why you always need sunblock!
Research shows that the lucky ones with more melanin tend to wrinkle less as they get older, and have a lower incidence of skin cancer.
- Fair skin
Type 1 skin always burns, never tans, often accompanied by pale complexions, red hair and freckles. Type 2 skin burns easily, tans minimally, with fair skin and blue, green or grey eyes.
- Medium skin
This is people with olive and darker skins, who don’t see or feel the effect of UVB rays. People with medium-coloured skin should keep their exposure within the end ranges – before 10pm and after 3pm.
- Dark skin
This is brown skin that rarely burns and tans profusely to dark.
Protecting your skin
Sunscreens come in cream, lotion, milk or gel form. Fragrance- and alcohol-free products are good if you have allergies, sensitive skin or have had a reaction to sunscreen. Gels are good as there’s no leftover product residue and it’s easy to apply. Ask your dermatologist to recommend a sunscreen that best suits your skin type and activity.
And because it can’t be said enough: hydrate, hydrate and hydrate! Water does wonders for clear, clean and even skin.
How sunblock works:
- Physical sunscreen filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on top of the skin and block or reflect ultraviolet (UV) rays away from the skin.
- Chemical ingredients absorb UV radiation through their chemical molecule bonds. As these bonds absorb the UV rays, components of the sunscreen slowly break down and release heat, transferring the UV away from the skin to prevent them from damaging skin cells.
- Some sunscreens contain Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate). This enhances the body’s ability to repair UV-induced damage, soothes the skin and acts as an antioxidant.
Keep your tone even and clear
Always cleanse. Cleansing your skin is non-negotiable. A good cleanser removes dirt and bacteria, and clears away make-up, other fat-soluble particles and excess oils. It also ensures that your other skin products can do their job properly. Cleanse your face and neck in the morning and before you go to bed in the evening. Always use mild or natural soaps suited to your skin type – harsh soaps can cause breakouts and, in some people, acne. Also never over-wash – it will strip your skin of its natural, protective oils. And use lukewarm water.
Moisturise twice a day. A good moisturiser smooths and hydrates the skin by locking in moisture and providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Your skin needs to be moisturised in the morning and before bedtime. A good moisturiser should contain glycerine, hyaluronic acid and dimethicone. Choose a light moisturiser if you don’t have dry skin, and consider using a day and night cream. It might be worth using a heavier formula in winter, when your skin might be drier, and a lighter, oil-free moisturiser during summer. Over-moisturising can create clogged pores and lead to blackheads and breakouts so don’t overdo things.
Tone, but only if it really works for you. Toning isn’t strictly necessary, but a good toner can remove last bits of make-up and excess oil. Choose a toner that’s free of alcohol and see how your skin reacts to it. Stop using the toner if it seems to dry out your skin. And, if your budget is tight, rather spend your money on a good cleanser and moisturiser. For an instant lift, use products that contain antioxidants and dimethylethanolamine (DMAE). For red or irritated skin, use a product that contains Vitamin C.